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(Chronicle of Higher Education)   Cunning linguist makes discovery in the Amazon that could destroy the foundation of modern linguistics   (chronicle.com ) divider line
    More: Interesting, cunning linguist, linguistics, discovery  
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11496 clicks; posted to Geek » on 24 Mar 2012 at 6:20 PM (4 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-03-24 04:09:44 PM  
If true, it means Noam Chomsky has contributed nothing of intellectual value in his entire life.
 
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2012-03-24 04:39:03 PM  
The article got TLDR about halfway through.

I don't see the big deal about the existence of a simple language. In biology a huge group of insects is classified as Pterogyta, winged insects. That group includes fleas, which have no wings. Such "secondary losses" are common in evolution. Once upon a time humanity or human language developed recursion and tenses, but one tribe no longer uses either.

If they had a substitute for recursion that was more complicated than using what their brains are supposedly prewired to do, that would be more interesting.
 
2012-03-24 06:09:58 PM  

vygramul: If true, it means Noam Chomsky has contributed nothing of intellectual value in his entire life.


I would love to see this man get some comeuppance. He moves the goalposts whenever someone points out an inconsistency, a flaw, or a problem with his theories. He's as much a charlatan as the people he accuses.

I got into a huge fight with a linguistics professor about Chomsky once. It wasn't pretty. The hero-worship among linguistics professionals leaves no room for criticism or debate, which I find antithetical in intellectual pursuits. If you aren't open to questions, then your theories are meaningless. Good theories, principles, or laws in any given field exist because they've been questioned, examined, and proved over and over again - and the goalposts haven't moved. Chomsky's theories don't fit, because he changes them to suit whatever criticism has been set forth, thus making it impossible to question, examine, or prove any of this theories.

//Insofar has any research definitively "proves" anything, that is.
 
2012-03-24 06:16:32 PM  
I read that as cunnilingus.
 
2012-03-24 06:24:31 PM  
There's your God now?
 
2012-03-24 06:31:35 PM  

vygramul: If true, it means Noam Chomsky has contributed nothing of intellectual value in his entire life.


Kimothy: vygramul: If true, it means Noam Chomsky has contributed nothing of intellectual value in his entire life.

I would love to see this man get some comeuppance. He moves the goalposts whenever someone points out an inconsistency, a flaw, or a problem with his theories. He's as much a charlatan as the people he accuses.

I got into a huge fight with a linguistics professor about Chomsky once. It wasn't pretty. The hero-worship among linguistics professionals leaves no room for criticism or debate, which I find antithetical in intellectual pursuits. If you aren't open to questions, then your theories are meaningless. Good theories, principles, or laws in any given field exist because they've been questioned, examined, and proved over and over again - and the goalposts haven't moved. Chomsky's theories don't fit, because he changes them to suit whatever criticism has been set forth, thus making it impossible to question, examine, or prove any of this theories.

//Insofar has any research definitively "proves" anything, that is.


This. The guy is a pretentious, smug douchebag. And his political writings are even more annoying and obnoxious.

He basically does the following:
America likes A
Chomsky: A IS EVIL!
America suddenly dislikes A
Chomsky: A IS GOOD!
 
2012-03-24 06:32:56 PM  
linguistics is populated by a deeply factionalized group of scholars who can't agree on what they're arguing about and who tend to dismiss their opponents as morons or frauds or both. Such divisions exist, to varying degrees, in all disciplines, but linguists seem uncommonly hostile. The word "brutal" comes up again and again, as do "spiteful," "ridiculous," and "childish."


Wat? I thought Sam Harris said science was distinguished by its "willingness to dispassionately consider new evidence and new arguments."

Oh, science, why hast thou forsaken me?
 
2012-03-24 06:34:06 PM  
So, basically, academics are no better than a Jerry Springer audience.
 
2012-03-24 06:35:16 PM  
They responded to Everett's evangelism with indifference or ridicule.

So, their farkers.
 
2012-03-24 06:38:27 PM  
They are, I mean.


DUH!
 
2012-03-24 06:38:31 PM  
GilRuiz1
Wat? I thought Sam Harris said science was distinguished by its "willingness to dispassionately consider new evidence and new arguments."
Oh, science, why hast thou forsaken me?


What does linguistics have to do with science?
 
2012-03-24 06:42:09 PM  

GilRuiz1: linguistics is populated by a deeply factionalized group of scholars who can't agree on what they're arguing about and who tend to dismiss their opponents as morons or frauds or both. Such divisions exist, to varying degrees, in all disciplines, but linguists seem uncommonly hostile. The word "brutal" comes up again and again, as do "spiteful," "ridiculous," and "childish."


Wat? I thought Sam Harris said science was distinguished by its "willingness to dispassionately consider new evidence and new arguments."

Oh, science, why hast thou forsaken me?


Religion

Now you can post your ducks
 
2012-03-24 06:45:42 PM  

Kimothy: I got into a huge fight with a linguistics professor about Chomsky once. It wasn't pretty. The hero-worship among linguistics professionals leaves no room for criticism or debate, which I find antithetical in intellectual pursuits. If you aren't open to questions, then your theories are meaningless. Good theories, principles, or laws in any given field exist because they've been questioned, examined, and proved over and over again - and the goalposts haven't moved.


Exactly. Einstein would be thrilled to know we've modified or disproved or enhanced his theories. Because he was doing the same- not in spite- to theories before him.

In a few hundred years its possible that Einsteins most important theories are proven almost 100% wrong. We'd still look at him as a genius.
 
2012-03-24 06:48:11 PM  
"Don't Sleep There Are Snakes" was a decent book, but I wish it had concentrated on either the language or his unraveling fundamentalist faith and family life, not both. I understand this book does the former.
 
2012-03-24 06:48:25 PM  
The first three paragraphs built up this epic struggle...and then four and five say "he might be full of shiat".
 
2012-03-24 06:49:35 PM  

LewDux: Now you can post your ducks


www.gadzooki.com

/close enough
 
2012-03-24 06:53:41 PM  

mat catastrophe: The first three paragraphs built up this epic struggle...and then four and five say "he might be full of shiat".


Wow. You're an idiot. That's a much longer article than you thought it was, and goes into great detail about the whole thing.
 
2012-03-24 06:54:16 PM  

mat catastrophe: mat catastrophe: The first three paragraphs built up this epic struggle...and then four and five say "he might be full of shiat".

Wow. You're an idiot. That's a much longer article than you thought it was, and goes into great detail about the whole thing.


fark you, clown. I'm reading it now.
 
2012-03-24 06:54:55 PM  

mat catastrophe: mat catastrophe: mat catastrophe: The first three paragraphs built up this epic struggle...and then four and five say "he might be full of shiat".

Wow. You're an idiot. That's a much longer article than you thought it was, and goes into great detail about the whole thing.

fark you, clown. I'm reading it now.


I bet people don't understand recursion jokes.
 
2012-03-24 06:55:19 PM  

Kimothy:
I got into a huge fight with a linguistics professor about Chomsky once. It wasn't pretty. The hero-worship among linguistics professionals leaves no room for criticism or debate, which I find antithetical in intellectual pursuits. If you aren't open to questions, then your theories are meaningless. Good theories, principles, or laws in any given field exist because they've been questioned, examined, and proved over and over again - and the goalposts haven't moved. Chomsky's theories don't fit, because he changes them to suit whatever criticism has been set forth, thus making it impossible to question, examine, or prove any of this theories.


While there is nothing actually untrue in your post, the chances are you were just another student with grossly inflated ideas of your understanding of science in general and this subject in particular. One year of science theory and they get completely convinced they know everything and that their professors are just arrogant fools and that that PHD and professorship mean nothing. Professors get extremely annoyed mostly because if they did not dismiss such people they would spend most of their lives arguing with them instead of doing what they are supposed to be doing. This is especially the case when the student is attempting to hijack lectures and tutorials where other students are attempting to study.
 
2012-03-24 06:57:45 PM  

machoprogrammer: vygramul: If true, it means Noam Chomsky has contributed nothing of intellectual value in his entire life.

Kimothy: vygramul: If true, it means Noam Chomsky has contributed nothing of intellectual value in his entire life.

I would love to see this man get some comeuppance. He moves the goalposts whenever someone points out an inconsistency, a flaw, or a problem with his theories. He's as much a charlatan as the people he accuses.

I got into a huge fight with a linguistics professor about Chomsky once. It wasn't pretty. The hero-worship among linguistics professionals leaves no room for criticism or debate, which I find antithetical in intellectual pursuits. If you aren't open to questions, then your theories are meaningless. Good theories, principles, or laws in any given field exist because they've been questioned, examined, and proved over and over again - and the goalposts haven't moved. Chomsky's theories don't fit, because he changes them to suit whatever criticism has been set forth, thus making it impossible to question, examine, or prove any of this theories.

//Insofar has any research definitively "proves" anything, that is.

This. The guy is a pretentious, smug douchebag. And his political writings are even more annoying and obnoxious.

He basically does the following:
America likes A
Chomsky: A IS EVIL!
America suddenly dislikes A
Chomsky: A IS GOOD!


upload.wikimedia.org
 
2012-03-24 06:58:02 PM  

mat catastrophe: mat catastrophe: mat catastrophe: mat catastrophe: The first three paragraphs built up this epic struggle...and then four and five say "he might be full of shiat".

Wow. You're an idiot. That's a much longer article than you thought it was, and goes into great detail about the whole thing.

fark you, clown. I'm reading it now.

I bet people don't understand recursion jokes.


OOP aficionado?
 
2012-03-24 06:59:22 PM  

gaspode: Kimothy:


While there is nothing actually untrue in your post, the chances are you were just another student with grossly inflated ideas of your understanding of science in general and this subject in particular. One year of science theory and they get completely convinced they know everything and that their professors are just arrogant fools and that that PHD and professorship mean nothing. Professors get extremely annoyed mostly because if they did not dismiss such people they would spend most of their lives arguing with them instead of doing what they are supposed to be doing. This is especially the case when the student is attempting to hijack lectures and tutorials where other students are attempting to study.


Oh, you totally got me there. You must have been in class that day! Wow, you're insight to my motivations is so spot on, I don't know why I didn't see it myself. Amazing. You're a genius. GENIUS.
 
2012-03-24 06:59:54 PM  
The comments on there are interesting.
 
2012-03-24 07:01:32 PM  

dopeydwarf: mat catastrophe: mat catastrophe: mat catastrophe: mat catastrophe: The first three paragraphs built up this epic struggle...and then four and five say "he might be full of shiat".

Wow. You're an idiot. That's a much longer article than you thought it was, and goes into great detail about the whole thing.

fark you, clown. I'm reading it now.

I bet people don't understand recursion jokes.

OOP aficionado?


Just bored watching this thread go to hell as a political discussion since only five people on fark could actually discuss the linguistics part of the discussion.

Which is probably two more than could actually debate the political work of Chomsky.
 
2012-03-24 07:04:11 PM  

Vegemite: The comments on there are interesting.


It's just like here, only bigger words and longer sentences!
 
2012-03-24 07:07:25 PM  

mat catastrophe: Vegemite: The comments on there are interesting.

It's just like here, only bigger words and longer sentences!


But far fewer ducks.
 
2012-03-24 07:08:14 PM  

ZAZ: I don't see the big deal about the existence of a simple language.


It's not so much that the language is simple, but that it doesn't contain certain properties that are considered part of the definition. It would be like all of biology agreeing that life requires DNA, then some guy coming out of the Amazon with something that looks and acts exactly like life, but just has RNA.

The running assumptions of common linguistic themes have to be overturned if there are languages that invalidate that 'commonality'.
 
2012-03-24 07:09:16 PM  
I only came here for pictures of cunnilingus. And no, I didn't read, or even open, the article.
 
2012-03-24 07:11:05 PM  
Makes me wonder if linguistics needs to be filed with economics as "Not really science"

But I wouldn't say that in front of the linguistics major I know. She'd punch me.
 
2012-03-24 07:11:46 PM  
I should have known that any article about linguistics would contain way more words than I'm mentally prepared to deal with in my underwear.
 
2012-03-24 07:15:19 PM  
Read most of it, reminded me of the fallacy: 'If one aspect of a science is flawed or not true, then that entire science must be thrown out.'
 
2012-03-24 07:17:24 PM  
So a primitive tribe living cut off from modern civilization speaks with a primitive form of language. Why is this surprising, exactly?
 
2012-03-24 07:20:57 PM  
I'm late here, but I'd love to see Chomsky have to eat his words. He refuses to acknowledge evidence that is contrary to what he believes, he spins it to make it fit. He's a great linguist, but at this point we have to wait for him to die before we can get on with finding out how language and the brain really work
 
2012-03-24 07:20:59 PM  

StrangeQ: So a primitive tribe living cut off from modern civilization speaks with a primitive form of language. Why is this surprising, exactly?



Because it's primitive in a way that modern theory says should not exist.
 
2012-03-24 07:29:10 PM  
Researchers split hairs. Other more important news at 11.
 
2012-03-24 07:30:22 PM  
a non-recursive language is by far and way one of the greatest discoveries in linguistics.
 
2012-03-24 07:31:35 PM  
It's just a language, not a primitive one. It does everything they need it to do
 
2012-03-24 07:31:43 PM  

vygramul: If true, it means Noam Chomsky has contributed nothing of intellectual value in his entire life.


WRONG!

Chomsky has shown us how to handle denialists properly. That guy can't so much as take a piss in Brazil anymore.

And of course, theres 2 million dead Cambodians to remind us who demonstrated that you can be wrong about everything and still be famous!
 
2012-03-24 07:34:29 PM  
Ok, so apparently Chomsky has no idea how science is carried out. From the end of the article:

Recently there's been a rise in so-called corpus linguistics, a data-driven method of evaluating a language, using computer software to analyze sentences and phrases. The method produces detailed information and, for scholars like Gibson, finally provides scientific rigor for a field he believes has been mired in never-ending theoretical disputes. That, along with the brain-scanning technology that linguists are increasingly making use of, may be able to help resolve questions about how much of the structure of language is innate and how much is shaped by culture.

But Chomsky has little use for that method. In his lecture, he deemed corpus linguistics nonscientific, comparing it to doing physics by describing the swirl of leaves on a windy day rather than performing experiments. This was "just statistical modeling," he said...


Um, computer based statistical models are a very common and scientific way to do physics. (unless the 1.8 million Google scholar results for physics computer model are all BS) And the brain scans ARE experiments.

But then from reading the rest of the novella... er article, ad hominem attacks and physically preventing people from undertaking research seem to be the height of linguistic academia.
 
2012-03-24 07:36:48 PM  
Old news is old. I'm teaching a course on cross-cultural linguistics (I'm an anthropologist) right now and my students are all over this stuff. Recursion, relative counting system, people moving in and out of perceived existence, etc. I have a Daniel Everett lecture on DVD that I showed them and the man is funny and entertaining. It's also interesting to see how the Pirahã essentially got this missionary linguist to give up his religion because their language gives very little credence to claims that the claimant hasn't actually seen first hand. Fascinating stuff. There was a great article on this in the New Yorker years ago too.
 
2012-03-24 07:39:33 PM  
Disclaimer: I only hold a B.A. in linguistics ('07) and my areas of focus were historical linguistics, morphology, phonology, and morphophonology, not syntax or language acquisition or anything UG (Universal Grammar) heavy. Still, some people in here seem grossly misinformed, so here I go:

1. First and foremost: linguistics is not just syntax and semantics. There are the fields I mentioned above as well as neurolinguistics, animal communication, phonetics, sociolinguistics, etc.

2. Chomsky is like Darwin; he created the framework under which much of modern linguistics operates. Hero-worship is only natural to some extent, though I personally never encountered any of that in my four years of study (while I didn't focus on syntax, I did take it).

3.. If Everett's claims are true, it would not destroy the foundation of modern linguistics. Chomsky could easily have been wrong when he claimed recursion to be a fundamental part of UG.

4. It is hardly unexpected for experts in a field of study to be skeptical over data that overthrows strongly held beliefs. There was a Scientific American article a few years ago about Modified Newtonian Dynamics, a theory that tried to explain inconsistencies by proposing a modificiation Newton's law of gravity (a proposal that didn't need dark matter to work). Astronomers were just as skeptical/dismissive in that case.

5. Universal Grammar is not rigid. It is a framework and an idea that gets modified as new discoveries are made.

6. There seems to be an agreement among neutral parties who have vetted his work that there is indeed recursion in Pirahã. What it seems clear Pirahã doesn't have is infinite recursion.


(and my opinion): Basically, it's a whole lot of to-do over nothing. This guy, Everett, seems to be a cause seeker. He started out as a missionary trying to convert this tribe (something I find despicable), lost his faith, and subsequently found something else to believe in: himself. Forgive me if I don't believe a man who invites neutral parties to look at his data in order to confirm his findings and not to actually vet the work. While one exception can cause a revolution in science, these exceptions are few and far between, and any scientist worth his NaCl would exercise due diligence before throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
 
2012-03-24 07:43:52 PM  
Taking a linguistics seminar this semester, so I'm really getting a kick...

/Politeness theory in particular
//Expect to cite Fark a lot when we get to impoliteness in a few weeks
 
2012-03-24 07:46:24 PM  
...and then Chomsky says, "Of course it's funny - you're just telling it wrong!"

=Smidge=
 
2012-03-24 07:48:51 PM  

dopeydwarf: I read that as cunnilingus.


that'sthejoke.jpg
 
2012-03-24 07:51:34 PM  
This seems like a pretty highbrow topic for Fark, especially on a Saturday night. Next thing you know people will be tempted to post facts and we will really be screwed up.
 
2012-03-24 07:51:53 PM  

machoprogrammer: This. The guy is a pretentious, smug douchebag. And his political writings are even more annoying and obnoxious.

He basically does the following:
America likes A
Chomsky: A IS EVIL!
America suddenly dislikes A
Chomsky: A IS GOOD!


I disagree. He sometimes resorts to bait and switch.
 
2012-03-24 07:52:32 PM  

wildcardjack: Makes me wonder if linguistics needs to be filed with economics as "Not really science"

But I wouldn't say that in front of the linguistics major I know. She'd punch me.


In my opinion, it all depends on what part of linguistics you're talking about. Some sounds like bullshiat (there's a reason I dropped Syntax II) and some is pretty science heavy (phonetics, in particular). Still, it's a hell of a lot more scientific (and verifiable) than most of the social sciences.
 
2012-03-24 07:55:50 PM  
Oral sex. Uh huh huh.
 
2012-03-24 07:56:39 PM  

jtown: So, basically, academics are no better than a Jerry Springer audience.


If you had ever been in a meeting where office and lab space was being re-allocated, you wouldn't need to ask that question.
 
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