The LSA has embarked on an initiative to publicize work in linguistics to the wider scientific and popular community. If done well, this could really be helpful. The program is described here. An interim progress report is here. I am not personally impressed with the range of stories that have been provided to data as IMO they do not yet showcase what linguists are mostly doing. However, I have been assured (and I believe) that the LSA is very open to suggestions as to topics to be covered (I have made several of my own). Now, why do I mention this?
Well, this kind if initiative costs money. At the bottom of the page linked to above are listed the linguistic departments that have stepped up to help this initiative along. You will notice two things about this list. First it is short. Very short. I am happy to report that UMD, U MICH, Stanford, Indiana U, Ohio State, Purdue and Oklahoma State have stepped up. But that means that many did not, including some of our more prominent departments (e.g. MIT, Harvard, UCLA, Berkeley, U Wash, U Chicago, U Conn, U Del, Cornell, NYU among others). Why not? I know that funds are scarce, but the only way to start promoting what we do in the larger scientific community (and avoid having David Pesetsky have to lament our poor public showings sometime again in the near future) is to support initiatives that try to make our work better known. We should all be delighted that the LSA is taking this problem seriously and trying to do something constructive about it. So, please encourage your departments to make supporting this a priority.
To end, Thx to the LSA for doing this. Thx to the small generous band of departments that have already contributed (and will continue to do so, maybe even more generously!) and exhortations to the big departments that have heretofore sat back to start contributing to this initiative that will benefit us all. Given generously and often; or at any rate, make a multi year commitment to the initiative so that we can give it a fair chance of success.
I am not personally impressed with the range of stories that have been provided to data as IMO they do not yet showcase what linguists are mostly doing. However, I have been assured (and I believe) that the LSA is very open to suggestions as to topics to be covered (I have made several of my own).ReplyDelete
What do you think we can do about this? Can you tell us a bit about what kind of suggestions have you made, and how were they received?
I made three suggestions; one concerning Colin's recent NSF project on language science, one on a project that Yang and Marcus are doing on machine learning with small data bases using child language acquisition as a prime example of non BIG data learning and one on the Cinque kind of work being done on explaining Greenebrg universals in UG terms. The particular project I suggested they look at is on word formation using Bobaljik's recent work.Delete
The reception to these ideas was very cordial. Let's see what develops. Howver, I should say that I was asked for suggestions and they seem to be eager to have people make them. I think that the stuff that you are doing on the subject effects in RCs would be another worthwhile topic to cover and I intend to suggest it next. At any rate, we need to make these suggestions regularly and see how they do. Also, let me reiterate, we need depts to support this. So please consider having your dept make a multi year commitment.
To be clear, the scientific expertise lies with you, the members of the LSA (... we do hope that you are paid members; memberships help to pay for efforts to raise the profile of the field). The LSA Secretariat is a very small outfit, and it does not have extensive linguistic expertise. The Secretariat is working to develop connections with media outlets, and is working to build its ability to pitch good stories to those outlets. It will depend on you, dear linguists, to come up with the cool ideas that can be shaped to be pitched to the public. This is an experiment, but a couple of things are clear:ReplyDelete
(i) If you don't pitch interesting ideas to convey about your field, then don't expect the media to convey them.
(ii) In order for professionals to work to connect your interesting ideas to the masses, it needs revenue to pay for those professionals. Departmental donations help, but individual memberships help too. A lot.