Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The ling curriculum

Here's a post that Colin out on the diversity of grad curricula. He talks about the UMD experience and how it reflects a changing view of the aim of ling research. I think that it accurately reflects a consensus of the faculty at UMD about what the field should be about. It emphasizes the use of a broad variety of techniques to investigate linguistic phenomena and it works hard not to privilege some kinds of work over others.  I also agree that this approach has worked well enough and it correctly notes the kinds of trade-offs that a modern grad education in ling presents.

One thing that I would emphasize that Colin did not: this consensus has been possible because there is a broad agreement among the faculty of what the object of study is, viz. the Faculty of Language. In other words, we all agree that we are studying the same object and where we differ is in the kinds of probes we use to study it. Without this common conception I think that garnering consensus would have been very difficult. I also believe that the view of the UMD faculty is, sadly, not widely shared. Many core area linguists do not believe (or do not think it important and think it maybe even a little BSy) to interpret syntax or phonology or semantics or morphology from a broadly cognitive perspective. But unless one does, then it is hard to see why the conjunctive areas of interest (psycho, computational, neuro) are not from the perspective of linguistics secondary areas.  From this (non UMD) perspective the core areas provide neutral tools to study the mind with but don't substantially prejudice this study empirically. Sort of like arithmetic and physics. IMO, if this is your view, then there really are first and second class citizens and it is irresponsible not to lead with the core areas.

Last point. Colin notes, but I would like to emphasize, that disengaging from the cognitive/neuro conception of language is likely to be very dangerous for the health of the field. There is a reason that linguistics has lost the prestige it once had among the psycho sciences and part of the reason is that linguists have lost interest in these wider issues. If we don't return to this conception we will loose out. So, not only is Colin's position intellectually reasonable, I suspect that the future health of the field depends on it.

No comments:

Post a Comment