LINGUIST List 5.1108

Tue 11 Oct 1994

Misc: Go+verb, Comp. method, "Linguist", "Linguistician"

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  1. Richard Ingham, Re: 5.1091 Sum: Go+verb
  2. ALICE FABER, Depth of comparative method
  3. Stewart Nichols, "linguist" wounded
  4. Allan C Wechsler, 5.1092 "Linguist"

Message 1: Re: 5.1091 Sum: Go+verb

Date: Tue, 11 Oct 1994 17:37:15 Re: 5.1091 Sum: Go+verb
From: Richard Ingham <>
Subject: Re: 5.1091 Sum: Go+verb

I assume it's the case that for American speakers _ go_ can't be used in
the past or continuous forms:

* Iwent take a look
* I was going take a look

Or in the habitual present:

*I go play golf on Saturdays

Is this true?

If so, the _go_ in go+Vb construction probably needs to be treated as A
separate lexical item from go + Vbing. Its invariant form suggests a
modal, but it combines with modals such as _will_, so that would be
problematic for an analysis as a modal.
In fact, I wouldn't dare suggest that!
 Richard Ingham
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Message 2: Depth of comparative method

Date: Mon, 10 Oct 1994 13:28:05 Depth of comparative method
Subject: Depth of comparative method

I agree with Alex Manaster-Ramer that there is IN PRINCIPLE no limitation to
the depth reachable by the comparative method. However there is a big
pragmatic limitation, that, I believe, renders this principle moot. Let's
assume that you need a sufficiently large number of cognates for each
correspondence set that you establish. Let's also assume that vocabulary
changes over time. (I put aside questions of how many items it takes to
establish a correspondence, how fast vocabulary is replaced, and whether the
replacement rate is comparable across semantic fields and cultures. These are
separate issues, albeit important ones.) Let's suppose for the sake of
argument that 50% of the Hebrew vocabulary is retained from Proto-West
Semitic, 30% retained from Proto-Semitic, and that 10% has clear Afroasiatic
cognates. (Lest there be any doubt, these figures are off the cuff estimates,
and I make no claim for precision; if anyone cares, I can count in my
Proto-Semitic sibilant corpus.) Given the size of the ancient Hebrew corpus,
this doesn't leave a lot of lexical material for Afroasiatic comparison, let
alone for comparison with Nilo-Saharan, Finno-Ugric, etc. Given infinitely
large corpora for the various Afroasiatic languages and for languages in
families to which Afroasiatic might be related, of course we could reconstruct
back earlier than 10,000-15,000 years ago. But we don't have infinitely large
corpora; in fact much subgrouping within Afroasiatic is based on word-lists
less than 1,000 words long. And given language deaths, in the past as well as
in the present, many extant corpora simply can't be augmented. Thus corpus
size imposes a limit on the comparative method. This limitation also suggests
a strategy for overcoming it: increase in corpus size (where feasible).

Alice Faber
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Message 3: "linguist" wounded

Date: Fri, 7 Oct 1994 19:52:38 -"linguist" wounded
From: Stewart Nichols <>
Subject: "linguist" wounded

On Wed, 5 Oct 1994, "Vern M. Lindblad" <> wrote:

> General John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
> of Staff of the USA, several times referred to the first US serviceman
> wounded in action in Haiti (a native speaker of Haitian Creole serving as
> an interpreter who was wounded during the firefight in Cap-Haitien on 940924)
> by calling him "a Navy linguist."

The General's use of the term "linguist" is perfectly correct.
He was using it in its primary meaning of someone skilled in
languages. This has been the meaning of the word for at least
four centuries.

As you suspect, "linguist" is a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS),
but it is not limited to translators. When I was in the Army, I was a
"Russian Linguist". I never once was called upon to act as an official
interpreter. I don't think I ever was required to translate anything for
anyone, either. I did all my work in Russian.

To my ear, it is jarring to hear the word "linguist" used to refer
to anyone who does NOT speak at least two languages. Considering the
roots of the word, I think "linguist" is a poor choice for "a person
within the field of linguistics".

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Message 4: 5.1092 "Linguist"

Date: Tue, 11 Oct 1994 11:24:28 5.1092 "Linguist"
From: Allan C Wechsler <>
Subject: 5.1092 "Linguist"

I am _not_ repulsed by the neologism "linguistician". It's exactly
parallel to "mathematician". I have never heard of a "mathemat".

I also like "language scientist".
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