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Silverstein - Language Structure and Linguistic Ideology

Silverstein - Language Structure and Linguistic Ideology

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I
APARASESSION
ON
LINGUISTICUNITSANDLEVELS
April20-21,
1979
Including
Papersfrom
the
Conference
on
NON-SLAVICLANGUAGESOF
THE
USSR
April18,
1979
EDITED
BY
PAUL
R.
CLYNEWILLIAMF.HANKSCAROL
L.
HOFBAUER
CHICAGOLINGUISTICSOCIETYUNIVERSITY
OF
CHICAGO
1050
E.
59THSTREETCHICAGO,ILLINOIS
60637
 
192
In
conclusion,
it
is
stressed
that
thenotion
"universal
rule"
shouldnot
be
accepted
a
priori,
beforeassessingtheextentof
its
contribution,
if
at
all,
to
the
theoryof
syntax.
Specifically,
linguists
must
try
to
assess
theexplanatoryvalue
of
a
substantive
constraintin
terms
of
a
"universal
inventoryof
rules",
as
opposed
to
a
formal
one,
and
try
todeviseempirical
tests
forvalidating
the
notion
"universalrule".
REFERENCES
Bach,E.(1965)
"On
Some
Recurrent
Types
ofTransformations"
Georgetown
University
Monograph
Series
onLanguagesand
Linguistics,
Vol.
18,ed.
by
C.
Kreidler,
Washington,
D.C.Bach,E.(1971)
"Questions"
LinguisticInquiry.
Vol.
2,153-66.
Bach,E.(1974)
"On
the
VSO
Hypothesis"
Linguistic
Inquiry.
Vol.
5,
1-37.
Chomsky,
~
.(1965)
Aspects
ofthe
Theory
of
Syntax.
Cambridge,Mass.:
M.I.T.
Press.
Chung,S.(1975)
"On
theSubjectof
Two
Passives
in
Indonesian".Subject
and
Topic,ed.
by
Charles
N.
Li.
Academic
Press.
Johnson,
D.
(1974)TowardaTheory
ofRelationally-Based
Grammar.
University
of
Illinois
Dissertation.
Keenan,E.(1975)"Some
Universals
of
Passive
in
Relational
Grammar".
Papers
from
theEleventh
RegionalMeeting
ofthe
Chicago
Linguistic
Society.
Keenan,E.and
B.
Comrie(1977)"Noun
Phrase
Accessibility
and
Universal
Grammar".
Linguistic
Inquiry.
Vol.
8,
53-100.
Peters,
S.
(1970)
"Why
There
Are
Many
Universal
Bases".Papers
inLinguistics.
Vol.
2,27-43.Sheintuch,
G.
(1977)
Same
Rule
in
a
Transformational
Theory
of
Syntax.
Universityof
Illinois
Dissertation.
Sinha,
A.K.(1978)
"Another
Look
at
theUniversal
Characterization
ofPassive
Voice".Papers
from
theFourteenth
Regional
Meeting
ofthe
Chicago
Linguistic
Society.
Stockwell,
R.,
P.
Schachter
andB.
Partee
(1973)The
Major
Syntactic
Structures
ofEnglish.
New
York:
Holt,Rineholt,
and
Winston,
Inc.
193
*
anguage
Structure
and
Linguistic
IdeologyMichael
Silverstein
The
University
of
ChicagoCases
arerarein
whicha
people
have
begun
to
speculate
about
linguistic
categories,
and
these
speculationsare
alroost
always
so
clearly
affected
by
thefaulty
reasoning
that
has
led
to
secondary
explanations,
that
they
arereadily
recognized
as
such
...
---Franz
Boas
(1911:
71)
WereI
to
begin
by
observing
that
"Webster's
dictionarydefines
ideology
as
...
,"
youwould
have
an
example
of
a
verycamon
American
linguistic
ideology
in
action.
l
It
would
be
the
rhetorical
appeal
to
the
published
dictionary
asthe
codifiedauthority
onwhatwords
really
mean.Even
the
whimsical
force
of
such
rhetoric
rests
ona
large
set
of
rationali7..ations
about
the
nature
ofthe
dictionary's
authorityin
such
matters.
Partof
oureducationalestablishment--and
especiallythe
publishers--encourage
it
as
llRlch
aspossible.
Or
again,
I
might
start
by
pointing
out
that
the
word
canes
fran
the
Greek
root
for
'idea,'illustrating
anothercamon
ideological
proposition
about
the"true"
or
even
central
meanings
of
words
lying
in
their
etynDlogical
origins,
knowledge
of
which
sarehow
allows
us
to
use
words
correctly.
In
the
works
of
ideologuessuch
as
Edwin
Newnan
(1974,
1976),
these
confusions
of
etynnlogy
and
sanantics
at
the
phrasal
level
become
thebasis
for
declarationsofpet
likes
and
dislikes
aboutcontenporaryusage;
"clear,"or
"literal
(and
correct)"
usage
is
generally
so
by
historicalpriority,
as
inthe
usual
Malinowskian
charter
myth.
But
I
do
not
addressmyselfonly
toarticulatedbeliefsthat
areincorrect
or
contanptible.
I
should
clarify
that
ideologies
aboutlanguage,
orlinguistic
ideologies,
are
any
sets
of
beliefs
about
language
articulated
by
the
users
as
a
rationalizationor
justification
of
perceived
language
structure
and
use.
If
we
~ a r e
such
ideologieswith
what
goes
under
the
name
of
"scientific"
statEments
2
about
language,
we
might
find
that
incertainareastheideological
beliefs
do
in
fact
match
the
scientific
ones,
though
the
two
will,
in
general,
be
part
of
divergent
larger
systans
of
discourse
and
enterprise.
We
need
have
no
conceit
one
way
or
theother,
however,
that
autanaticallyprivilegesso-called
"scientific"
description,
or
autanatically
condanns
native
ideological
rational
ization.
In
fact,
Iwant
to
develop
here
SCIre
aspects
ofthesubject
thatwill,
Ihope,show
therelationship
between
ideology
and
structurein
the
realm
of
language
to
be
llRlch
the
same
as
in
any
other
realm
of
social
life,
a
phenarenon
of
no
little
significancefortheprac
tice
of
linguistics.
'lb
develop
this
thEme,I
will
first
indulge
in
a
sketchy
his
toriography
of
one
ofthe
linesof
development
of
American
linguistic
anthropology,
tracingthe
definition
ofthe
problem
by
one
ofthe
IIDst
misunderstood
writersofthe
century,
Benjamin
Lee
Whorf.
It
wasWhorf,I
will
claim,
who
clarified
one
aspect
ofthe
problem,
as
it
was
posed
by
his
academic
grandfather
Franz
Boas.
For
Whorf
 
194
proposed
that
the
users'native
ideology
of
reference,of
how
language
serves
as
a
system
for
segmenting,
classifying,
and
thencespeaking
about
the
universe
of
experience
"out
there,"
is
systemat
ically
relatedto,
and
at
least
in
part
systematicallyderives
from,
the
gramnatical
structure
of
the
language.
More
particularly,
Wharfsaw
regularities
inthe
distorting
relationship
between
native
awareness
of
language
as
a
referential
systan
and
referentialstructure
itself.
Wharf's
scientific
perspective(not,
it
shouldbenoted,
any
anti-ccmparativenihilism)led
him
to
fonnulate
a
principleof
"linguisticrelativity"that
might,
he
concluded,
stand
in
the
way
ofpure
positivistic
science
(no
little
concern
for
the
MIT
graduates
to
whom
headdressed
anumber
of
popular,
and
subsequentlymisconstrued,
articles
in
1940-41).
The
analytic
lessonhere
for
linguistics
I
will
term
a
linguistic
uncertainty
principlein
keeping
with
Wlx>rf's
original
(and,
in
Ietxospect,unfortunate)
rretaphor:
those
who
would
think
that
native
linguists
can
directly
penetrate
to
the
linguistic
coding
of
referential"reality
out
thp.rp."
by
examining
their
own
propositional
systelll--no
matter
heM
"deeply"--or
by
examining
others
I
with
crude
approximation-translations
ofpropositional
content,
unrecognizably
distort
the
objectofinvestigation
in
~
p r o c e s ~ .
This
pointleadsus
into
the
second
areaof
questlOns,deal1ngwithideologyvs.
structure
forother
areas
of
language
use,
other
"functions"of
language
thanthe
referential,
as
wenow
say.
From
the
writingsofthe
philosophersWittgenstein
and
Austin
and
their
interpreters
franthe
work
of
Dell
Hyrres
and
his
students
that
hascarved
o ~ t
a
fieldcalled
the
"ethnography
of
speaking,"
from
the
development
of
whole
areasofresearch
calledsociolinguistics
and
ethnomethodology,
it
has
becorre
clearer
that
p e o ~ l e
not
only
speak
about,
orrefer
to,the
world
"out
there"--outsldeoflan
guage--they
also
presuppose
(or
reflect)
and
create(or
fashion)
a
good
dealof
social
reality
by
the
very
activity
of
using
language.
We
should
ask,
inparticular,
how
the
seaningly
reflective
and
creative
or
"performative"
functions
of
language
(or,
rather,
of
language
use)
relate
to
native
IDVareness
and
native
ideology.
Can
we
generalize
Whorf's
penetratinginsights
from
the
plane
of
reference
to
the
whole
of
language
function?
I
think
we
can
discernthe
same
disjunction
between
ideology
and
structure,
one,
m::Jreover,which
assimilates
function
to
reference
and
thereby
affects
the
strategy
of
language
use.
.Answering
thesequestions
in
this
way,
we
come,
as
ln
any
social
science
to
theproblanof
accounting
forhistory.
I
willbriefly
e x p l ~
how
various
generalizations
about
historical
change
of
linguistic
structure,
at
boththe
referential
and
m::Jre
broadlyfunctional
levels
of
analysis,
sean
to
be
the
outcome
of
a
structure
ideology
dialectical
process.
This
contrasts
with
views
of
change
as
autonarous
internal
evolutionof
rulestructures,
fromsome
tendency
to
analogy,
orfran
sorre
systemic
striving
for.
psychological
econany
of
rule-ordering
relationships,or
fromsome
gomg-to
ccmpletion
of
otherwise
variablerules.
The"dynamic
synchrony"
that
many
have
seen
asthebasic
condition
of
human
l a n g u a g ~ ,
following
Jakobsonand
the
Prague
Circle,
is,
by
our
r e c k o ~ l n g ,
preciselythe
tension
between
linguisticstructure
and
varlOUS
195
institutionalized
and
non-institutionalized
ideological
under
standings
of
that
structure.
Thus
the
necessary
conditions
for
the
formation
ofideologies,
and
the
sufficient
conditions
for
their
institutionalization,
ought
really
to
be
the
heartof
historical
explanation,
for
this
illustrates
on
a
largescale
what
we
are,for
better
or
worse,
constantly
doing
to
language
in
microcosmwhenever
we
think
about
it.
But
in
the
beginning
was
Boas.
Whether
or
not
Boas
had
intellectual
contactwith
hisgreat
sociologicalcontanporaries
in
France
andGermany,I
am
not
certain.
By
the
18805,
he
was
hard
at
work
translating
the
lessons
he
learned
in
psychophysics
about
what
we
must
call
ethnoclassificationinto
an
emerging
discourse
about
"ethnological"
orcultural
form
and
its
history
(see
Stocking
1968:
133-60,195-233).
And
the
cardinal
problanhere,
as
I
see
it,
was
todifferentiate
between
"primary"
culturalclassification
(as
shown
in
la)--the
segmentation
and
ordering
of
the
supposedly
shared
social
universeof
experience,
which
m::Jved
along
on
its
own
historical
plane
independent
ofthepersonal
willof
individuals--and
whatBoas
called
"secondaryexplanation"
orrationalization
(as
shown
inlb)--theedifice
ofideological
beliefs
about
the
system
of
categorizationsimplicitin
institutionalizedsocial
action.
1.
(a)
"Primary
"ethnological
phenomena
("fundamental
ethnic
ideas")
1
Cultural
Pattern
I
organizing>
"range
of
personal
experience"
e.g.,
system
of
religious
ritual
activity;(referential)
language.
(b)
"Secondary"
explanation
(secondary
reinterpretation)
R a t i o n ~ l i z a t i o n s
( e x p ~ i c i t
about>
I
Cultural
patternor
avallable
to
consclousness)
.Language,
or
rather,
the
social
activity
of
using
language,
plays
an
eXaJPlary
role
in
Boasiantheory,
precisely
because,
it
is
claimed,
the
"primary"
cultural
categorizations
of
using
language,
described
by
a
gramnar,
m::Jve
along
inhistory
m::Jre
independently
of
secondary
overlays
than
any
other
phenanenon
of
social
life.
'Thus,
as
Boas
wrote
in
his
11
Introduction"
to
the
Handbook
of
American
Indian
Languages,
published
in
1911,
if
we
adopt
this
pointof
view,
language
seans
to
be
one
of
the
m::Jst
instructivefields
of
inquiry
in
an
investigation
I,
of
the
formation
of
the
fundamental
ethnicideas.
The
great
advantage
thatlinguisticsoffer
in
this
respect
is
thefact
that,
on
the
whole,
the
categories
which
are
forrred
alwaysremain
unconscious,
and
that
for
this
reason
theprocesses
which
lead
to
their
formation
can
be
followedwithout
the
misleading
and
disturbingfactors
of
secondary
explanations,
which
are
so
caIlIDn
in
ethnology,so
much
so
that
they
generally
obscure
the
real
historyof
the
developnent
of
ideas
entirely
(1911:
70-71).

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