Some clowns on some Reddit forums called Bad Linguistics and Linguistics have decided that they have it in for me and are waging a jihad to try to destroy me. I believe it all started when I wrote a post trashing the field of Linguistics for a lot of its consensus dogma, mostly based on PC nonsense, that I consider to be insane and idiotic. You are not allowed to question received dogma in this most unscientific of mushy, PC-poisoned soft sciences. I suppose that started it, and they have been on the warpath ever since.
The latest is they have banned everyone from linking to me on one of their subreddits, while they continue to link me on another one (Badling).
Almost all of their charges are wholly without merit. They are just cranks and hacks. They are telling people to disregard everything I say because every sentence or statement in everything I write is false, as are 100% of my conclusions about everything. There are bans on linking to me for “spreading misinformation,” which is nonsense.
Latest r/Linguistics post attacking an article of mine.
R/Badlinguistics on the same piece.
Here is the paper in question on Academia.edu: Mutual Intelligibility among the Slavic Languages.
It has gotten more downloads than 99.5% of Linguistics articles. Over 10,000 people have downloaded the piece so far.
Most of their charges are simply false. None of their arguments are consequential. The piece they are attacking has 31 references now, 6 personal communications and 25 citations. Everything they say about mutual intelligibility and its testing is simply false, but the idiotic and insane charges they are making are widely believed in this silly field.
A post attacking my piece trashing the field for terminal PC idiocy.
The first post attacking the same piece.
The article in question: Why Did I Get a Degree in This Hokey Field Anyway?
Another piece attacking an article I wrote on the relative difficulty of learning Chinese for English learners.
There were some errors in there, but that is the nature of peer review. All scholars make errors in their work, so what? And I am spread so thinly trying to be an expert in some different areas and languages, that I am bound to make some mistakes because there is a limit to how much you can know. People who specialize in some narrow field are going to get a lot better at it because they are not spreading themselves so far.
The piece in question: A Look at the Chinese Language.
I do not mean to trash most of the work done in Linguistics, especially descriptive and theoretical work which is often excellent, just the PC idiocy that the field is shot through and through with.
Here are some of the crazy things that they believe.
No language is inherently harder or easier to learn than any other. It all depends on your native tongue.
This is just not true. So Tsez is just as easy to learn as Malay? Forget it. Some languages are so hard, like Tsez and Czech, that even native speakers often never learn to speak them 100% correctly. In the Czech Republic, they have TV contests about the Czech language where speakers are tested on obscure forms. If you can go through 30 minutes without making a mistake it is considered amazing. Piraha was so hard to learn that a succession of jungle priests in Brazil tried to learn it but gave up because it was too hard.
Even the notion that any language is easier to learn if you speak a related language is not true. Speakers of Salish languages surrounding Kootenai typically refused to learn Kootenai, a similar language, saying it was too hard. Most speakers of Cantonese who know Mandarin and Cantonese, even Cantonese native speakers, say that Cantonese is much harder to learn than Mandarin.
What about language isolates that are not related to any other language. Sure, maybe you can learn Basque easier if you speak a language that is related to Basque or maybe similar to Basque. Guess what? Nothing is related to Basque. Are there are any languages similar to Basque? Who knows? It has no relatives, why would there be similar languages? The old joke is that Basque is so hard that even The Devil couldn’t learn it. Satan tried to learn it for 7 years and all he learned how to say was hello and goodbye.
Many first languages are so hard to learn that speakers do not learn the entire language until high school. Native speakers of Finnish, Polish and even Portuguese have told me that many to most native speakers never learn to write the language correctly.
All children learn language equally fast and this proves that no language is inherently easier or harder to learn than any other.
We now have a lot of data coming in showing that while this is often true, it is not always true. Many have noted that Navajo children struggle with their own language. We now have data from Danish that shows that Danish children take longer to learn their language. There is similar data coming in for German, Turkish, and Arabic in Europe. Children simply take longer to learn some languages than others. Why? Because they are harder to learn, that’s why!
At any rate, some languages are so difficult and there are so few folks speaking related languages that they are going to be hard to learn for 99% of the world’s population. Sure, Tsez may be somewhat easier if you speak a related language, but who in God’s name speaks a language closely related to Tsez? How many humans speak a language closely related to Ket? Almost none, and Na-Dene languages are very distant and don’t resemble Ket much at all.
What percentage of the world’s population speaks a US Amerindian language or an Aboriginal Australian language?
Even if you speak a US Amerindian language, most of them are quite distantly related to each other.
Even in California, knowledge of Yokuts is no hope if you wish to learn Salinan (isolate) or Hupa (isolate)? Yokuts is its own family. It’s not related to anything. How is knowing Yokuts going to help you learn anything? How is knowing Chimariko, Yana, Karuk and Esselen, all isolates, going to help you learn anything else. Knowing Costanoan won’t help you learn Luiseno or Chumashan. Knowing any of the above won’t help you learn Yurok or Wiyot.
And we haven’t even left California. As you can see, even knowing one California Indian language hardly helps you learn another one as most of them are hardly related to others, if at all.
Obviously there are quite a few world languages that are going to be very hard for 99.9% of the world to learn because hardly anyone speaks a similar language. See how silly this “it’s easy if you speak a similar language” argument is?
Another consensus, which is truly preposterous, is that there are no languages that are more simple or more complex than any others. Well, that settles it! Malay is as complex as Ubykh! Tsez is as simple as Afrikaans!
This is completely insane. Some languages are mind-bogglingly complex, while others are fairly straightforward. Many are full of case, mood, tense, aspect, with wild verb and noun paradigms and mass irregularity running amok through the languages. The Slavic languages are full of complex morphological or complexional case. Czech, Slovak and Polish are some of the most notorious. Bulgarian and Macedonian have lost most of their case and become more analytic, so obviously their languages have simplified. Czech is vastly more complex than Macedonian, and these are in the same family.
Linguists also say that we can’t define the words “complex” and “simple.”
They are always saying this sort of thing in the best soft science tradition. They can’t define this. They can’t define that. They can’t define much of anything! I guess nothing means anything then. Why don’t they change the name from Linguistics to Nihilism?
The brilliant scholars on the sci.language newsgroup include well known professors and linguists who have published widely, written popular books and even have Wikipedia entries. Most have PhD’s.
These fine thinkers informed me that there are no languages that have more rules than other languages because we can’t define rules. There are no languages that have more complex rules and others than have more simple rules because we can’t define complex or simple. There are no languages that are more regular and others that are more irregular and full of exceptions because we can’t define regular, irregular or exception. Granted, many linguists would dispute this insanity, but there were a number of PhD linguists in the group when these statements were made to me, and none of them challenged this battiness.
We can’t say that primitive tribes often speak complex languages (perhaps due to no strong civilizational need to simplify them) or that languages tend to simplify when they are widely spoken, especially as modern urban languages, a well-known phenomenon. Sure, English has dramatically simplified from its Proto-Germanic base, but linguists insist it hasn’t. Because maybe this morphological simplification was combined with increased complexity in other ways?
Frankly, much of the increased complexity in English suggested – stress, tone, pitch, pragmatics, increased and more fine toned semantics, etc. – was probably already present in Old Frisian anyway, but whatever. The notion that anytime a language simplifies its case, verbal paradigms or flexional morphology, it is going to at the same time increase its complexity in other areas is a theory with no backing whatsoever. Doesn’t stop linguists from throwing it about like an anchor to sink theories they don’t like.
Although many linguists now accept a Critical Period for language learning and many assume it is biological (there is one and it is biological), when I was getting my degree 20 years ago, most of my professors insisted that there was no such thing. Adults could learn language just as easily as children!
So why didn’t they? They had all sorts of whacky psychological theories, including affective filters that mysterious pop up out of the ether as one ages but are somehow not present in kids, increased anxiety via the amygdala, and all sorts of other BS. I actually had to learn and test on all this silliness.
Psychological theories are still very popular to explain the Critical Period, but they are no less silly.
Language Necessity Theory: You see, children have to learn an L1, but adults don’t have to learn an L2.
Nice, but that does not explain how children can pick up anywhere from 5-8 L1’s in childhood, most of which they didn’t need to learn as they already had one L1.
Too Much Time on Their Hands Theory: Another one is that children have nothing to all day except unravel toilet paper rolls, stick inedible objects in their mouths, romp in playpens and cry a lot, so they have nothing but time on their hands. So really they have every waking hour to learn language. Whereas adults are so busy with our lives, jobs, school, hobbies, chores, errands, business deals, research, idle chat, Internet porn and Borderline Personality Disorder girlfriends that we honestly don’t have any time leftover to learn language.
That’s just silly. Kids don’t learn language because they have all day to do so. They learn it because their brains are wired up to get it.
Another pet theory is that all languages are equally effective and efficient for getting done whatever the speaker needs to get done.
This is just not true. Look at a sign posted in English and another one posted in Spanish. Note that the Spanish translation is considerably longer. As in takes longer to write the same thing, takes longer to read the same thing and probably takes longer to say the same thing. Students who have written long papers in both English and Japanese report that the paper was much easier to write in English due to the oddities of Japanese writing style.
Many languages lack modern vocabulary or words for modern items and ideas. Drop a Piraha speaker in New York City and tell me how he gets along. He has two colors – light and dark. How is he going to describe that neon sign or art exhibit? He has no numerals – only one and “more than one/lots.” Tell me how he gets along in the wildly consumerized world of Late Capitalist NYC when he can’t even count?
I learned quite a bit of a California Indian language but I thought it would be hard to discuss detailed and intellectual topics in that language. Surely German would be much better suited to ponderous philosophy than Miwok. Indians don’t have words for a lot of of deeply intellectual notions because they do not bother to think about this sort of thing very much as their pre-contact culture had no use for it.
Due to the oddities of the Japanese language, Japanese speakers are often speaking at cross purposes to each other. It is often hard to figure out who did what to whom in a sentence. Sure, it’s a great modern world language, but it sounds like Japanese has some efficiency problems.
There are some things that Linguistics hates with a bizarre passion.
One of these is the Sapir-Whorf Theory of Linguistic Relativity. This theory postulates that the language you speak shapes the way that you think and view the world.
Intuitively, it seems to make sense, and quite a bit of evidence was collected in favor of it. Indeed, we continue to collect more evidence in favor of this theory. Linguists go stark raving ballistic if you even mention this theory, as Linguistics has supposedly “proven” that the language you speak has no effect on the way that you think or view the world. But wait, I thought Linguistics couldn’t prove much of anything about anything or even define most terms?
I have been over most of the lit, and Linguistics has proved nothing of the sort. I don’t agree that the full theory has been proven correct, but it certainly has not been proven false. It is most charitable to say that Sapir-Whorf is rather up in the air.
I could go on and on here, but you get the picture.
I think the overarching PC theory here is similar to Boasian Anthropology in which no culture was superior or inferior to any other. Headhunters and cannibals who will fatten you up to cook you in a pot are just as sensible and decent as the Japanese or Swedes.
Similarly, PC Linguistics wants to say that no language is better or worse than any other or even slightly suggest that this is true. They are also ferociously opposed to biological explanations of language and prefer cultural or psychological theories instead, harkening back once again to Boas and Kroeber “culture is everything” hostility to biological differences in human races, groups or societies. We can see a profound hostility all through the soft sciences to biological explanations of any sort for human behavior.
Apparently this PC thinking is that biological explanations of behavior are reactionary, lead to conservative thinking, societies and politics, and especially lead to nationalism, tribalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or whatever the illegal thought de jour is.
In line with this, Linguistics is fanatically PC, and linguists, like other social scientists, spend a lot of time yelling about racism, sexism, hate speech, bigotry, prejudice and other thought-crimes.
The typical rejoinder that human behavior is so variable and subjective that we can’t possibly factor out the variables enough to make any definitive statements about subjective human behaviors always seemed like a cop-out to me. It is just another excuse for the Theoretical Nihilism that reigns in the social sciences.
They don’t call it Physics Envy for nothing.