21 October 2005

language and anger management

by Cecily
I just read "The Linguistics Wars" which is full of smart academics saying nasty, mean things to and about each other and then being angry and offended. Plus there's some social commentary in there, too, about the 60s. The part that I like the most in this book is all of the witty examples that the rebellious Generative Semanticists use in their scholarly publications. Usually they are about Nixon, as it turns out. Often about Nixon lingering in a men's room somewhere. Oh, those wacky linguists!

Either that, or they are personal attacks on other linguists who disagree with whatever. Like Noam Chomsky for example, they all say mean things about him and then he says mean things back and then everyone does interviews in which they act like they were being totally mature the whole time and they are baffled by the reaction of the other party.

This is an issue that hit home with me, because there is some social uproar happening in my classes. I can't really tell why. Some of it is related to personal dislike, on the parts of various people and in varying degrees. Some of it is related to widely varying discourse styles. But a lot of animosity and general awkwardness seems completely inexplicable. One kid got up and left the classroom in the middle of a discussion a couple of weeks ago. There are sporadic rounds of vitriolic or defensive or apologetic emails sent all over. Meetings are had wherein students complain about each other to professors and about professors to each other and about some professors to other professors.

The whole thing is making me really nervous. Nervous and also annoyed. Maybe I'll start circulating underground revolutionary mimeographs denouncing all of the people who say stupid things. I'll do it anonymously and everyone will have to stop making offensive remarks and talking shit about each other for fear of being publicly ridiculed.

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