Saturday, January 8, 2011

biggest linguistics story of 2010?

I have nothing but respect and admiration for Erin McKean, CEO and Co-Founder of the awesome Wordnik project as well as the person who has given by far the single greatest lingo-TED-talk ever; nonetheless, I take exception to her most recent column in the Boston Globe titled The year in language which is an article about the best and worst language stories of 2010. She notes many worthy events, yet...

With no offense meant, I can say that I was shocked, SHOCKED! to discover that no mention whatsoever was made of what I consider to be the single most important and shocking linguistics related story of 2010: the revelation that Harvard's Marc Hauser fabricated data regarding rule learning by monkeys. For years, Hauser has posed as a giant in the Chomsky camp, and created an ivy-league cottage industry based on his research. 2010's revelations of his still-unclear-yet-nonetheless-obvious-forgery is a shock-wave whose full power and ramifications have yet to be fully understood. Plus, it was the Boston Globe itself, the paper Erin publishes in, that broke the original story.

Language Log's extensive discussions of the Hauser story can be found here.

2 comments:

Erin said...

Chris -- thanks so much for the kind words, they're much appreciated!

I didn't include the Hauser story because I am an unrepentant speciesist when it comes to language stories -- I just don't find animal studies (even on other primates) compelling. And I find it very difficult to write about things I don't find compelling in such a way that they will be interesting to Globe readers, especially in the tiny scope of an 800-900 word popular-language column. De gustibus, etc.

So, thank goodness for Language Log, where they have the space and the interest to give the Hauser story the scrutiny it deserves.

Chris said...

Fair enough, Erin, you've done a great job with your Globe articles and you make a good point that non-human communication studies are typically overblown.

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