Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Linguistics

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Syntactic structures[edit]

Is there any reason that none of our articles on theoretical syntax use images of bare phrase structure, instead favouring outdated models not seen since Ross's dissertation in 1967? Σσς(Sigma) 00:17, 12 June 2016 (UTC)

@Σ: I'm not involved with syntax articles here and I'm only replying because no-one else has in a month. If bare phrase structure refers to the variety of trees used in the Minimalist Program then there are good reasons why they aren't used here. For one, MP (or GB for that matter) is just one among many syntactic theories and its present-day popularity on US campuses is something worth reckoning with, but it's definitely far from the claim to universality of e.g. IPA in phonetic transcription. The syntactic trees we see on wikipedia are easier to understand by the general reader, more readily comprehensible by people coming from different frameworks, and much less open to the criticism (levied at Chomskyan theories) of conflating in a single level of syntactic representation entities and processes that operate at separate levels and that most other theories describe using separate vocabularies (for example, c- and f-structure of LFG, or the constituent trees and operator projection in RRG). Uanfala (talk) 09:07, 6 July 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for the response. I'm aware that bare phrase structure isn't the only way to parse, but as far as I've seen, even in papers written by European syntacticians, it is the most commonly-used way to model syntax. And yes, in the wild I've come across a few alternatives to minimalism: HPSG, some form of CxG, and also as LFG as you've mentioned (but not RRG) (there may be more but if so, I've never seen them), I've only seen exactly one paper that used it for each theory out of all the papers I've read, ever. MP/X-bar/generative grammar in general is simply the most widely accepted modern academic paradigm for approaching theoretical syntax. Finally, I am not convinced that using "bad" parses is doing more service than disservice for the reasons you state, could you elaborate? I can't come up with any examples off the top of my head that don't incorporate information for that. Σσς(Sigma) 06:56, 7 July 2016 (UTC)
True, there are many minimalists in Europe as well. As for the syntax papers I read, they tend to come from a typological or descriptive perspective and there minimalism is exceedingly rare. I almost have not background in any variety of Chomskyan syntax, so I'm not sure what you exactly mean by the parses being "bad". Uanfala (talk) 10:20, 7 July 2016 (UTC)
Well, to illustrate, see small clause#Structural analysis. I can't attest to the dependency grammars, but for the phrase structure grammars, I've found a paper depicting a flat structure (the ref, Syntactic relations: A critical survey, is not locally available and Google Books does not show all of the relevant material; this was from "Against small clauses" (Williams 1983)) but it's based on reasons regarding GB that aren't relevant in any modern syntactic theory I'm aware of. Σσς(Sigma) 07:36, 8 July 2016 (UTC)
I'm not entirely sure I'm able to follow. Are flat trees for small clauses examples of bad parses? Uanfala (talk) 10:41, 8 July 2016 (UTC)

Yes, that's right. File:Wikitree15a.png, as well. As far as I'm aware, the only time where people depict a node with three children and are still taken seriously is for coordination.

I'm curious what syntactic model you're most familiar with. You say you don't have any familiarity with anything Chomsky; I've never heard of anyone involved with linguistics who hasn't at least heard of him in passing. (Then again, I haven't heard anyone involved with linguistics who didn't use Chomsky's theories, but that may be an accident of history.) Σσς(Sigma) 08:11, 9 July 2016 (UTC)

Nodes with more than two children are pretty commonplace. The article section you linked to in your previous comment already lists theories that use them, and to that I can add they're ubiquitous in RRG and not rare in LFG (in the latter they're motivated by analysis of so-called non-configurational languages, like Warlpiri). As for me, I have some background in RRG and LFG, and I used to have some passing acquaintance with GB, but nowadays my readings are almost entirely in a typological or descriptive vein, and they usually eschew formalism and are close (in spirit, if not always in form) to Dixon's Basic Linguistic Theory).
Now, about syntactic trees. If you would like to draw bare phrase structure trees, you're welcome to! Certainly the articles on topics related to the MP could do with more illustrations. As for other syntax articles, replacing existing trees won't probably be a good idea most of the time, but adding separate sections dealing with the minimalist analysis (together with minimalist trees) will of course be good. Uanfala (talk) 10:14, 9 July 2016 (UTC)

You're right; I was referring to the X-bar/MP paradigm when I said that nodes couldn't have three children.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say that your readings usually "eschew formalism". When I say that the papers I read all use something Chomsky, I don't mean that they all include illustrations of trees in minimalist form. I mean that when papers such as this (page 4, gloss 1), I've always interpreted them to be a sort of shorthand for one. These are certainly the most common way to "annotate" a phrase that I've seen, in nearly every paper. Maybe I've just been seeing what I want to see but I've never considered any other way to read such a thing.

But if those indeed are annotations based in X-bar or MP, then I think there might be a WP:FALSEBALANCE if we included every theory together.

Σσς(Sigma) 02:08, 10 July 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I'm having a look at the gloss and apart from use of the CP label (which to me smacks of generativism), I think the bracketing is pretty theory-neutral. Anyone with any constituency-based formalism in mind could use it to imagine the tree of the theory of their choice. I'm having a look at WP:FALSEBALANCE which seems to contrast scholarly to fringe views, and not one scholarly view to another. Now, if we want to base the trees squarely within a certain formal framework (and I don't think this is generally a good idea), then the choice of framework will be based on what we see in the sources on the given topic: some topics will only have been treated within GB or MP, most will have been analysed within several theories and we'll ideally want to represent them all with due weight, and there'll many that haven't been approached within the Chomskyan framework. Uanfala (talk) 11:14, 10 July 2016 (UTC)

Sorry for the late reply. Anyway, I'm not trying to suggest that "alternate", for lack of better words, theories of syntax belong alongside Holocaust denial. I meant to draw attention to the boxed quote by BBC: 'false balance', [means] that viewers might perceive an issue to be more controversial than it actually is [...] [we] must clearly communicate the degree of credibility that the view carries. I don't doubt that things such as ellipsis or small clauses have non-X-bar-or-MP analyses published, but (I reiterate that I can only attest to what I've seen) they're so few, both in absolute numbers and proportionally to X-bar/MP; these other theories don't seem to see much active use or have much influence in linguistic discourse. Off the top of my head, the clearest way to avoid inflating their importance by depicting them "on equal footing" with X-bar/MP is to only depict pictures of X-bar/MP parses alone. I'm hesitant to do that, though.

I think there might be another way. You mentioned that (minus the use of CP) the bracketed phrases seem fairly neutral to you. What if we move away from showing parses beyond the most introductory illustrations, and use brackets for everything more detailed? Σσς(Sigma) 05:21, 21 July 2016 (UTC)

Using only brackets is an interesting idea, but the structures deliniated by brackets are isomorphic to trees, aren't they? Besides, I'd be very hesitant to impose a single representation style across the board.As for the alternative theories, I think there's a way of representing them all with WP:DUE weight, and they way to do that is to have the coverage of each theory be proportional to its prominence. And – sorry if this is a point I'm repeating – the proportion will vary between topics. Uanfala (talk) 17:08, 21 July 2016 (UTC)

Yes, that's true. Maybe only brackets isn't the best solution.

I think you're right in that the separate theories should be covered proportionally to their prominence, but one of the problems I have in imagining covering each theory is that I've only ever been familiar with one. So in my mind's eye, it makes no sense to have, for example, the article on sluicing only covering Chomskyan linguistics with a section near the bottom containing three paragraphs about sluicing as analysed by other paradigms. So could you illustrate what you propose with an example? Σσς(Sigma) 02:57, 31 July 2016 (UTC)

@Uanfala: I don't want to come off as pushing for a solely GB/MP depiction; I have nothing against other theories being depicted. In fact, I'd like nothing better than to depict them. But how much, and in what way?

I think syntax is a specific instance of the general question of how to present alternative academically legitimate theories alongside a much more dominant theory while not giving the appearance that they all have equal sway in the discipline. In the end, I think we should do something about the bad parses, but I just don't know what. Σσς(Sigma) 03:31, 2 August 2016 (UTC)

I don't have a one-size-fits-all solution, and I think the way different theories are covered will vary across articles and it will depend on the amount of coverage the topic has received within the various theories, the background of the particular editors working on that article, and the specific consensus that develops. Again, I don't think we should aim for a recipe to impose across the board, sometimes it would be better to relegate different theories' approaches to different sections, at other times it would make more sense to treat them alongside or to assume a more theory-neutral perspective. Uanfala (talk) 06:48, 2 August 2016 (UTC)
  • I think in general we have an overrepresentation of constituency grammar relative to more mainstream approaches due to one editor being an expert in this paradigm. I think what we should do in general is do what basic college textbooks and other introdoctury texts on a given topic do instead of using our own favorite syntactic theories. I think this will often mean that basic x-bar syntax will be the default, and sometimes Basic Lingiustic Theory as used by Dixon and the typologists. In the end the best sources for a given article will make the decision for us.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 07:26, 2 August 2016 (UTC)

Notification of RFC for Korean MOS in regard to romanization[edit]

Should we use McCune-Reischauer or Revised for topics relating to pre-1945 Korea? Those inclined, please contribute here. Hijiri 88 (やや) 06:24, 6 July 2016 (UTC)

Seeking feedback on a guide for students who edit linguistics articles for a higher education classroom[edit]

Hi everyone! The Wiki Education Foundation is creating a guide to help linguistics students in US and Canadian universities and colleges. I'd love to gather any feedback this community is willing to offer toward this project. You can find the draft here. We're looking to print these for the next academic year, so feedback by August 2 would be appreciated. Thanks! --Eryk (Wiki Ed) (talk) 21:26, 26 July 2016 (UTC)

That's great, Eryk; it should be a big help. One thing that occurs to me right away (I only skimmed the article) is that some guidance on abbreviations would be useful. I don't think Wikipedia has standard abbreviations for things like glossing, but a pointer to MOS:ABBREV or similar advice (i.e., avoid abbreviations that are not common outside the field) might be good. You do mention jargon, but I think abbreviations might warrant an explicit mention. Cnilep (talk) 02:31, 27 July 2016 (UTC)

Discussion about portal image[edit]

Hello everyone! I just want to bring your attention to a discussion I started at Template talk:Portal#Linguistics portal image regarding changing the icon used for the linguistics portal in Module:Portal. As it's barely possible (if at all) to make out what the current image is at the small size used by {{Portal}} and {{Portal bar}}, I'm suggesting that it be replaced by Globe of letters.svg (unless anyone has a better idea). Please note that this would not necessarily require a change of the WikiProject logo. Cheers, Graham (talk) 01:18, 30 July 2016 (UTC)


The redirects Dorso-palatal and Dorso palatal currently point to Dorsal consonant. But have been nominated for retargetting to Palatal consonant at RfD. You are invited to comment in the discussion at Wikipedia:Redirects for discussion/Log/2016 July 30#Dorso-palatal. Thryduulf (talk) 22:59, 30 July 2016 (UTC)

Fictional "linguists"[edit]

The category for "fictional linguists" (ref'd below) is largely populated by what can be termed "fictional polyglots" and "fictional language interpreters" rather than fictional characters who scientifically study language. The appropriate usage of the term "linguist" today, I would argue, largely refers to individuals who study the nature of language from a scientific perspective. Within the category of 26 pages, there are 5 pages/characters who are linguists by this definition. The rest are polyglots.

As a linguist who gets asked "how many languages do I speak?" by laymen on a weekly basis (to which I answer 1, and then: "I study language"), this is a vexing issue for me! Bit of a sore spot, I suppose. It seems that the public want to define "linguist" as someone who can speak many languages (this is the classical definition after all), but since the birth of "linguistics" as a field, academics want to treat the definition as a "language scientist". Am I being overly prescriptivistic in suggesting a correction to the category? As a sociolinguist, the irony of the issue is not lost on me! Perhaps it's best to leave it be haha

(Also, if any other wiki-linguists can think of some other fictional linguists, by all means bolster the category's ranks!)

--ThePhantasos (talk) 17:17, 1 August 2016 (UTC)

Languages categorization[edit]

I know this project is more on the functional portion of languages than languages overall but seeing articles like Great Vowel Shift there is some obvious overlap. There's an RFC at Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Languages#How_should_languages_be_categorized about suggested categorizations of languages and whether languages should go under the typical establishment/disestablishment categorization as well. Please comment there. Thanks! -- Ricky81682 (talk) 19:30, 3 August 2016 (UTC)

Eve Sweetser[edit]

Hi, this article has been tagged "Notability" since 2008. I am wondering if someone from the project can have a look and decide if the article should be improved or nominated for deletion? K.e.coffman (talk) 08:56, 7 August 2016 (UTC)

IMHO, when someone provides a drive-by tag like that with no explanation, procedure has been bungled. Maybe @Linkboyz: can provide a rationale. If not, just remove the tag. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 19:27, 8 August 2016 (UTC)

Note: IE sound laws[edit]

I have WP:BOLDly begun to convert the frankly impenetrable Indo-European sound laws to a somewhat more usable state, by splitting the reflex tables into single vs. cluster treatment. I imagine at least final consonants might deserve a table of their own as well. However, the table of clusters for now only shows a few of the more prominent developments, and remains quite unfinished even with respect to these. If anyone's willing and able to help, please feel welcome to do so. --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 21:43, 28 August 2016 (UTC)

Opinion needed on a possible page move[edit]

Please visit and comment here:

Many thanks.

Anna Frodesiak (talk) 06:55, 4 September 2016 (UTC)

Inflection image[edit]

The article Inflection shows an image of cats labeled gato, gata, gatos, gatas to illustrate gender and number. In the past there has been concern about showing gender as inflection per se (that is, distinct from gender agreement), and about using pink and blue to suggest gender. I made an image that might replace it, but find I lack WP:BOLDness – plus I worry I might have got the Gaelic wrong. Opinions welcome at Talk:Inflection#Gato/gata. Cnilep (talk) 07:58, 23 September 2016 (UTC)