Date: Fri, 23 Dec 1994 10:46:24 -0600

From: "Timothy C. Frazer" mftcf[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UXA.ECN.BGU.EDU

Subject: Re: your mail

Dennis, thats a good summation. Blessings on all of you who are

travelling. I'm staying here in the so-far-not-so-cold midwest, where I

biked 10 miles yesterday and wanted to do more. I hope someone is saving

all of these comments. Thy say a lot about various visions of the

future of ADS, and would be very interesting for someone writing a

history of the society in years hence. Feliz navidad!


On Fri, 23 Dec 1994, Dennis.Preston wrote:

Friends of ADS:

My friend and colleague Bill Kretzschmar has, I believe, helped close this

conversation before we toddle off to San Diego.

Indeed, we (at least he and I) appear to be 'deeply divided' on the question

of the ADS as a linguistic society or something else. I believe, however,

that I have better characterized why I believe what I believe. I have cited

articles from Lg and presentations at LSA which are of obvious importance

and interest to ADS members; Bill has countered by offering the observation

that he has the same opinion of Lg that I have of PMLA, but he has not

detailed why the linguistic (indeed even variationist and dialectological)

interests of LSA are of little importance to ADS, its aims, and its members.

In short, he does not explain why the presentations and articles I list are


important, nor does he provide any detail about the importance of (P)MLA

to our enterprise. He does note that he 'stands with lexicographers' in this

preference, but I do not know who these lexicographer are or what

information they are getting from the MLA. They would learn a great deal

more about their enterprise from LSA (for whom I once taught an entire

course on lexicography in America at an LSA Summer Institute).

In short, although I am a great admirer of Bill's important and innovative

work in American linguistic geography, I cannot find convincing arguments

in his responses which would persuade me to believe that I would benefit

more from the study of literature in my work as a dialectologist and

sociolinguist than I do from the study of linguistics. I will continue to read

Lg (especially the most recent issue, which I did not have in hand when I

wrote my last entry in this discussion, since I note its lead article is Nancy

Dorian's 'Varieties of variation').

The 'deep divisions' between us, then, appear to be old ties, emotional

links, departmental loyalties, and even, as I suggested before, matters of

convenience. Those are not paltry things; some engage the emotions of

many of our members, and they must not be treated lightly. I have not

meant to detract from the applied, philological, literary, and other interests

of our membership. Those are all important concerns to language variation

study, and I hope the contributions of scholars in those areas continue, but I

would be unhappy to see those issues predominate in a Society which I

believe to be committed to the study of language in a scientific mode (i.e.,


As Tim Frazer rightly points out, we run the risk of losing some of our

English department faithful if we change our meeting to coincide with that

of LSA. Do we not run the same risk if we change to another time? Will

English department oriented ADS members flock to another meeting which

does not offer the extensive, bonus program of LSA? Why not do our

English department members a favor by allowing them to say locally that

there is another reason not to go to MLA. Their professional obligations lie

elsewhere, and their departments should recognize that. (I have been an

English Department linguist for most of my professional life, and I have

always pressed that distinction on chairs, colleagues, and administrators.

We might aid younger [and perhaps less aggressive young people than I

was] by withdrawing one more excuse from those who control local

funding to send people off to a literary conference.)

On the other hand, Bill is not the only participant in this discussion who

doubts that young LSA-oriented variationists will be attracted to ADS. I

agree that that is not a given, but I have not heard any argument which

suggests that scads of young MLA members are panting for dialectology. In

fact, that has been the model for some time, and it has not proved a good

recruitment ground. I cannot guarantee you that LSA will swell our

numbers, but I can observe that MLA has not.

I continue to encourage you, therefore, to press your representatives (and

press yourself, if you attend) to link our Society most securely to

linguistics. I have paid careful attention to the arguments to the contrary,

and, although I have heard misgivings about the emotional impact on some

of our stalwart members (misgivings which, I assure you, I do not take

lightly), I have heard no good arguments against the linguistic nature of our

enterprise nor convincing characterizations of the fertile recruitment grounds

at MLA.

Perhaps most importantly, I am troubled by the prospect of a separate

meeting as a compromise among those who are 'deeply divided.' If we are

divided, let us resolve it for the good of the Society, not to assuage the

feelings of one group or the other. I sincerely believe that nothing could

provide a worse jumping-off place for our next 100 years than the

establishment of a meeting time which would attract neither part of our

traditional membership and, almost by definition, do nothing to encourage

the involved participation in Society policy and leadership among the next

generation of scholars. We will need new leaders as well as new members,

and they will come from those who can attend an accessible main meeting.

Dennis R. Preston