Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 09:05:48 CST
From: "Donald M. Lance" ENGDL[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU
Subject: Re: Labov (fwd)
Robert Rennick is active in the American Name Society. His main interest
is KY place names. I think he's a geographer in some low-paying position
associated with govt. He did a long article on KY place names and had
some lacunae in his understanding of language change and variation. I
reviewed the article some years ago and attempted to rework the piece,
hoping some day to help him work it all out, because so many MO place
names are KY importations. But I've never gotten back to that topic.
He has published some shorter pieces since then and they were OK. He
has some valuable files, I suspect. He's a nice guy but seems to be
frustrated by not being able to get as much academic travel as he needs.
On Labov. It's a shame, all right, that he gets big bucks and puts out
internal reports while DARE is still operating with IBM machines that have
less than a meg of RAM. I cringe whenever I see ad hominem arguments by
anyone about anyone (except creeps like Nixon or Gingrich). Labov is
playing the academic game of grantsmanship. A lot of his funding supports
grad students and buys equipment. I wonder whether he really has gotten
more than Chomsky got from NIMH for his syntax projects. I think that's
where he got lots and lots of money from -- largely supporting
graduate students -- but I haven't noticed government and binding doing
much for the mental health of American taxpayers. It's the system that's
crooked, not Chomsky and Labov necessarily. And from an academic perspective
dissertations are thought to be legitimate "products of research."
Joh Foley is a similar case, but he DOES publish, often and much. Our
Chancellor has held Foley up as an example of what MU profs all oughta do.
Lots of grant money. Foley set a record for the number of NEH grants of
some sort this year. If all MU profs followed his example, few students would
get taught "the basics."
You have a good point in that DARE and LAMSAS make their data available to
others. Lee Pederson put all his records on microfilm so that every datum
can be reworked if someone wants to, and he even will share software, i
understand. But LAGS data are about as hard to use as Bill's LAMSAS data,
software notwithstanding. If Labov made his data files available to others,
who would be able to use them? I have 25 years of questionnaires piled
in my study, and did some tabulating in 1974, and tabulated 'Missouri' only
in 1990 or so. So, on a small scale I'm guilty of what you're accusing
Labov of -- though not with big grant money.
Flaming Labov publicly won't make his data available to others, and
probably won't spur him to publish his (unfinished) results. But the
flaming gives others impressions of YOU, and that's what concerns me. You
have the potential of a good career in language study ahead of you, if you
don't let (understandable) anger at the system distract you excessively.
I wish I'd gotten more grants etc., but then I wouldn't have been able to
teach as many classes. If you become known to ADS people as an inveterate
flamer you will get less cooperation when you need it. Life never was
fair. Just do what you can to make your garden flourish.