Date: Wed, 14 Feb 1996 23:23:43 -0700


Subject: A.A. Hill Festschrift reference re traditional grammarians

For those interested, the Arch Hill Festschrift reference is:

Linguistic and Literary Studies in Honor of Archibald A. Hill.

Mohammad Ali Jazayery, Edgar C. Polome, and Werner Winter, eds. Vol. I:

General and Theoretical Linguistics. [there are 3 vols.] Lisse: Peter de

Ridder Press, 1976.

The article in question is "Lest the wheel be too oft re-invented:

Towards a reassessment of the intellectual history of linguistics", pp. 297-


It includes a "revisionist" consideration of the work of traditional

grammarians, arguing that Charles Fries created a "devil image" of them,

which was accepted within the linguistics profession and repeated from

one book to another. When I was a grad student, this was the received view,

with no audible dissent (one, by J.R. Hulbert in PMLA in 1947, was ignored,

probably because he was a "philologist" -- a dirty word at the time). Only

when a teacher in one of my classes gave me an 1835 grammar she had picked

up at a yard sale, and I started to read it, did I discover that things were

very different from what I had been taught. Because of the disparagement of

these grammarians, people have been discouraged from reading them, either

to avoid contamination or because they were presumably totally benighted.

It is also interesting to discover that sentence diagramming was an

American invention, by practical-minded teachers seeking a way to make

grammatical structure visible (one of the first visual aids), instead of

going through the catechism of "parsing", still used in the rest of the

English-speaking world (including Canada) and in other countries for Spanish,

etc. I argue that Chomsky would likely not have come up with his tree-

diagrams if he had grown up in another country.

--Rudy Troike (rtroike[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]