Date: Sat, 23 Mar 1996 10:28:04 -0500 From: "M. Lynne Murphy" <104LYN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MUSE.ARTS.WITS.AC.ZA> Subject: Re: Defining Asia rudy troike said: A survey of folk-definitions > (like Dennis Preston's interesting study of folk-impressions of regional > varieties of American English) is another matter, but presumably should > begin from a base of professional definitions, just as linguists are not > content to let folk-concepts determine our own analyses. well, i think this all depends on what the goal of your research is, but if the goal is to find out what X means, then i think the folk conceptions are prior to the "expert definitions". if the aim is to find out what "asia" or "fruit" means in english, then it's a sub- question what it means in geographers 'or botantists' english. (of course, if you're writing a "standard" dictionary, then you give the people what they want: "expert" differentiations [usually] ahead of folk conceptions.) certainly, if your aim is to look at semantic change in popular language, it's not relevant what the "experts" said unless the term originated with them or if laypeople came to be affected by their use of the term. for something like "fruit" (or "race" and "ethnicity", which i've been working on), the popular use of the term has staying- power (and its own logic) that all the experts in the world have not been able to affect (while tomatoes may be fruit for some government regulations, i'd hold that this is in large part because they are not prototypical vegetables either. the technical definition of fruit is not so strong that people argue much about whether cucumbers or green beans are fruits, even though they "technically" are). in fact, in the case of social "science" terms like race, and perhaps to some extent like _asia_, the popular conceptions bias the "expert" definitions, rather than vice versa. reality is subjective and the majority usually rules, lynne --------------------------------------------------------------------- M. Lynne Murphy 104lyn[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] Department of Linguistics phone: 27(11)716-2340 University of the Witwatersrand fax: 27(11)716-8030 Johannesburg 2050 SOUTH AFRICA