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Rhodes > English Language and Linguistics > Latest News

On Generative Linguistics, Imperialism and Pizza

Date Released: Fri, 1 April 2011 09:07 +0200

Some postgraduate students and lecturers from the Department of English Language and Linguistics got together for the first Linguistics Evening on Thursday 31 April at Mark de Vos's house.  The aim: to discuss a paper on an interesting and controversial issue over a few slices of pizza in a casual atmosphere.

Up for debate was the question, "Does generative linguistics encourage cultural imperialism, imposition of democracy on small island states, poverty in Africa and all other kinds of evil?" Mark found a paper by Geoffrey Sampson called "Minds in Uniform: How generative linguistics regiments culture, and why it shouldn't" which argued, in all seriousness, that it does.

Although the group did not come to many hard and fast conclusions, there was agreement that Sampson's article contained too many wild generalizations and logical leaps to be credible. However, it does raise all kinds of interesting questions about the nature of culture and the extent to which our thoughts and actions are determined by the way our brains are wired.

Everyone present agreed that this sort of gathering needs to become a regular part of life in our department, to get staff and postgrads at different levels thinking and interacting with each other. Let the (serious and non-serious) discussion continue!

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