(De-)Socializing Historiography of Lingusitics

(De-)Socializing Historiography
of Lingusitics
Frank Vonk
Arnhem Business School
The Netherlands
Werner Hüllen’s “Treatise”
“63. Deliberations about plausibility in support of
historiographical reconstructions draw on the systems of
arguments and experience of the historiographical, not
the historical subject.
78. Every historiographical subject turns into a historical
one for coming generations; every historiographical text
does the same.
79. Within the conditions of historiographical work, the
historiographical subject is free in relation to history.
There is no objective reconstruction, just as there is no
objective recollection.
80. Reflecting on the schemata of historiography has the
aim of defining the liberty of the historiographical subject
vis-à-vis history”
(Werner Hüllen 2005: 17-19)
Sociology and historiography
Today’s statement: The game of
historiography of linguistics can do without
a specific object, because of its linguistic
and scientific peculiarity
Sub question: If and how relate
discussions in ‘the’ historiography of
linguistics to social power, priorities,
status, changes or developments?
Koerner’s (1974) overview of historiographical work in linguistics:
a goal that has been reached in a particular science. There
seems to be no longer “any need for a revision of the
methodology or the approach to the subject matter under
analysis” (Koerner 1974: 1). In linguistics the historiographical
works by Theoder Benfey (1809-1881), Rudolf von Raumer
(1815-1876) or Holger Pedersen (1867-1953);
a “campaign opposing previously cherished views and
still prevailing doctrines” (Koerner 1974: 2). These are works
by a new generation of “historians” like Berthold Delbrück
(1942-1922), Hermann Paul (1846-1921) or Noam Chomsky
(b. 1928), proposing new theories and replacing older ones;
a fairly personal motivation for writing this history, like
the one offered by Hans Arens (1911-2003). The history of
linguistics is based upon a personal choice, which might also
mean that this choice is based upon personal interests and
expertise, leading to histories of phonetics, psychology of
language or morphology;
“the presentation of our linguistic past as an activity
founded on well-defined principles which can rival those
of ‘normal science’ (Kuhn) itself with regard to soundness of
method and rigour of application”
(Koerner 1974: 4)
R.H. Robins’s (1967; 1976) contribution
Continuities and discontinuities
“The existing state of a science, the
starting point for any change, is the
product both of external and
internal factors. The general
contemporary intellectual and social
context, whether favouring stability
or encouraging change, is largely
external to the particular science itself,
although each science and branch of
learning is part of the whole
context along with all the others
and along with the general cultural
attitude towards learning”
Changes in historiographical practices
(Robins 1976)
the logical extension of existing theory
and of practice sanctioned by that
the genesis of new concepts and
methods in partial conflict with existing
theory, as the result either of reflection
or of trying to cope with recalcitrant
observed facts, and
the effects of new aims, applications, or
external motivations” (Robins 1976: 18).
-Types of history writing
-Not focus too much on detailed
-Qualifications of historiographers
-Quality of historiographical work
-Philosophical approach
-Empirical research / data /
-Careful with ‘new’ material/linguists
-Historiographical statements do not
represent ‘historical realities’
-Naive realism
L.M. de Rijk’s ‘historiography’
Empirical facts we perceive in historiography
Mental or physical entities
Past or present entities
Speaking about the past includes a contradiction
(a) The past itself does exist
(b) The past itself did exist
(c) The past itself did and does exist
(d) The past itself did, does and will exist.
(De Rijk 1981: 45)
If b is true then a, c and d are false
If a is true then b, c and d are irrelevant, part of the
present historiographical discourse
Feynman’s conceptualization of science
There was on this planet an evolution of life to the stage that there were
evolved animals, which are intelligent. I don’t mean just human beings, but
animals which play and which can learn something from experience (like
cats). But at this stage each animal would have to learn from its own
experience. They gradually develop, until some animal could learn from
experience more rapidly and could even learn from another’s experience
by watching, or one could show the other, or he saw what the other one
did. So there came a possibility that all might learn it, but the
transmission was inefficient and they would die, and maybe the one who
learned it died, too, before he could pass it on to the others.
The question is, is it possible to learn more rapidly what somebody learned
from some accident than the rate at which the thing is being forgotten,
either because of bad memory or because of the death of the learner or
inventors? (Feynman 1999: 184)
Every context will find its own history and
historiography. ‘The’ history of linguistics is
the observer’s product → fits in in his or
her frame of reference.
Science encourages the transfer of
mistakes, errors, biases. These are the
necessary preconditions of science and
scientific research (Feynman)
What are the relevant (necessary)
mistakes, errors, biases in ‘the’
historiography of the language sciences?
Sociology of scientific knowledge
Twenty-five years ago it was a truth almost universally
acknowledged that there might be a legitimate sociological
understanding of scientific error, of “the blind alleys entered by
science,” of the state of scientific institutionalization, and, perhaps,
of the overall dynamics of scientific foci, but that there could be no
such thing as a sociology of authentically scientific knowledge (BenDavid 1971:11-13). Now, while assent to the validity of SSK is
scarcely universal, a number of central claims have quietly passed
into common academic currency, and the recent paths of the history
and philosophy of science, technology, and medicine have been
fundamentally shaped by practitioners’ appreciation of opportunities
opened up or problems posed by SSK research.
(Steven Shapin, 1995: “Here and Everywhere: Sociology of
Scientific Knowledge”. Annual Review of Sociology, Volume 21
 <http://www.compilerpress.atfreeweb.com/Anno%20Shapin%20%2
Hobbes and Boyle on experiments
A different perception of the status of
Boyle wanted a mechanical defence of
knowledge based upon a broad as possible
support, whereas Hobbes saw experiments as
artificial and unreliable not leading to a true
insight into real nature at all. So, physical
reality as such and creating broadly accepted
knowledge are irrelevant in Hobbes’s view on
scientific knowledge but they are part of
creating and maintaining a social order
“The sociology of knowledge focuses on
the distribution of belief and the various
factors which influence it. For example:
how is knowledge transmitted; how stable
is it; what processes go into its creation
and maintenance; how is it organised and
categorised into different disciplines or
spheres?” (Bloor 1976: 5)
“[A] sociologist takes an indifferent
position towards the truth-question and
focuses on the social relations.” (Lokhivi
2003: 3)
Golem science
Contains the errors and
mistakes of society
Is what happens with all
related problems,
conditions, effects etc.
Error is the basic
dimension of science
“Social construction of facts and artefacts”
social group
Pinch&Bijker 1987: 30, 37
Historiography of the language sciences
creates its own field of research initiated by
output, stakeholders, problems and solutions
– sometimes dilemma’s
Thus, sociological aspects have a decisive
impact on the ways we “do” historiography as
added value
Without ‘broad’ (interdisciplinary) descriptions
of historiographical practices we cannot
adequately communicate any historiographical
Historiography of linguistics:
Context & type(s) of history writing
Soci(ologic)al practice →creating value(s)
As a science → scientific practice: methodological rules and
Problems in writing the history of linguistics:
Story character of historiography
‘Object’ of historiography and the historiographical ‘subject’
Method(s) of research → selection, conceptualization and
Laws in linguistic developments / changes
Interdisiplinary approach → creating ‘intersections’
Change or development
Power relations
Identity of historiographical research
Anthropological and regional factors → relevance

similar documents