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Why the Chomskians Are Mistaken
35. The claims advanced by some credible scholars and historians that TGG advocates may have in fact abandoned even their supposed anti-establishment bias by regularly and routinely accepting funding from the Army, the Department of Defense, and elements of the US intelligence apparatus. As Peter T. Daniels recently observed on the USENET newsgroup "sci.lang" (in a message thread humorously entitled "Wither Linguistics?"): "Perhaps you need your hearing checked. For fifty years now, this professor has been funded almost entirely by the US Department of Defense. He looks on this as an amusing irony; I look on it as insufferable hypocrisy." Koerner and Andresen also examine this issue in their work.
36. The manifest failure of these theories to provide any constructive insights or methodological progress for two of language's most practical applications, namely teaching and translation/interpreting. There is no evidence that TGG doctrines have ever helped a single language teacher to reach out to students more meaningfully or a single translator or interpreter to translate and interpret more skillfully. Other practical language professions ignored by TGG advocates are bilingual writing, bilingual editing, dramaturging foreign plays, and the authorship of film-dubbing manuscripts. TGG's habit of overlooking such practical matters could not be ignored even if only their own theoretical house were remotely in orderbut this is clearly also not the case.
37. The sheer pretentiousness of their never-ending discussions on the supposedly profound differences between what they call "Plato's Question" and "Orwell's Question." And of course they are never able to reach any final conclusion about this.
In fact, this entire matter is far simpler than these "experts" want to let on. Each of these questions can be summarized in a single sentence. And the answer to both of them can be provided in in just two or three more brief sentences:
How come we're so smart, when we know so little?
How come we're so stupid, when we know so much?
THE ANSWER TO BOTH:
In both cases, we're pretending we know and hoping we turn out right. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.
But even when we "win," we often later discover that our "victory" was only a partial one.
38. The setting of new and far lower standards in intellectual discourse. As Lamb characterized this manner of polemic technique as long ago as 1967:
A parade of specious arguments, it makes use of the shifting meaning, a device which the author has developed to a high degree of refinement. The essence of this device is the sliding of terms from one meaning to another. Supplemented by the complementary strategy of moving meanings from one term to another, the device is used in attacks upon real or imaginary opponents in mock battles set up for the occasion. (cited by Hall, p. 86)
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This piece is Copyright © 2000
by Alexander Gross, with specified
portions Copyright © 2000 by
Sergio Navega. It may be
reproduced for individuals and for
educational purposes only. It may
not be used for any commercial (i.e.,
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