Letters to the Editor SpecGram Vol CL, No 3 Contents Gavagai with Peppers—Rob van der Sandt

Counterpoint: Why Linguistics Doesn’t Care

[Editor’s Note: This opinion piece is the second of a contrasting pair discussing the relationship between Linguistics and Science. The opposing piece was run in the previous issue of SpecGram.]

While many have claimed, and probably rightly so, that Linguistics suffers from a bad case of Physics Envy, there is no reason for such green thoughts to sleep furiously in the sub-conscious of the field. Linguistics isn’t Science and shouldn’t want to be. Rather than accept an exo\refer/ential induction of “logic”, Linguistics, taking a cue from the Cultural
William Jones and Margaret Mead looking uncomfortable and ill at easeare the romantic rumors unfounded?at the 1929 Annual International Men of Philology/Women of Anthropology Multidisciplinary Mixer, held at a private beach resort in Galveston, Texas.
Studies movement, should deduce its own endo/refer\ential strange attractor of integrality-cum-integrity.

...science is a logical endeavor based on the Greek (Indo-European) sentence that is constructed as subject-predicate and that proceeds by identification, determination, causality. Modern logic ..., and even Boole’s logic which, starting from set theory, gives formalizations that are isomorphic to the functioning of language, are inoperative in the sphere of poetic language where 1 is not a limit.

It is therefore impossible to formalize poetic language using the existing logical (scientific) procedures without denaturing it. A literary semiotics has to be made starting from a poetic logic, in which the concept of power of the continuum would encompass the interval from 0 to 2, a continuum where 0 denotes and 1 is implicitly transgressed. (Kristeva 1969)

After all, while Mathematics and Science claim to speak from a frame of reference privileged by rigor, it was one of Science’s own pantheon of demigods, Einstein, who showed that there can be no privileged frame of reference, belying the mortis of that rigor.

That Which Is Integral; That Which Is Derivative

Physics, Chemistry, Mathematicsall are mere social constructs with no greater validity in their truths than in the truths of non/a-scientific alternatives. The traditional scientific binarism of the false truth/falsity dichotomy leaves unchampioned the transfinite truth of the excluded middle. This culture of constant different/ciation between rigor and falsehood {im/com}plicitly transubstantiates into an imperialist attack on Linguistics and allied fields.

Allowing such a hyperbolic interpolation of the natural curvature of Linguistics leaves a haplology of language that suffers a non-integral fractility, and which is no longer identical to itselfmerely a weak derivative of sCIENCE. Transgressing the Axiom of Choice, and universally quantify all as Science or non-Science removes too many Linguistic degrees of freedoman ify proposition. The study of langue/parole need only existentially qualify itself, transducing its own existence qua an integral part of itself. The reduction of Linguistics to Science, Science to Mathematics, Mathematics to Set Theory is a denial of the epiphenomenological gestalt!


Antagonistic dichotomization of Integral vs Real accelerates the parabolic metabolism of the metastatic singularity of thought. Integral is Real. Rational is Complex. Yet Integration defies Derivation. This is the cross-product of our inner meaning!

Phonetics → Phonology  
 syntax · dmorphology      semantics ⊗ semantics 

Facile Refutation

... One is faced with what could be called a “secular mysticism”: mysticism because the discourse aims at producing mental effects that are not purely aesthetic, but without addressing itself to reason; secular because the cultural references ... have nothing to do with traditional religions and are attractive to the reader. (Sokal and Bricmont 1998)
Yet these writings should be evaluated neither as Philosophy nor as Science, neither as induction nor as deduction, neither as rational nor as mystical, neither as secular nor as religious. The
James Murray and Gladys Amanda Reichard commit a serious fashion faux pas, stopping for the cameras in the Welcoming Tentwearing last year’s bathing suitsat the 1929 Annual International Men of Philology/Women of Anthropology Multidisciplinary Mixer, held at a private beach resort in Galveston, Texas.
ontological necessity of this truth transgresses/scends/fixes such limits.

Origin-ality of Thought

Linguistics resounds with the metaphorically diluted but homeopathically powerful whisper-shouting reverberations of the [non-philosophical, non-logical] philo-logical Big Bang of its origin. Thus, anyone desirous of matheme-atical rigor in Linguistics is in need of a radical epistemologectomy. Consider, as a basic building block, the relevant passages of Popper’s Logic of Scientific Discovery and Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutionsas well as the obvious contributions by Quine, Feyerabend and Hume (esp. vis à vis Bourbaki)and it becomes clear that Linguistics is actually in need of a meta-revolution, shifting to an a-scientific paradigmicity of the non-“Science” other.

Simply putit is the nonlinear transformation of intuitiona simultaneous refle{x\ct}ion and refraction, and subsequent hol(ist)ographic interferencewhich results in optimal metathesis of theoremes, not theorems. This information-theoretically informed meta-thesis condones the relative entropic computations of any psycholinguistic syntac/aptic [un]certainty principle.

And if, by chance, you were to have the impression of not yet having understood everything, then perhaps you would do well to leave your ears half-open for what is in such close touch with itself that it confounds your discretion. (Irigaray 1985)

Rigor is, literally, death.


Bourbaki, Nicolas. Elements of Mathematics.

Chomsky, Noam. 1992-93. “Rationality/Science”. Z Papers Special Issue on Postmodernism and Rationality.

Einstein, Albert. 1960 [1920]. Relativity, the Special and the General Theory. London: Methuen.

Goldstein, Rebecca. 1983. The Mind-Body Problem. New York: Random House.

Irigaray, Luce. 1985. “The ‘mechanics’ of fluids.” In This Sex Which Is Not One. Translated by Catherine Porter and Carolyn Burke. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Kristeva, Julia. 1969. Σημειωτικη: Recherches pour une sémanalyse. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.

Sibony, D. 1973. “Infinity and Castration.” In Scilicet, No. 4.

Sokal, Alan. 1996. “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” In Social Text, #46/47.

Sokal, Alan and Jean Bricmont. 1996. Fashionable Nonsense. New York: Picador USA.

Xerxes Yuniqqi Zikiwik L’École du Post-Humanisme, Paris

Letters to the Editor
Gavagai with Peppers—Rob van der Sandt
SpecGram Vol CL, No 3 Contents