Fun Facts: Into the Archives

Hello LINGUIST List Readers and Subscribers,

In the spirit of our Fund Drive’s 30th anniversary theme, I dived into the archives to learn more about how various linguistic theories have been represented on LINGUIST List over the years. Since my main interest is in syntax, I decided to focus my search on a few syntactic theories. The field of syntax has come a long way in the past thirty years, and LINGUIST List has been there through it all. It would have been interesting to do a thorough timeline of each of these theories and their various developments over the years; but considering time constraints and in the interest of appealing to as many of our syntactician readers as possible, I’ll do a bird’s eye view of the first and last mentions of several syntactic theories.

The first mention of the Minimalist Program on LINGUIST List was on 20 May, 1992, in Discussions, in a comment by Dr. Martin Haspelmath (https://old.linguistlist.org/issues/3/3-417.html). Dr. Haspelmath mentioned Chomsky’s paper, “A minimalist program for linguistic theory,” and we promptly received several requests by readers wanting to know where they could access it. When I searched for this paper, the official citation indicates that it wasn’t officially published by MIT Working Papers until 1993. The most recent mention of Minimalism was 31 August, 2020, in Books, where we announced Extraposition from NP in English by Edward Göbbel (https://old.linguistlist.org/issues/31/31-2695.html).

The first mention of Cognitive Grammar (including Construction Grammar, Functional Grammar, and Discourse-based Grammar) was 1 February, 1991 in FYI’s, announcing International Cognitive Linguistics Association’s journal, “Cognitive Linguistics” (https://old.linguistlist.org/issues/2/2-27.html). Like LINGUIST List, “Cognitive Linguistics” is also celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, having been founded in February 1990 (Congratulations!). The most recent mention of Cognitive Grammar was 24 September, 2020 in Supports, advertising a PhD student researcher position at Ghent University (https://old.linguistlist.org/issues/31/31-2891.html).

Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar, of course, originated in the ‘80’s, and it was quick to appear on the LINGUIST List. The first mention of HPSG was on 4 February, 1991 in a Summer School announcement for the Third European Summer School in Language, Logic and Information, specifically for a class on ‘Topics in Constraint-based syntactic theory’ taught by Dr. Carl Pollard himself (https://old.linguistlist.org/issues/2/2-30.html). The most recent mention of HPSG was 20 April 2020 in Reviews, for a review written by Michael B. Maxwell of the University of Maryland on Endangered Languages and New Technologies (ed. Mari C. Jones) (https://old.linguistlist.org/issues/31/31-1411.html).

Lexical-Functional Grammar first appeared on LINGUIST List on 23 February, 1991 in Discussions, in a comment by Dr. Larry Gorbet, lamenting the “prescriptive metametalinguistics” of those who would criticize names like “Lexical-Functional Grammar” (https://old.linguistlist.org/issues/2/2-49.html). Its most recent mention came on 17 June, 2020 in Conferences, announcing the 25th International Lexical-Functional Grammar Conference, which was hosted via Zoom because of the pandemic (https://old.linguistlist.org/issues/31/31-1997.html).

As we saw from this brief overview, many different syntactic theories have been represented on LINGUIST List over the years, and, in many cases, these theories were being discussed on LINGUIST List extremely early on. We’re very proud of 30 years of helping linguists from all over the world connect for discussion, collaboration, and employment. If this overview has made you nostalgic, you can always go on our own trip down memory lane by visiting our archives (https://old.linguistlist.org/issues/master.cfm). We’d also be interested to hear from readers who were here during the ‘first mentions’ of these theories – is there a theory or an idea that you remember hearing first on LINGUIST List?

Thanks for reading,
– Lauren

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Thanks so much for your support,
–the LL Team

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