Getting Calliope through graduate school? Can Chomsky help? or, the role of linguistics in graduate education in foreign languages, S Fleischman

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Content: Getting Calliope through Graduate School? Can Chomsky Help? or, The Role of Linguistics in Graduate Education in Foreign Languages Suzanne Fleischman ADFL Bulletin Vol. 17, No. 3 (April 1986), pp. 9­13 ISSN: 0148-7639 CrossRef DOI: 10.1632/adfl.17.3.9 Copyright © 1986 by The Association of Departments of Foreign Languages All material published by the The Association of Departments of Foreign Languages in any medium is protected by copyright. Users may link to the ADFL Web page freely and may quote from ADFL publications as allowed by the doctrine of fair use. Written permission is required for any other reproduction of material from any ADFL publication. Send requests for permission to reprint material to the ADFL permissions manager by mail (26 Broadway, New York, NY 10004-1789), e-mail ([email protected]), or fax (646 458-0030).
LINGUISTICS and its place in our foreign language graduate programs has become a concern of some mo ment in many of our departments. One might approach the topic by posing the most basic question: What value is there for literature students in studying linguistics? But the answer should be obvious, even to those of our colleagues most resistant to the idea. Linguistics is the study of how language works, and language is the sub stance of literature. N o one would conceive of doing a degree in medicine without knowing the fundamentals of human anatomy. Another approach would be through exempla. I could identify linguistic contributions to specific domains of literary inquiry, making the point by way of illustration. However, I have not done that because I believe most of us are already familiar with some linguistically based work: on stylistics or the phonological structure of po etry, on metaphor or on structural approaches to nar rative, not to mention the essential linguistic foundation of much contemporary literary theory. As a compromise, I have appended a selective bibliography of book-length studies and collections of essays that have used linguis tic methodology in the analysis of literary texts. I comment on only one item on this list: Traugott and Pratt's textbook, Linguistics for Students of Literature. To my knowledge, this book is unique in its conception. It is also extremely well done, but unfortunately for those of us in foreign language departments, it is geared spe cifically to English. It could conceivably be used in a foreign language context to present the basic linguistic groundwork and, to the extent that the analyses are cross-linguistically relevant, supplemented by primary materials from the target language. However, having tried this approach with other basic linguistics texts oriented to English, I can report that the marriage is not al together a happy one. What I like about the book is its approach: each chapter begins with a linguistic analy sis of some aspect of English--which is not always ger mane to other languages--then moves to applications of the linguistics in analyzing specific literary texts. In this respect Traugott and Pratt's book differs from most others on linguistics and literary analysis, which usually start with a critical discussion and then bring linguis tics to bear on the texts. Their approach stems from the conviction that a fairly broad grounding in linguistics must be achieved before linguistic concepts can be ap plied usefully and systematically to another field, be it literature, Language Pedagogy, language acquisition, or
Suzanne Fleischman psychotherapy. My support of this position is apparent from the recommendations I offer below for a program of course work designed to give foreign language gradu ate students a grounding in linguistics adequate to their needs, both as literary critics and as instructors in basic language courses. Many of them now support themselves by teaching such courses and may continue to do so in numerous institutions in which they will eventually find jobs. Contemporary phonology and syntax have signifi cantly influenced methods of teaching both first and sec ond languages, and our TAs should be in a position to understand these developments so that their teaching can benefit from them. I would like now to address the issue of why the in tegration of linguistics into a foreign language curricu lum is frequently so problematic and how the problem might eventually be overcome. Why should it be so difficult to integrate linguistics into a language and literature curriculum? To some ex tent, the problem relates to the structure of our depart ments. In certain institutions language teaching and linguistics are housed together, while literature is selfcontained in its own bailiwick. While this arrangement may have advantages for the linguists, who probably feel less lonely, it also widens the gap between linguistics and literature. In most American universities, however, lin guistics is isolated from the language departments, which usually have their own resident practitioners, who may or may not encourage contact between the departments. Then, of course, in numerous institutions linguistics is merely a program, tucked away in English or anthro pology, where foreign language graduate students are even less likely to venture. Parenthetically, the relationship between languages and university departments is an interesting one. What motivates "department" status is whether a language has an established, written, literary tradition acknowledged The author is Associate Professor of French and Romance Phi lology at the University of California, Berkeley. This article is based on a paper presented at the National Conference on Graduate Education in the Foreign Language Fields, held at the University of Virginia, 15-17 November 1985.
A D F L BULLETIN, 17, No. 3, APRIL 1986
by Western culture; there are no departments of Javanese, though that language has nearly as many speakers as Italian has. The literary bias of language departments is a fact of life. More interesting is that, for reasons not hard to deduce, the importance of the linguistic component in a department tends to be in versely proportional to the prominence of that language, and its literature, from the global perspective of West ern culture. Thus the linguistic components of Semitic and Slavic departments tend to be stronger than, say, those of German and French, while the heaviest linguis tic emphasis will be in departments like East Asian Studies. For equally obvious reasons, English depart ments in this country tend to place the least emphasis on linguistic training--Berkeley's department does not even require history of the language. What this suggests is that in language departments linguistics is perceived largely as an adjunct for second language acquisition. I have difficulty conveying to my undergraduates that the objective in deriving surface syntax from underly ing representations is not to improve their French, though that may be a felicitous by-product, or to get them to talk in deep structures. I hope that in the com ing years language departments will revise their-- perhaps unconscious--notions about the purpose of lin guistics in their curricula. Understanding how a language works and the mechanisms through which it changes are valid areas of inquiry in their own right, in addition to their contributions to pedagogy and literature. In most language departments, linguistics is a poor stepsister to literature. In my own French department only a limited number of courses are offered on the ad vanced undergraduate and graduate levels--more would be impossible with but a single linguist and one who does double duty as a medievalist--nor does the present structure of our PhD program allow for a concentra tion in linguistics. A student who wishes to write a the sis on a linguistic topic can, in principle, do so. But how is the interest to be developed in the context of a single course on the history of the language and rigid PhD re quirements leading to a qualifying exam in literature? Other departments may be more flexible in their accom modation of linguistics, including it as one of the PhD tracks. But some of those students never enroll in a lit erature course. The issue, then, is how to integrate these two disciplines, whose disjunction is not however with out cause, both historically and intellectually. Over the years a kind of love-hate relationship seems to have grown up between linguistics and literature. For their part, descriptive linguists have often refused to look at literary language, on grounds that it constitutes a marked form of discourse, which does not conform to the rules of language as used in everyday communica tion. But it is precisely this difference that makes for the interest of a book like Ann Banfield's on the style indirect libre, or of work on stylistic or poetic strate gies that rely for their effects on the reversal of marked-
ness values that obtain in everyday language. The recent trend in linguistics toward a text, or "discourse," orien tation and away from sentence-based models is already involving linguists more actively with literary language. On the other side of the coin, many languagedepartment faculty have shown undeniable resistance to linguistics. This attitude may stem in large part from their exposure, as graduate students, to linguistics in the form of a dessicated and tyrannical philology, histori cal grammar courses in which freeze-dried sound laws were memorized and regurgitated on paper, with barely an attempt to relate the aggravating little symbols to what goes on in the human mouth. No wonder philology has become a dirty word in certain circles. It is up to us, now, to change this situation. And by us I mean the current generation of linguists, historical or synchronic, teach ing in foreign language departments. More is involved than simply bringing our material up-to-date with mod ern developments in the field. We need to convince our colleagues as well as our students that linguistics, hav ing constituted itself as a scientific discipline whose goals are rigorous description and explanation and whose metalanguage is technical, is not, by virtue of its scien tific aspirations, in any way contrary to the spirit of hu manistic inquiry in disciplines like literature. One of the goals of literary theory has been to make the study of literature more "scientific": narratologists, in their at tempts to formalize the structure of narrative, have designed story grammars that would make the most rulegoverned generativist blush; reader-response theory has sought to formalize the hermeneutic procedures through which we extract meaning from a text. And the accom panying metalanguage is no less technical or intimidat ing to the uninitiated. In short, the argument that linguistics is "too scientific" simply does not hold up. What may be a more legitimate obstacle to integrat ing linguistics into our graduate literature curricula is the fact that "doing linguistics" may demand a differ ent kind of intelligence, different kinds of mental skills, from those required for perceptive analysis of literature. In my experience teaching in both areas, I have observed students who can master a complex syntactic demon stration with no difficulty but who have little sensitiv ity to the poetic texture of a sonnet. The situation in language departments, though, is more often the reverse, and one frequently hears comments about linguistics to the effect that "It's like doing math!" (We would all hate to think that our students have chosen literature because they can't do math.) Clearly, the kinds of problems in volved in literature study and linguistics study are not the same, nor are the skills required to solve those problems--up to a point. To the extent that the study of literature involves scrutinizing the language of texts, seeing how the resources of a language are deployed to produce structure, meaning, coherence, and poetic effect--to this extent literature is involved with what are fundamentally the concerns of linguistics.
If our literary colleagues' resistance to linguistics de rives from the factors just mentioned, then I think it is our job--my job--to see that the coming generations of language department faculty are not in the same po sition. Linguistics is clearly here to stay, and its role in language pedagogy, literary theory, and text analysis is significant. As Traugott and Pratt observe, we don't need linguistics in order to read and understand works of lit erature; and critical analysis has long been carried out without formal linguistic apparatus. Linguistics can, however, contribute to our understanding of a text. It can enhance our awareness of why we experience what we do when we read a piece of literature and it can help us talk about our response, by providing a vocabulary and a methodology through which we can show how our experience of a text is in part derived from its verbal structure. Why not therefore carve out a space in our graduate programs in which students can obtain the basic linguistic grounding necessary to analyze in a principled way the phonic texture of a poem, to discuss the linguis tic categories the point of view in a novel relies on, to be able to say in a nonimpressionistic way what is dis tinctive about Chekhov's style and how it differs from that of his contemporaries, to provide their French 2 stu dents with a linguistically sound explanation for the difference between the imparfait, the passe simple, and the passe compose--the elementary language textbooks are replete with linguistically barbarous explanations-- and, finally, to understand the linguistic foundation of contemporary theory. If I may inject a personal note, a graduate student from our English Department came to see me recently, in a state of advanced desperation, having struggled for two weeks reading Lacan and finding no light at the end of the tunnel. In the course of our conversation, she said the problem was, in part, that she--like most of her fel low graduate students--had never read Saussure. How can we ask our students to grapple with theoretical frameworks that presuppose background in linguistics (or philosophy) that they may not have and that we have done nothing to give them? You may argue that if we create a place for linguis tics, why not also philosophy, psychoanalysis, anthro pology, and so on, which would have the effect of turning our foreign language graduate programs into general studies seminars on the history of ideas. The study of literature was for a long time a fairly solipsistic enterprise, reaching outside the pale only on occa sion, usually for bits of historical or biographical data that would presumably lead readers closer to the author's "intention"--now, for some, another dirty word. But in recent years literature has opened its doors to a variety of other disciplines, either for their content or their methods or both; and assuming that this is not simply a passing identity crisis of our discipline, it's probably a good move. It will be interesting to see what future literary historiography has to say on the matter. In any
case, literature is seeking out models from other dis ciplines, thereby placing a burden on us, as faculty in graduate programs, to ensure that our students acquire the grounding they will need in these disciplines, be it within the structure of our own programs or in other departments. But again, why should linguistics enjoy a privileged status among the various disciplines with which literature has engaged itself? It should, for the fundamental reason that linguistics is the study of how language works and language is the stuff of literature. How can we hope to understand how a text works, how it engenders the meanings it does, how it achieves its poeticity, if we do not understand how the language works? To "deconstruct" a text linguistically is not to destroy its poetry, or its mystery, but to arrive at an un derstanding of the way it works--something a linguist is often better able to figure out than even an author. The relation between authors and their texts is much like that between native speakers and their languages: much of what an author knows about his or her text is uncon scious; the way this knowledge comes to consciousness, the way it comes to be formalized, is through linguistic description. Similarly, some understanding of the the ory of speech acts, of the pragmatics of discourse and the principles of conversational interaction, is essential to understanding the complex transactions that take place between an author, a text, and a reader. I have emphasized linguistics as a tool for literary analysis rather than as a component in foreign language pedagogy because most foreign language graduate pro grams are essentially literature programs. At the same time those programs frequently require students to teach basic language courses, with more or less preparation for the task. My own experience as a language TA was often one of frustration with the textbooks--though lan guage pedagogy has, I'm told, made considerable prog ress since that time--and I would frequently have occasion to draw on my linguistics background to pro vide a student with a satisfying solution to a problem of grammar or pronunciation. To conclude, I would like to propose some concrete recommendations for the linguistics component of a for eign language graduate program, consisting of between two and four courses, depending on the interests of the student, prior preparation, and the degree--MA or PhD. These courses would include: 1. A basic introductory course in general linguistics, on the undergraduate level, preferably to be taken in the linguistics department or program. It is easier to in troduce students to the study of linguistics if they can begin by asking the questions with respect to their own language. Mastering the concepts and terminology is enough, without complicating matters by asking them right off to produce examples and make acceptability judgments in a language that they control often very im perfectly. This course should introduce the methods, goals, and branches of Linguistic Inquiry and serve, along
the way, to dispel the notion that the reason you study linguistics is to improve your German. 2. An optional course in descriptive linguistics of the target language, following the basic introductory course. With the conceptual fundamentals and the terminology under their belts, students are in a better position to look at the structures of French, German, or Russian. This course would be offered in the foreign language depart ment, and its particular orientation (structural, genera tive, functionalist) would presumably reflect that of the instructor. 3. A course in history of the language. Such a course should be required of all foreign language graduate stu dents. At Berkeley in French we offer two quite differ ent courses, either one of which satisfies the requirement. Provided the one is not simply a watered-down version of the other, this system seems to work well and to re spond to the differing needs and interests of students concentrating on different literary periods. 3a. A course in historical grammar. This course deals with the nuts and bolts of change, and the mechanisms of change, in phonology, morphology, and syntax. Ideally, it attempts to incorporate semantics and prag matics, which tend to enliven the subject matter. 3b. A course on the external history of the language. In my version of this course we not only look at aspects of the evolution of the language as they relate to develop ments in other areas of French culture; we look also at views about the language and theories of language within the French tradition, starting from the earliest vernacu lar grammarians in their attempts--quite amusing to the students--to force French into the grammatical mold of Latin, through the Port Royal tradition of "rational grammar," and ending with Saussure, Benveniste, and Derrida on the linguistic sign. This particular dimen sion of the course tends to generate strong enthusiasm and on more than one occasion has stimulated topics for papers in literature courses. I cite it here simply as an example of the kinds of nontraditional, but nonethe less pertinent, subject matter that can be included un der the History of the Language rubric. For those working in the earlier periods, in particu lar the Middle Ages, the historical grammar course is a must. Ideally, medievalists will also get, as a separate course or major component of the introductory gradu ate course on medieval literature, a solid grounding in the older language. For anyone intending to work closely with older texts, a passive reading knowledge of the lan guage of the period is not enough. Literary arguments frequently turn on the interpretation of a phrase or sen tence, whose surface meaning must be as transparent as possible. 4. Finally, and ideally, an advanced undergraduate or beginning graduate course on the application of linguis tic methodology to the literature of the target language. This course in particular should carry a prerequisite of the introductory linguistics course, so that one need not,
in the compass of a single semester, invent the wheel as well as demonstrate its applications. Such a course could have both a practical and a theoretical component, the former involving hands-on text analysis, the latter focus ing on the place of the linguistic model in contemporary literary theory. The program outlined above may be a linguist's wish list, though from a practical standpoint (personnel, per centage of the overall program) it would not be diffi cult to implement in an average-size foreign language department, particularly if the basic introductory course can be done outside the department. Only the fourth course, on linguistics and literature, might pose staff ing problems inasmuch as not all language-department linguists are equipped, or willing, to tackle an under taking of this kind. The four-course sequence appropri ate for the PhD might be reduced to two courses (introduction to linguistics, history of the language) for the MA. Let me close by restating in as compelling a way as I can the problem that confronts us: the time has come to give our literature students, within the structure of our graduate programs in foreign language and litera ture, a linguistic grounding that goes beyond just a set of buzzwords: langue and parole, syntagmatic and paradigmatic, signifier and signified (an opposition that has been notoriously misconstrued), deep and surface structure. Graduate student papers are peppered with allusions to these oppositions, often imperfectly assimi lated and thrown in largely for effect. If we were to ask these students, say, to diagram the "deep structure" of a sentence in Cortazar, or to use the notions "syntag matic" and "paradigmatic" to explain the mechanism of-T. S. Eliot's metaphor His soul stretched tight across the sky--in short, if we asked them to put their money where their buzzwords are--how many could meet the challenge? But then, this too can change. Brief Selective Bibliography Course text Traugott, Elizabeth Closs, and Mary Louise Pratt. Lin guistics for Students of Literature. New York: Harcourt, 1980. Aimed at students of English; excellent bibliography; suggestions for further reading in each chapter. Collections of readings (containing many classic essays not listed here individually) Pre-"discourse pragmatics" Chatman, Seymour, ed. Approaches to Poetics. New York: Columbia UP, 1973. , ed. Literary Style: A Symposium. London: Ox ford UP, 1971. Chatman, Seymour, and Samuel R. Levin, eds. Essays on the Language of Literature. Boston: Houghton, 1967.
Fowler, Roger, ed. Essays on Style and Language: Lin guistic and Critical Approaches to Literary Style. London: Routledge, 1966. Freeman, Donald C , ed. Linguistics and Literary Style. New York: Holt, 1970. Sebeok, Thomas A., ed. Style in Language. Cambridge: MIT, 1960. Contains Jakobson's classic essay "Lin guistics and Poetics: A Closing Statement." Discourse orientation Grimes, Joseph E. The Thread of Discourse. Janua Linguarum, Series Minor, 207. The Hague: Mouton, 1975. Longacre, Robert E. The Grammar of Discourse. New York: Plenum, 1983. van Dijk, Teun A., ed. Pragmatics of Language and Lit erature. Amsterdam: North Holland, 1976. . Text and Context: Explorations in the Seman tics and Pragmatics of Discourse. London: Long man, 1977. Stylistics Chapman, Raymond. Linguistics and Literature: An In troduction to Literary Stylistics. London: Arnold, 1973. Cluysenaar, Anne. Introduction to Literary Stylistics. London: Batsford, 1976. Epstein, Edmund. Language and Style. London: Methuen, 1978. Widdowson, H. G. Stylistics and the Teaching of Liter ature. London: Longman, 1976. Narrative Banfield, Ann. Unspeakable Sentences: Narration and
Representation in the Language of Fiction. Boston: Routledge, 1982. Discusses the style indirect libre. Benveniste, Emile. Problems in General Linguistics. Coral Gables: Miami UP, 1970. Chatman, Seymour. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1970. Fowler, Roger. Linguistics and the Novel. London: Methuen, 1977. Genette, Gerard. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Trans. Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1980. Discusses Proust. Hamburger, Kate. The Logic of Literature. Trans. Mar ilyn J. Rose. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1973. Poetry Levin, Samuel R. Linguistic Structures in Poetry. The Hague: Mouton, 1962. Theory of Literature Culler, Jonathan. Structuralist Poetics. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1975. . Ferdinand de Saussure. Harmondsworth: Pen guin, 1976. Hawkes, Terrence. Structuralism and Semiotics. London: Methuen, 1977. Iser, Wolfgang. The Implied Reader. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1974. Speech acts, pragmatics Pratt, Mary Louise. Toward a Speech-Act Theory of Literary Discourse. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1977.
Special Issue on the Undergraduate Curriculum The ADFL Bulletin invites submissions for a special issue on the undergraduate major in foreign languages and literatures. The editor solicits ten- to twelve-page essays dealing with staffing, changes in the major, or research on the undergraduate curriculum; documenta tion should include a works-cited section conforming to The MLA Style Manual. Send submissions by 17 November 1986 to Richard Brod, Editor, ADFL Bulle tin, 10 Astor PI., New York, N Y 10003. 13

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