SWARTHMORE LECTURE NOTES
LANGUAGE, LINGUISTICS, SCIENCE INFORMATION AND THE PURSUIT OF KNOWLEDGE
Lecture given at Swarthmore College, PA.
I address you today somewhat under false pretenses. You probably have been psychologically prepared to hear me talk at length on the subject of linguistics. This means you may expect me to expound on the study of languages in the cultural or philological sense. This is the common conception of linguistics, i.e., a linguistic science. A linguist may speak several languages. But "linguist" is an ambiguous work, a homonym if I may use the phrase, which also means a person versed in linguistics, a linguistic scientist. Students of linguistics distinguish these two types of persons by calling the former person a polyglot not all polyglots are linguists and not all linguists are polyglots. Having distinguished between polyglots and linguists it may surprise you that I will speak very little about either philology, the main domain of the educated polyglot, or linguistics, the main domain of the linguistic scientists. Of course, in my business it is axiomatic that foreign languages should be studied and read. It is to my constant dismay that most American scientists have a very poor command of French and German, no less Russian and Japanese. We should, I believe, begin instruction in foreign languages at an early age, as they do in other countries such as the Scandinavian. And I think the evidences are clear that we are on the way towards doing this. I might point out however, that while there are good cultural and other reasons for learning to read foreign languages, the American scientist is sometimes quite hard pressed to read all that is printed in English no less the stuff in Russian and the increasingly important Japanese. However, a minimum reading knowledge of any language is frequently helpful if not vital in scientific research.
Now what exactly is my business? You have all received a brochure about the Institute for Scientific Information. You have also received a collection of reprints about a very important project in which we are engaged - the Citation Index project. If my summary remarks today seem somewhat choppy then I hope this material will clarify matters for those of you who are interested to take the time to read it. As you can see, my business is Scientific Information. This means very little to most people today. Five years ago it meant nothing to most people. However, in five or ten years most educated people will completely take for granted the expressions "information storage and retrieval" and "scientific information dissemination". We are living in the era of the "scientific information explosion" and very soon every one of you will be affected by it if you have not been already. Actually, the very fact that you at Swarthmore are taking an interest in linguistic science is just another indication that the effects of this explosion are being felt. Linguistics like all branches of science today has received a tremendous impetus from the enormous expenditures for scientific research. In the last three years more money has been spent on linguistic research than was spent in the entire history of mankind. The situation is much more drastic in the other sciences. Consider these not frequently mentioned facts an average mediocre scientist working in his laboratory can probably contribute as much scientific information to manís stockpile of knowledge as was possible in an entire lifetime during the last century. He has enormous instrumentation and technology at his disposal. Manís entire scientific knowledge has probably more than doubled in the last ten years alone. This has enormous implications for teachers everywhere and I should like to show how this might someday mean that all of you or your followers will be, like me, purveyors and disseminators of scientific information.
When man was accumulating scientific information at a slower rate the appearance of a book on a new scientific subject was an indicator of scientific progress. In a typical monograph an expert scientist, usually in his declining years, would summarize the achievements of the last decade or so in more recent years this trend was replaced by the so-called review journal a scientific magazine in which is collected a series of such recapitulations today it takes a team of a dozen scientists to do this just for a single branch of science such as medical genetics. The implications of these developments for teachers are staggering if not horrendous. In effect, unless our methods of teaching and publishing change the average teacher will be communicating information one day which has already been modified or changed the next. A recent study showed that this is already true for the field of biology most biological textbooks are badly out of step with the achievements of scientific research.
In a recent article in The Saturday Review "The Last Encyclopedists" some interesting educational philosophy is given by a dean at Western Reserve University. Let me read his opening and closing paragraphs.
I donít know how true this picture of the teacher is today. I think it is very true of the average reference librarians. More important it will be true tomorrow because the sciences are witnessing a new blending typified by the field of linguistic science. The librarian and teacher tomorrow may be less distinguishable because we are all going to have to know more about how to know how to find information rather than mastering it. Some of us may not like this development but I present the facts to you not what I would prefer.
As an example of the great interdisciplinary developments in science, let me tell you about linguistics in a non-specific way since I donít think we have the time for a detailed investigation of it today. Robertsí book English Sentences will, I feel, become a classic so why not get it directly from him. There is little point in my merely summarizing what he has done so well. However, I thought you might be interested in the ways linguistics is and can be applied. So I gathered a short list of different areas of application. Furthermore, to help you understand my dilemma in talking to you today I have compiled a list of words that I would have to define and elaborate before I could completely describe the specific inter-
disciplinary interests of the ISI. Keep in mind that you arc probably looking at the only person in the world with my particular academic background chemistry, pre-medicine, library science, and In conclusion, I should like to remind you that our efforts at ISI are directly aimed at manís pursuit of knowledge we are struggling to find solutions to the increasing deluge of scientific information ultimately these problems will become your problems as well only they will be compounded with défficulty and pleasure of translating this information for the student.
linguist polyglot algorithm translation chemical names chemical nomenclature molecular formulas calculate computer recognition grammar generation grammar organic chemistry ideographs structural formulas structural diagrams dictionaries referential morphene morphology syntax abstracting indexing structural linguistics syllabic homonyms linguistic environments dialects semantics syntactic analysis descriptive linguistics comparative linguistics historical linguistics ambiguity programming ciphers locants multipliers double bond routine chemical linguistics chemonyms scientific information librarians teachers grammar transformations information retrieval dissemination Boas Chomsky Bloomfield Whorf Sapir Jesperson Gleason Fries philology American anthropologists well-formed grammatical utterance "correct" English common usage informant discourse free variation complementary distribution co-occurences systematic nomenclature COPYWRITER character recognition devices geneva nomenclature grammatical categories pattern recognition devices