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LINGUISTICS VINDICATED

The Mail

To the Editors of the CRIMSON:

In a letter which appeared in the April 15 issue of the CRIMSON Lloyd I. Rudolph, assistant professor of Government, expresses amusement and dismay at the "self-congratulatory" statement of the Department of Linguistics that with the appointment of six new instructors "the only major area still without a Faculty expert will be African linguistics..." Professor Rudolph further expresses his doubts that in this day and age of developing nations whose languages remain largely unknown to the outside world, scholarship can best be served "by appointments in ancient languages only." I should like to make two brief comments on these statements.

First, the Department of Linguistics was not boasting of its comprehensive coverage. However the statement may have appeared in the CRIMSON, the Department would have liked to express regret at the fact that not only African, but South Asian languages as well, are unrepresented at Harvard.

Second, and more important, Professor Rudolph's letter reflects a common misunderstanding of what Linguists are and what Linguistics as a discipline does. Linguists are engaged in the study of the regularities which characterize language as a human institution, the peculiar ways in which these regularities are used in the structures of individual languages, and the reorganization of these structures at successive stages in the history of a language. To these ends linguists of course use their knowledge of many languages, but they are not primarily polyglots, and they certainly do not teach others to be so. Practical training in individual languages is best left to individual language departments.

In closing I must say that I find Professor Rudolph's statement about how scholarship is best served inconsistent with the goals of a university which encourages the pursuit of Truth--any Truth--whatever its practical application may be. Bruce D. Boling   Teaching Fellow In Lingulstics

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