George P. Lakoff, lecturer in Linguistics, has announced that he will not teach this spring and that he will leave Harvard for the University of Michigan at the end of this year.
Lakoff is Harvard's only full-time specialist in the linguistics of Noam Chomsky, known as Transformational Theory. His course in transformational grammar. Linguistics 112, has the largest enrollment of any course in the department.
Lakeoff gave three reasons for his resignation.
* "First," he said, "I am only a lecturer here, and it will be at least two more years before the department can offer me a tenured position."
* "Second," he continued, "I've been offered an infinitely better position as full professor at Michigan.
* "Third, transformational theory is very unimportant here. The Harvard linguistics people are concerned mainly with comparative languages and superficially descriptive language study," he concluded.
Several graduate students in Linguistics said they were considering leaving Harvard with Lakoff, and transfering to colleges specializing in Chomskyan linguistics.
"I think it's terrible that Lakoff is leaving,"one of his students said. "He's the only one in the department who understands what's happened to linguistics since 1965."
"It's Lakoff against the entire Linguistics Faculty," a graduate student in Lingustics said. "They represent one school of linguistics and he represents another. There's nobody to replace him."
How to Do It
"There are other courses in the department that teach students about transformational theory," Lakoff said, "but mine was the only course, even at an introductory level, which taught them anything about how to do it."
Lakoff added, "To be teaching transformational grammer, you have to be actively involved with it, and I'm the only one in the department who is involved. This is a field that changes monthly, so much that most papers written on it are out of date even before they're printed."
Lakoff said ther is a "very slim" chance that the department will hire another lecturer to take his place in the next few years.
"I almost left last year," he said, "but I like Harvard students, and I like Cambridge, and I like being near M.I.T., where Noam Chomsky is."