tagmemics, definition for criticism...
brocine at earthlink.net
Tue Jan 23 21:17:05 EST 2001
Hi Vince, et. al
I like usually like to pipe in on Longacrean matters, and I
will be true to form here. Sorry I didn't respond sooner.
I have been out of town for a few days.
> chers amis/cheres amies,
> i will try to outline the basics of tagmemics, with the
hope that if my
> outline is incorrect, that someone will correct me in the
> essentially, the goal appears to be the exegesis of the
biblical text and
> the analysis of nonindoeuropean languages for the purposes
> translation (admirable goals, but not usually the goals of
> theoretical linguistics).
right. It may not be apparent to all from your statement of
tagmemics' goal that it grew largely out of the need to
*learn* hundreds of languages quickly. Longacre has only
approached the biblical languages secondarily.
The tagmemic approach to learning a language is pragmatic
(if you will allow my broad use of the term); that is, the
language learning is approached in this way: "how do I
descibe in this language? how do I tell a story? how do I
persuade? how do I instruct?" etc. The "top-down" aspect
of the model comes from the assumption that language is used
universally to perform a small handful of such tasks. A
complete set of the tasks identified in a matrix of three
binary variables. That matrix would create 2 x 2 x 2 = 8
behavioral genres theoretically. The Tanakh may only have
> there are continuities with american structuralism a la
> harris, etc; but more directly with the basic principles
> going back to Saussure's lectures. the tagmeme is the
correlated class and
> slot, by which is meant paradigmatic and syntagmatic
relations a la
> Saussure. i take this to be a non-generative, taxonomic
yup. once again, a very useful exercise for learning a
language and translation.
> the upshot is a methodology for field work, summarized
e.g. in Longacre's
> work on "discovery procedures": "guess-and-check"
> my interest is, what is a "possible language"? according
to Pike & Pike,
> all human behaviour including language is system:
Right. Kenneth Pike, in referring to tagmemics, said, "I'm
interested in truth about man, about how language is related
to man, about how language is related to behavior. I
wouldn't ever grant that I'm interested only in language"
(quoted in Fries, "Tagmemics"). This is a crucial point
when it comes to appreciating Longacre's work on BH, IMO.
Longacre went looking in BH for how the ancients *did*
stuff. He expected a distinct combination of clause types
to fill the slots associated with each of the universal
(language) behaviors. The approach is in this way top-down,
guess-and-check, but it works well for the linguistically
modest but spiritually noblest of goals: (as you say)
translating the Bible into as many languages as possible.
Because it is a guess-and-check model is not to say that the
conclusions *remain* guesses. ;-) I think there is a
*check* in the guess-and-check method that may render a
guess as reliable. ;-) The checking is bottom-up.
This model is taxonomic, to be sure, but the universal
behavioral tasks *organize language learning*, so that the
learning becomes easier and more efficient. I hear Pike was
amazing in his ability to learn a new language.
a strong claim for
> structuralist anthropology, which is very much outdated.
> is no constraint in principle on the number and nature of
> levels, no constraint at all, except that it would conform
> structuralist analysis. pure, unconstrained "induction".
it reminds me
> very much of "stratificational" approaches, again with no
> longacre's discourse grammar is, crucially, "deduction":
very much so. and
> i don't think it is descriptively adequate, judging by the
> Genesis, IMHO.
Longacre certainly did not start small. I mean he did not
start with morpheme or phoneme and work his way to larger
combinations. He started right in with how clause types
fill functional slots within behavioral/functional genres,
i.e. a restricted but high place in the hierarchy of the
language. That may be unsatisfactory to a (linguistic)
purist. But heh, he's getting up there in years, and he
wanted to get the most bang he could for his tagmemic buck.
I would admit that his work is not usually argumentative;
rather it is descriptive, albeit *not* by the rigorous
standards of cutting-edge linguistics, which requires
Personally, my problem with Longacre is with his paragraph
types. The types are not identifiable morpho-syntactically
or by objective linguistic means. I accept den Exter
Blokland's criticisms in this regard. One has to
read/understand the paragraphs before one can label them.
But if we have already read and understood them...the
taxonomy has become superfluous. I skip Longacre's whole
paragraph business and instead describe by "discourse
embedding," which I believe is more true to the tagmemic
model because it allows for recursion.
Hoping to help,
B. M. Rocine
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13206
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