Sunlit Water

April 29, 2012

Disciplinary Traditions

Filed under: Academia — by teofilo @ 12:56 pm

It sounds like what Tim Burke is suggesting here is basically for history to become more like linguistics in certain ways. Beyond the fact that it’s a more journal-oriented field to start with, there’s a long tradition of major linguistics journals publishing short papers (or “squibs”) presenting bits of ongoing research or little findings that are nevertheless potentially of interest. Also, it’s long been common for graduate students to publish reference grammars or dictionaries as their master’s theses or doctoral dissertations. Despite the extremely theoretical orientation of the field in the Chomsky era, it’s always been well understood that solid data is the essential foundation for any theoretical musing, and the incentive structures of the discipline reflect that. This is of course true for history as well, but in Burke’s telling it sounds like the discipline hasn’t really appreciated that in recent decades. The existence of an alternative model that works quite well in linguistics might make it easier for him and other disgruntled historians to try to change practices in history.

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