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    #1

    Oedipal character

    Some of you may have been aware of the debate between Pinker and Lakoff. This is part of an article by another Berkeley linguist to comment on the debate. I only have one question about the Oedipal character (See the blue phrase below). I thought this is only about son and mother. How is this involved in the relation between the three scholars? Thanks.
    **************************

    For linguists of mature age, it's hard to read the exchanges between Steven Pinker and George Lakoff over Pinker's review of Lakoff's new book without a sense of déjà vu all over again--they recall the heated confrontations of the "Grammar Wars" of the 1970s, when Lakoff and other linguists of the Generative Semantics school were going to the mattresses with Chomsky and his followers over the nature of language structure.
    True, Pinker hardly shares Chomsky's politics, but like Chomsky he's a take-no-prisoners polemicist. And Lakoff is still displaying the rhetorical irrepressibility that has always been a bit exasperating even to linguists who like and respect him. He frames his claims grandly, often downplaying or ignoring his intellectual predecessors, so that his own contributions come off as revolutionary rather than usefully accretive. And he isn't above caricaturing his opponent's views or raising ad hominem arguments (what do Pinker's views on women in science have to do with any of this?).
    The tone of those exchanges has a lot to do with the personalities of the protagonists, of course, but it also reflects the intensely Oedipal character of the debate. You have to go back to Freud to find a figure who has dominated the thinking in his field as pervasively as Chomsky has, and his influence is evident not just in the work of Pinker, who happily acknowledges it, but in the challenges mounted by his renegade former disciples.

  1. Mister Micawber's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Oedipal character

    .
    Because both sides of the debate are influenced by Chomsky (vide the last sentence), the competing arguments are somewhat incestuous.
    .

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Oedipal character

    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Micawber View Post
    .
    Because both sides of the debate are influenced by Chomsky (vide the last sentence), the competing arguments are somewhat incestuous.
    .
    I think the 'Oedipal' is a reference to the relationship between Oedipus and Jocasta (i.e. incestuous - as MrM says), rather than to the Oedipus Complex. (Oedipus complex - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) .

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    Last edited by BobK; 04-Feb-2007 at 21:47.

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    #4

    Re: Oedipal character

    Thank you both! It's clear now.

    Ian2

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