Journal of Linguistics


Some issues on which linguists can agree

Richard Hudsona1

a1 Department of Phonetics and Linguistics, University College London.

At a time when linguistic theory is becoming increasingly fragmented and decreasingly dominated by a single orthodoxy, it has been an encouraging exercise to compile a list of statements about language which are likely to be accepted by virtually all linguists, irrespective of what they think about all the many issues on which linguists disagree. The following list contains no fewer than 83 claims which have been accepted by a wide range of British linguists, and there is no reason to believe that the sample of linguists who have helped me in compiling the list is particularly biased. It seems reasonable to claim that other linguists are LIKELY to accept these statements, although I certainly cannot claim that every linguist accepts every one of them. So far as I know, no attempt has ever been made before to find out what linguists at large actually believe, although any writer of an introductory text-book hopes that he is expounding a widely held set of views. Considered as a piece of research, this investigation seems to me to have produced at least one interesting result: linguistics really is making some progress, in a cumulative way, and we are not just lurching from one 'paradigm' to another, as some of us sometimes suspect in our gloomier moments. Moreover, it raises the interesting question what other statements could be added to the list given here, which certainly is not meant to be exhaustive. I hope that other linguists with more imagination than me can bring the list into the hundreds, as should surely be possible.

(Received June 25 1980)