Essays on Time-Based Linguistic Analysis

By Charles-James N. Bailey | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

by Peter Mühlhäusler


1. Background

The purpose of this volume is to make available to a wider audience a representative selection of C.-J. Bailey's views on theoretical linguistics. The initial reason for such a volume was a practical one. It occurred to me whilst I lectured in Bailey's department at the Technical University of Berlin between 1976 and 1979. The students I helped prepare for their final State exams often complained about the difficulties of finding certain of Bailey's writings and the absence of an easy introduction to them. At the time I assumed that members of the linguistic profession would have no problems in gaining access to Bailey's writings and that they would find them moderately easy to read. I now believe that neither of these assumptions is correct. Even Bailey three major books Variation and Linguistic Theory ( 1973), On the Yin and Yang Nature of Language ( 1982), and Variation in the Data ( 1993) are not easy to find outside the major university libraries and Bailey's publications have continued to appear in a wide range of journals ranging from the well-known to the obscure. Some of his most important papers have remained almost unavailable.

Much greater than this physical barrier to Bailey has been the perceived conceptual barrier. Bailey is regarded as a difficult writer and several of my colleagues with whom I have discussed his work have professed to me that they have given up or not even begun to make a serious effort. Others do not see the problems of 'trying to talk in a new paradigm', as their own metalinguistic discourse makes no provision for such problems. This is a great pity, for Bailey's work raises a number of fundamental linguistic problems and provides solutions to them. Another reason why the importance of Bailey's work has escaped many linguists is that it has not had a consistent trade mark such as Transformational Generative Grammar, Tagmemics, or Systemic Grammar. The most recent name suggested by Bailey, 'developmental linguistics', is not a felicitous one as it misleadingly suggests to many outsiders that its area of coverage is child language development.

Misunderstandings of a more serious kind involve the failure, on the part of many who quote Bailey, to distinguish between methodological and theoretical matters. Thus, there are those who have misunderstood Bailey as having provided

____________________
I would like to thank C.-J. N. Bailey, C. Feagin, and S. Romaine for comments on this introduction.

-1-

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