Skeptical Linguistic Essays

By Paul M. Postal | Go to book overview

10
Junk Refereeing
Our Tax Dollars at Work

Recall from chapter 9, page 292, the remark: “I would also have wished to cover the black art of refereemanship, where even the minimal constraints imposed on scholars by the fact that their names will be publicly seen above their words are absent. Here truth counts for little and rhetoric holds sway. ” This passage, which owed a great deal to Geoffrey K. Pullum, was, I will here argue, a bit prescient, supported by the subsequent appearance of the following successful 1 anonymous referee subpassage, which was part of the most negative report (Overall Rating: Poor) received for my NSF Proposal SBR-9808169 (Diversity among English Objects). 2 To facilitate its analysis and to justify my claim that this is junk refereeing, I have numbered the parts therein by associating a prefixed angle bracketed numeral with each or with major clauses within them:

<1> In my opinion, the broader impact of this work will be negligible, <2> simply because the whole approach is founded upon assumptions that have not been current in the field for some time now. <3> The whole domain of the data presented here is now considered by 99% of researchers in the field <4> to involve complex relations between (at least) (i) phrase structure configurations (possibly of a quite ornate type), (ii) argument structure configurations and properties (highest/lowest argument, particular thematic relations), and (iii) more detailed semantic properties. <5> This observation about theoretical assumptions should not be taken as mere trendiness; <6> far from it, for the general consensus concerning (i–iii) has not been arrived at by accident, but rather through 30 years of looking at semantics-syntax interactions, <7> and it is in some clear sense “correct. ” <8> Additionally, I think this whole body of work has shown a greater depth of insight and explanation than

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