CONSTITUTION OF THE COLUMBIA SCHOOL LINGUISTIC SOCIETY
ARTICLE I. NAME OF THE SOCIETY
This Society shall be called the COLUMBIA SCHOOL LINGUISTIC SOCIETY.
ARTICLE II. PURPOSE OF THE SOCIETY
A. The purpose of the Society is to advance, promote and disseminate linguistic research within the framework of the theoretical lines first established in the teachings and writings of William Diver.
B. The Society will further this goal by sponsoring such activities as seminars, conferences, institutes, publica¬tions, a resource center, and general scholarly interchange, and by other appropriate means.
ARTICLE III. MEMBERSHIP
A. Membership in the Society is for individuals and is open to all scholars interested in the work of the Society and who support its goals.
B. Membership is for a period of one calendar year, beginning in January.
C. Charter Memberships in the Society were offered during the first year of the Society's existence. The executors of the academic estate of William Diver were named ex-officio members of the Society. Ongoing membership categories are as follows:
1) Sponsor of the Society. 2) Regular Professional Membership. 3) Associate Membership (for students and others subject to special financial considerations).
D. Dues for each of these categories will be set by the Executive Committee of the Society.
ARTICLE IV. EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
A. The work of the Society shall be overseen by a five-member Executive Committee, elected by the Society's membership. The Executive Committee will serve for a period of three years and be renewed by a general election to take place in the month of March at the end of the third year of service.
B. The Executive Committee shall establish various other committees as it sees fit to promote the goals of the Society and shall name the Chair of each committee.
ARTICLE V. OFFICERS OF THE SOCIETY
A. All officers of the Society shall be members of the Executive Committee and will be chosen by the Executive Committee at its first meeting after each general election.
B. The Officers of the Society shall be five in number:
2. Vice President for Finances
3. Vice President for Minutes and Records
4. Vice President for Communications
5. Vice President for Activities and Membership
C. The President of the Society will convene and chair meetings of the Executive Committee. Decisions of the Executive Committee shall be made by majority vote. The President may break tie votes. The Executive Committee may provide for the filling of vacancies on the Executive Committee until the next general election.
ARTICLE VI. ELECTIONS
A. All paid-up members of the Society are eligible to vote in the Society's elections.
B. The Executive Committee shall name an Electoral Committee to oversee and conduct each general election. Each Electoral Committee shall serve for one election. The Electoral Committee shall consist of three members of the Society who are not current members of the Executive Committee and who are not candidates in the election for which they serve.
C. The Electoral Committee shall receive nominations for election to the Executive Committee and publish the slate of candidates, which shall consist of no more than ten candidates for the five seats on the Executive Committee. If the number of those nominated exceeds ten, the Electoral Committee shall determine a procedure for selecting the ten candidates. All candidates must be paid-up members of the Society in good standing.
D. The Electoral Committee shall promulgate deadlines for nominations and for the receipt of marked ballots, and certify the election results. The new Executive Committee shall take office upon certification of the election results.
ARTICLE VII. PUBLICATIONS
A. At appropriate times, the Executive Committee shall establish publications of the Society. Publications of the Society will be overseen by the Executive Committee, who will name an Editor and an Editorial Board, to serve at the pleasure of the Executive Committee.
ARTICLE VIII. CONSTITUTION OF THE SOCIETY
A. This Constitution shall be ratified and amended as necessary by a unanimous vote of the Executive Committee of the Society; however, Article II Section A of this Constitution may not be amended or deleted.
B. [Amendment ratified 02/24/2006]. The procedure for amending this Constitution shall be as follows. At a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Society, the text of a proposed amendment shall be presented, debated, and voted on. Upon a majority vote of the Executive Committee in favor, the proposed amendment shall be disseminated to the membership by the Vice President for Communications. The membership shall be invited to submit comments and suggestions to the Executive Committee through the President or the Vice President for Communications for a period of no less than 60 days. After the completion of this comment period, the Executive Committee shall meet again to consider the comments and suggestions it has received. Any substantive change to the proposed amendment shall require a repetition of the above procedure. Final adoption of the proposed amendment shall be by unanimous vote of the Executive Committee.
ARTICLE IX. NOT-FOR-PROFIT STATUS
A. This Society is organized exclusively for scholarly and educational purposes within the meaning of Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, the Society shall not carry on any activities not permitted to be carried on by an organization exempt from federal income tax under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Wallis Hoch Reid
Ratified January 30, 1998
It should not be surprising that a theory of language based on “performance” data (while being informed by independent bodies of knowledge such as communication, psychology and phonetics) should have practical applications. To date, Columbia School has only begun to explore this important aspect of the study of language, but this section should give an idea of the general kind of impact that a radically functional linguistic theory can have in applied linguistic areas.
Rather than formalizing traditional sentence grammar as a set of autonomous syntactic rules, Diver sought to understand uses of linguistic mechanisms in actual discourse. Why do verbs appear to “govern” cases in languages like Latin and Greek? Why did Greek authors use sometimes the dual, sometimes the plural when talking about two of a thing? What explains seemingly whimsical occurrences of subjunctive, passive or middle morphology in texts? Why do “reflexive” pronouns have non-reflexive uses? Why do some verbs (“deponents”) have a passive form but an active sense? Why are particular sounds or combinations of sounds favored in individual languages or across languages, or disfavored, sometimes to the point of non-occurrence?
Diver demonstrated the inappropriateness of traditional categories of grammar to analysis of language. The Sentence and its parts - subject, predicate, direct/indirect object, clause, phrase, etc. - as well as the parts of speech stem from the classical interest in logic, and represent an analysis of the structure and content of thought. Traditional grammar, Diver realized, began as an attempt to correlate linguistic structure with this logical structure. For example, in the traditional account of the Greek and Latin nominative, accusative, and dative cases, there was an attempt to explain the occurrence of these morphologies in terms of categories of the structure of thought: the nominative is the case of the subject, the accusative is the case of the direct object, and the dative is the case of the indirect object.
When, as frequently happens, direct objects turn up in the dative, and predicates in the nominative, this attempt to correlate the two structures has failed empirically. However, rather than abandon the enterprise, traditional grammars set up what Diver regarded as mere escape clauses: "government of the dative", "predicate nominative". Through such maneuvers, the theoretically unmotivated part of traditional grammars came to dwarf the theoretically motivated part, leading ultimately to a picture of language as a collection of arbitrary devices, a type of human behavior not comparable to other, more readily understandable types of behavior.
Thus, Diver regarded the categories of syntax simply as artifacts of an unsuccessful attempt to explain linguistic phenomena in terms of the logic-derived parts of the sentence and parts of speech, not as a revelation of some unique human cognitive process. He took issue with generative grammar on the grounds that, rather than recognizing these categories as a consequence of analytical failure, generative grammar bought heavily into the traditional scheme and went on to build up a school of analysis which took it for granted, thereby developing a view of language as having an important component of arbitrary relations of the "government" type. This was an unjustified conclusion, Diver said, because the assumptions about linguistic categories lying at its very base were faulty.
In Diver's view, the task of grammatical analysis is not to seek manifestations of universal categories in languages, but to discover the unique categories articulated by each language. Here, his position was similar to the anti-nomenclaturist view propounded by Saussure. Diver wanted to explain the outward face of language, what we actually observe, ultimately, the shape of the sound waves of speech. Diverian grammatical analyses focus on occurrences of forms in texts and discourse, the distribution of forms being regarded as the best overt clues to underlying categories of language. Morphs and morphemes are examined as potential bearers of linguistic meaning, so that grammatical hypotheses very often take the form of signals and meanings.
Diver articulated an innovative view of grammatical meaning, which has come to be called an 'instrumental' view of meaning, in contrast to the traditional compositional view. In the compositional view, everything in a linguistically communicated message is attributed to some element of linguistic input, and a direct mapping between input and output is required. Diver recognized that communicative output can often be traced not to the form with which compositional analysis associates it, but rather to some other element of linguistic or extralinguistic context. A compositional analysis may build into the meaning of a form all sorts of communicative effects for which that form is actually not responsible at all.
The instrumental view, in contrast, recognizes that not everything communicated with language is encoded linguistically; that people use their inferential powers to jump to conclusions on the basis of a relatively small amount of actually encoded linguistic information. Diver thus saw the effects of human intelligence as pervasive in the functioning of language, and speakers' use of linguistic meanings as comparable to other kinds of human tool use. This led to the distinguishing of two different kinds or levels of function: the meaning of a form - that sparse element which the form encodes and consistently contributes to the communicative process, and the message - the totality of communicative effects which may at one time or another be associated with the occurrence of a form, but which is actually the resultant of human inference operating with many different kinds of input, both linguistic and non-linguistic.
Grammatical analysis thus becomes a search for that which languages actually encode, these sparse, hint-like meanings. In this enterprise, then, meaning is not something studied in the abstract, without reference to a particular language; meaning is rather a device of explanation, invoked to account for facts of morphemic distribution in individual languages. In Diver's own words:
The general picture of human language is that of a particular kind of instrument of communication, an imprecise code by means of which precise messages can be transmitted through the exercise of human ingenuity. The code and the ingenuity must be kept clearly separate; most of the difficulties encountered in the various schools of linguistic analysis result, simply, from the attempt to build the ingenuity into the structure of language itself.
Diver liked to give his own twist to the well-known analogy of Sapir, saying: "Language is only powerful enough to run a light bulb; but we use it to run an elevator."
By pursuing this view of language as being driven by meaning and by ordinary human behavioral and perceptual characteristics, Diver and his students were able to develop explanations not only for those parts of language which have traditionally been regarded as basically semantic--verb tenses, demonstratives, aspect, etc.-- but also for those that have always been seen as lying within the central core of syntax, such as government, concord, and ordering phenomena. He took particular issue with the attempts of descriptivism and generativism to see language as having an autonomous structure that can be described algorithmically. Analyses of a great variety of languages have been carried out in the framework Diver innovated.
Thus, for Latin and Greek, discarding notions of sentence structure and syntactic government, and taking occurrences of case morphology themselves as the data to be explained, Diver found that these cases, for one thing, have to do with communicating the degree of control exercised by participants over events. Similarly, he analyzed subjunctive morphologies in these languages as indicating particular levels of the probability of occurrence of the event denoted by their attached lexical item; other forms turned out to have to do with attracting greater or lesser degrees of attention to an associated item. He posited that word order in English can function as the signal of a meaning, like the morphological signals of Latin and Greek. Moreover, he and his students discovered that the meanings attached to these signals often organize themselves into closed systems in which the meanings exhaustively divide up a semantic substance. So, for instance, the Latin cases denote relative degrees of control over an event, in the order (from highest to lowest) nominative, ablative, dative, accusative.
In phonology, Diver was concerned with explaining the shape of the sound wave of speech below the level of the signal, that is, the nonrandom distribution of distinctive units of sound within a language's lexical and grammatical morphemes. He accounted for these skewings in part by appealing to facts of articulatory and acoustic phonetics, some of which had gone neglected in previous phonological research, which indeed has minimized the role of phonetics to begin with. But the theoretical significance of Diverian phonology is more profound, for complete explanation of this non-randomness has required an appeal to the same principles of communication and human behavior which underlie grammar, two external orientations that had not previously played so explicit a role in phonological theory. Diver, then, proposed a non-autonomous phonology, just as he proposed a non-autonomous, non-modular grammar.
The communicative factor requires speakers to maintain distinctions among sounds; yet speakers show a tendency, here as in other aspects of human behavior, to economize effort. Diverian phonology, as it studies both the frequencies of phonological units and the ways in which they combine, gives evidence of the dynamic interplay of these competing pressures.
The following is one of Diver's examples. It is well known that in many languages, such as German and Russian, final stops are voiceless. In English, although the skewing is not absolute, voiceless stops in word-final position heavily outweigh voiced stops. English is thus merely a less extreme example of what is found in German and Russian; the difference of a few percentage points is not important since one explanation covers both situations. Diver proposed that it is the task of coordinating two active articulators (the tongue or lips which create the stop, and the vocal folds which provide voicing) that accounts for the lower frequency of voiced stops as compared to voiceless, where only one of these articulators has to be controlled. However, the beginning of the word, where the hearer does not yet know the identity of the word, bears a greater communicative burden than the end of the word, which the speaker will likely be able to figure out for himself once it is reached (cf. people's tendency to chime in at the ends of words). This example shows the interplay of factors: the communicative factor motivates the greater distinctiveness afforded by having both voiced and unvoiced stops; but the human factor--ordinary laziness--carries the day when one can get away with less distinctiveness.
In following this route, Diver developed an epistemology intended to bring the practice of linguistics into line with that of other attempts to understand natural phenomena in the scientific era. For Diver, explanation was not a matter of simply demonstrating that a particular item is a member of a more general class; he wanted to get at the "Why" of things. This meant seeking motivations for observations one does not understand in terms of areas of knowledge one does understand, not embarking on a speculative program. It meant adhering to highly demanding standards of validation and fit between hypothesis and data. Diverian analyses are heavily textually oriented; large quantities of data from actual texts and extensive use of counts are their hallmarks. Diver was very skeptical of a-prioristic schemes, such as universal grammar. He insisted that theory be always guided by analysis, ot the other way around, no matter how unfamiliar the resulting theory might appear.
This approach is of course quite the opposite of contemporary mainstream linguistic thought, and thus did not get much press. Diver was a man far ahead of his time; in a world obsessed with modularity and syntax, it is a rare voice which asserts that language is an instance of ordinary human behavior, and that linguistic structure can and must be understood without reference to syntax. Nonetheless, a great many in-depth analyses of a wide range of languages by Diver and his students have borne him out, and the scholarly mechanism he established has quietly pursued its work, with little public fanfare.
From 1975, Diver edited the Columbia University Working Papers in Linguistics, in which many of his own writings appeared. He gave invited lecture series in numerous countries of Europe and Asia, in addition to speaking at conferences in the USA and Canada. The Columbia School has held biennial international conferences since 1989 at Columbia, the University of Virginia and Rutgers, and a Summer Institute of the Columbia School was held at the City College of New York in 1996. Even after his retirement to Emeritus status in 1989, Diver remained an active participant in an ongoing Linguistics Seminar at Columbia and in the Conferences, giving generously of his time, and continuing to attract new adherents through his writings and lectures.
William Diver perished on August 31, 1995 while sailing solo in Nantucket Harbor. His relations with other people were characterized by unlimited generosity, tolerance, and gentlemanliness. The role model he exemplified made as profound and lasting an impression as did his ideas. Few scholars have evoked such heartfelt grief at their passing as has this extraordinary man.
Linguists who received the Ph.D. at Columbia under Diver's advisorship include Erica Garcia, Robert Kirsner, Flora Klein, David Zubin, Wallis Reid, Abdul Azim, John Penhallurick, Robert Leonard, Ellen Contini-Morava, Anita de la Garza, Alan Huffman, Bonny Gildin, Radmila Gorup, Barbara Goldberg, and Joseph Davis. A dissertation written under Diver's sponsorship received the Edward Sapir Award in Linguistics from the New York Academy of Sciences in 1985. Books presenting Columbia School analyses or discussing Columbia School ideas have been written by Garcia, Kirsner, Reid, Contini-Morava, Gorup, Huffman, Zubin, and Yishai Tobin.
Written by Alan Huffman