The Relation of Morphology to Syntax
Annual Review of Anthropology
Vol. 18: 157-175 (Volume publication date October 1989)
Susan Steele
In lieu of an abstract, the publisher reproduces the first page of the article. (Link)

Letters to My Tutor…

My dearest Simone,

I read the first few pages of this article and I was drawn in by the fact that Steele defines key, basic terminology and gives clear explanations and examples. However, the laymen-level clarity drops away after the first few pages in a way that left me wondering what the editing of this article had been like. Had an editor removed sentences and paragraphs thought to be redundant and/or unnecessary, I thought.  I also thought it might be that Steele defined the basic terms/concepts more to distinguish her membership in a specific linguistic camp rather than in an effort to make the article more generally accessible. It’s possible that my concentration fell away as the discussion became more esoteric. The Wikipedia article on syntax had definitions for and links to wider explanations of many of the relevant terms for this article – this wiki article has so many links that it seems a good jumping off point for garnering a basic familiarity.

I often wonder how linguists make it through a day of ordinary communication. Are they able to shut off the laboratory thinking once they leave the lab? Even with my limited knowledge, I have often felt overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” people communicate about themselves in the course of every day speech. (A friend mentioned that this sense of being overwhelmed might be the explanation for why a the character of linguist Henry Higgins in “Pygmalion“/“My Fair Lady” was a confirmed bachelor who avoided the standard social obligations.) I’ve casually observed how people use language differently on social media sites being that they are preparing tidbits for a wider public consumption than in the average daily conversation. Even without benefit of tone of voice and body language, I’ve found that people seem to communicate a lot more about their private lives than they consciously intend… this despite generally taking more care in how they craft their words.  I wonder how much word choices and sentence structure vary with the emotional content of the communication… can we tell a happy story by the structure of the sentences and are we less able to manipulate these variables consciously when sharing stories with others?

Midnight approaches…

Warm regards,