It is a tradition among some schools of scientific investigation not to insist on facts and examples, and to ignore them when they conflict with previously formulated theories.I was so inspired by this that I added it to the footer on this blog (scroll to the bottom). The quote is a footnote to a passage noting that conventional descriptions of American English claim that Southern dialects are r-less — a stunning oversimplification. How could the noted scholars cited have written/thought such things? Plenty of descriptions were available that showed otherwise and it's hard to know any Southerners without knowing r-ful ones.
This morning, reader E.G. called my attention to this post from LINGUIST, a review written by Madalena Cruz-Ferreira of this book:
Engh, Jan. 2007. Norwegian Examples in International Linguistics Literature: An inventory of defective documentation. Munich.The book does something remarkable and deeply disturbing: It documents mistakes in linguistic analyses of Norwegian. Think about that: A whole book that does nothing but catalog and analyze errors in data from one language. As it happens, the 346 flawed chunks of data (published by 139 different linguists) are all from syntax. Engh apparently found no errors in the lit on Norwegian phonetics, phonology or morphology.
Here's the sobering conclusion the reviewer offers:
In scientific research worthy of the name, public retractions with apologies are the honorable step when honest mistakes are made, which Engh assumes to be the case for all of his examples, and exposed, which Engh does beyond reasonable doubt. The painstaking demolition of these and ''other results of lack of understanding'' (p. 147) can be summarized in one question: do linguists want to deal with facts or fiction? The scope of misinformation about Norwegian raises alarm bells far beyond the language in question. If, despite widespread availability of resources, both data and analyses concerning Norwegian end up mangled in the way described in this book because of inexplicable reliance on dubious sources, one is more than justified to feel unsettled about what may have happened and what may go on happening in reports about languages whose users are either dead or otherwise less accessible for consultation than Norwegians.It seems like time for the field to develop some better fact-checking during the refereeing process.
Note: The 5th comment on this post for key follow-up on the book. It seems to confirm Bill Idsardi's suspicion about the 'facts' in question.