Who speaks for us? Lessons from the Pinker letter

Itamar Kastner, Hadas Kotek, Anonymous, Rikker Dockum, Michael Dow

Research output: Working paper

Abstract / Description of output

Since its publication in July 2020, the Open Letter to the LSA regarding Steven Pinker has evoked many passionate reactions. This commentary discusses the letter’s reception within the field of linguistics and outside of it, in news outlets as well as on social media, from the viewpoint of junior scholars who are greatly troubled by its aftermath. We document a thorough timeline of events, and go on to show a one-sided coverage of the letter in the mainstream media, including demonstrable falsehoods concerning the letter, its signatories, and the LSA itself. We then show how, within linguistics, reaction from some senior colleagues has focused on general calls for good-will, without addressing the sources of disagreement. Our conclusion is that the field has failed to hear and represent the views of many members, and so we trace the reasons for this non-engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • discipline of linguistics
  • power structures
  • linguistics in the media


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