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2/18/14
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Jeremy Frey
Ian McCabe [published by permission]
“Reconstruction, Cultural”
The article “Reconstruction, Cultural”, part of the book Encyclopedia of Language &
Linguistics, by J.T. Katz argues for the audience to change their research habits and beliefs that
are long held practices in the field of linguistics; Katz clearly cares about Linguistics and
regularly studies it much like his highly educated audience and who have a high degree of
experience with the technical side of linguistics. By comparing the meaning of words as they
change over time, important cultural knowledge about ancient civilizations can be found and the
author makes this his central argument as well as the claim that this is truly an important idea.
Within the genre of linguistic papers, conventions dictate that they are to never contain emotion,
but only facts and sources. Katz’s paper differs and gains effectiveness by inserting a small
amount of emotion in order to break from convention and convince the audience of his ideas.
What is the author’s purpose? How does he make his argument more effective?
The author attempts to convince other linguists that they should evaluate a language based on the
change in semantics to obtain a better understanding of the culture. Katz holds the belief that the
understanding of an ancient civilization’s culture is of importance and that all linguists should
strive to achieve this goal. This contrasts with the high number of citations given and the
evidence drawn from them are the major way in which the author argues for his point of view.
The article gives 38 different citations, all of which provide multiple lines of evidence within the
actual article. Katz gives the etymology connecting blood and bless which is available all over
the internet, but instead of simply stating it, he gives a citation. This makes all the facts given
within the article seem even stronger as each one has a large paper from a credible linguist to
back it up.
The organization of the text starts with the mention of the standard way in which linguists
analyze a language, then moving into his issues with the current system, and finally stating his
beliefs on how a language should be analyzed and why it should be that way. These strategies
work very well with the audience because his audience is so analytical and logical. With so many
citations, his article seems as though it is based on literally dozens of other opinions.
What shows the author’s credibility and why is the author writing this article?
The author of the article is very well versed in the subject, intelligent, and cares about the
subject. The first way in which the author conveys his credibility sits directly at the top of the
page:
J.T. Katz
Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA
Vitae
Joshua T. Katz is Assistant Professor of Classics, John Witherspoon Bicentennial
Preceptor, and Member of the Program in Linguistics at Princeton University.
This is clearly printed directly at the top of the page and serves to instantly give the reader an
understanding of the background of the author and the depth of knowledge he has on the subject.
The author also demonstrates his credibility by using highly technical words and making well
based claims within a highly complicated field. It is obvious that the author also cares about this
field because he cared enough to compose this article. The article does not serve to bring any
new information to the scientific community or a new technique; rather, the article only serves to
show one man’s opinion on what matters in the field of linguistics. Katz describes his views and
how he believes that rather than looking simply at the phonological, morphological, and
syntactic changes of a language that his audience should also look at the semantic changes, and
by extension, cultural situation in which the language came from. While this serves some small
technical purpose within the analyses of a language, it would mostly serve a sentimental purpose.
This shows us that Katz actually cares about the subject enough to argue for a simple change in
the way the subject is thought about. This small difference makes the article much more effective
as it shows the audience that Katz has some investment in subject and that this is a worthwhile
cause.
Who is the audience? What do they care about?
The audience for this article is almost exclusively other linguists or people with a high degree of
knowledge of the linguistic field. This is evident in the myriad of hyper-technical words or words
known almost exclusively by highly educated people such as: etymology, phonology,
morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, desideratum, lexical, morphemes, Urheimat,
Neogrammarianism, repugnant, vis-à-vis, nuances, Proto-Indo-European, Kurgan, Tocharian B,
neologism, patriarchal, patrilineal. The use of these words make obvious that this article was not
meant for the average person. The article positions itself for people who care about the subject
simply because the linguistic field attracts almost exclusively people who care about the field
and because they are reading an article which is tantamount to a fluff piece in the linguistic
world. Making the audience so specific helps to make the article more effective as the more
specific the audience, the more that audience will generally enjoy the communication.
Works Cited:
Katz, J.T. ""Reconstruction, Cultural." Sciencedirect.com. Science Direct, 16 Mar. 2006.
Web. 3 Feb. 2014.
<http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy2.library.arizona.edu/science/article/pii/B008044
8542018903>.
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