If you have been following the debate on acceptability judgments and other linguistic methods, you may want to check out computational linguist Mark Liberman's (mini)-argument against self-observation on Language Log. The tongue-in-cheek response is in reply to comments on Bill Poser's post about the pronunciation of the word "tsunami." Mark writes:
"This gap between phonetic intuition and phonetic fact is a special form of the observer's paradox. Just as we behave differently when we're aware of being observed by others, we also behave differently when we imagine observing ourselves."
In doing some follow-up reading on the history of the paradox, I found a brilliant essay by the famous sociolinguist, William Labov, on the declining methodological standards in linguistics research (see p. 105-8 for what he thinks of the role of 'intuition'). The essay was published in 1972. Labov wrote then:
"If new data has to be introduced, we usually find that is has been barred for ideological reasons, or not even been recognized as data at all, and the new methodology must do more than develop techniques. It must demolish the beliefs and assumptions which rules its data out of the picture. Since many of these beliefs are held as a matter of deep personal conviction, and spring from the well-established habits of a lifetime, this kind of criticism is seldom accomplished without hard feelings and polemics, until the old guard gradually dissolves into academic security and scientific limbo."
He could well have been writing about corpora.
For those of you who read my post last week about language change, you may be amused to note that in the same essay, Labov wrote: "We are forced to ask whether the growth of literacy and mass media are new factors affecting the course of linguistic change that did not operate in the past." Well, Mr. Greene and I certainly never claimed to be the first to articulate these ideas!
On a different note, I have been extremely troubled by the reports about what is going on in Japan. One of my best friends left the country a day before the earthquake. To everyone there - or with friends and family there - my heart goes out to you. If any readers are interested in giving to the disaster relief fund, you can find more information here.