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Kenneth L. Pike (1912–2000)

An Interview with Kenneth Pike

Alan S. Kaye
California State University, Fullerton
Fullerton, Calif. 92634, U. S.A.

Copyright by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Used by permission.

AK: Kenneth L. Pike, born June 9, 1912, in Woodstock, Connecticut, is still going strong in his 80s. A brilliant lecturer and a crisp writer, he is also known as a poet and a Christian scholar. His contributions have won him numerous awards, among which are the following: nomination for the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for the 11th consecutive year, presidencies of the Linguistic Society of America (1961) and the Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States (1977-78), honorary doctorates from Huntington College (1967), the University of Chicago (1973), Houghton College (1977), I'Université René Descartes (1978), Gordon College (1982), and Georgetown University (1984), honorary professorships from the National University of Trujillo (1987), the National University of Ucayali (1987), and the University of Lima, Peru (1991), memberships in the American Academy of Sciences (1974-) and the National Academy of Sciences (1985-), the Philippine government's Presidential Medal of Merit (1974), selection as a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (1968-69), Georgetown University's Dean's Medal (1992), and an honorary doctorate from Albert-Ludwigs University, Freiburg, Germany (1993). Pike has lectured in 42 countries and briefly served as a Fulbright lecturer to Russia in 1988. Anyone who has heard him lecture has appreciated his holistic viewpoint concerning the role of language in culture and society. To quote James E. Alatis's presentation of the Georgetown Dean's Medal (Alatis 1993:5), "Although he has authored more than a dozen major books, if his only publication were Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Behavior, then he would still be recognized as one of our field's most distinguished contributors."

AK: You have written numerous books and hundreds of articles, book chapters, and reviews. If you were forced to pick only one book and one article which you would deem your favorites, what would they be?

KP: I do not have just one book as favorite, because they are favorites for different purposes: Phonetics [1943] for universals of sounds, Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Behavior [1967] for leading toward a holistic view of culture, Talk, Thought, and Thing [1993] for trying to state simply my tying in of philosophy to linguistics. For articles, I suspect that "Grammatical Prerequisites" [1947] has been referred to more than any other article I've written, since it came at the point of the transformational revolution and it showed that I also felt that pure formalism of phonology was not enough, it needed to have grammar, too.

AK: You have known some truly outstanding linguists over the years-- Edward Sapir, Leonard Bloomfield, Bernard Bloch, George Trager, Morris Swadesh, Andre Martinet, Roman Jakobson, and others. Could you share a few thoughts with us now about those scholars, their work, and their impact on the field of linguistics as a whole? Can you also tell us something about these linguists' skills as communicators and teachers and what kind of men they were? Of course, we realize that only one, Martinet, is still with us.

KP: Sapir impressed me as one of the most gentle people I have known. He was always ready to help beginners like me, in 1937. He had a heavy impact on pushing the field toward looking at phonemics - through Swadesh, for example - and combining linguistics with anthropology. Bloomfleld was very helpful as a person but was not eager to have much social interaction with people, so far as I could see. His Language [1933] had enormous impact in the direction of more formal structuring. Bloch was concerned with being very scientific and with Trager took over leadership of the discipline as Sapir's and Bloomfleld's influence waned. Trager's attempt to do phonemics before reference to grammar or other hierarchy got a lot of attention, and I objected, as in the article I referred to above. Swadesh also was helpful to me, sending me a copy of a couple of his articles on phonemics, which I've referred to often. He also was important in pushing linguistics in Mexico. Martinet I appreciated greatly, and I have been particularly delighted with his utilization of a phonetic chart, and gaps in it, to show the probability of sounds' being borrowed - filling in the gaps versus adding new sounds outside the chart. I also liked Jakobson very much. I was a bit startled when I learned that Bloch had rejected an article of his on poetry (as not being related to science somehow}. His work with Halle and others stimulated greater attention to contrastive features rather than phonemes in the next few years. I enjoyed all of them and learned from all of them.

AK: When I visited with you in the fall of '92 in Dallas, you showed me a monograph you were working on about linguistics and philosophy. Can you share with us some of your feelings about that work and what you hope to accomplish with it? Also, what works have you left undone or only partially completed? Assuming that you are fortunate enough to be scholarly active for another decade or two, which of these works would you like to see completed and why?

KP: The book, Talk, Thought and Thing: The Emic Road toward Conscious Knowledge, is now off the press. It is the philosophy book I was talking about. I'm hoping it will be especially helpful to a few young scholars {not a large audience) who have become disillusioned with mechanism but have not seen where to turn. I would hope this would open the window for them to see the need for both mind and matter. Of the materials I've wanted to write, science fiction is perhaps the most outstanding in my thinking. I wrote three tiny bits a few years ago for my grandchildren, then about 12 years of age, but their mother said that the children hadn't enjoyed it-the stories were "too infantile"! I haven't been able to do better yet. At the same time, my wife, Evelyn, who has developed linguistic material on referential structure, is encouraging me to work on semantics. That is probably where I'll put my attention right now. I might include, however, some work on humor as an instance of referential difficulties, just as science fiction should allow me to test some of my presuppositions about universals of human thought and behavior. I am also writing some more poems relating life to language.

AK: Your book Phonetics is still often quoted and has been reprinted various times. I understand that ten days of phonetics in 1935 were very important to you. How so? And how did you get into phonetics in the first place? Why did you end up doing your dissertation on phonetics?

KP: The ten days of phonetics in 1935 opened a whole new window on the world of science for me. It exploded my mind, first with fascination from sound to phoneme, then eventually to the emics of behavior as a whole. Those ten days set the tone of my focus for a long time to come - apart, that is, from translation of the Bible. I had wanted to go to China as a missionary, but that did not work out. Instead, I went to study with Cameron Townsend, founder of the Summer Institute of Linguistics. His first session was in 1934; I attended the second session in 1935. That was the summer he brought a teacher from Biola University, Dr. Elbert McCreery, who opened the window I've referred to. The next summer Townsend had me back to teach phonetics, after my winter's experience studying the Mixtec language of southern Mexico. He wanted me to write a book on phonetics, which I did not want to do. But when I returned to the Mixtec area in the fall of 1936, I broke my leg and ended up in the hospital in Puebla, where, since I couldn't do much else, I wrote what ultimately turned out to be the first half of my Phonemics book. Back in Michigan in 1937 as a beginning graduate student, I got a clue from Sapir about how to analyze tone, and the next summer, after Charles Fries had invited me to give a paper on tone in Mixtec to a faculty luncheon, he suggested I do a dissertation on that topic. Trager asked me to lecture on phonetics to a class of his that summer, and at the end of the lecture Hockett asked me for a copy of it which I had not written down. It took me several months to write it while in the Mixtec area, and when I returned to Michigan in the summer of 1939 Fries asked me to present the developed material to a faculty seminar at three afternoon sessions attended by, amongst others, Bloomfield, Voegelin, Sturtevant, and Cowan. After I had discussed the material with some of them, Fries had me shift my dissertation topic to phonetics. The thesis was finished in 1941 and was published as Phonetics in 1943.

AK: You were president of the Summer Institute of Linguistics for over 30 years. How did you balance that role with being a tenured professor at the University of Michigan for that same 30-year period?

KP: When I was well into learning Mixtec, I started working on the translation of the New Testament into that language. Published in 1951, it was the first of some 300 New Testament translations done to date by SIL members, many of them former students of mine. At the same time that I was becoming involved in leadership roles in SIL and in training new SIL members in linguistics for basic research and Bible translation, Fries invited me to join the regular faculty of the University of Michigan. This was in 1948. He wanted to make these linguistic procedures that I was developing more readily available to the university community. I eventually accepted his invitation, but only on the condition that I teach there just one semester per year. I told them I needed the rest of each year for teaching SIL summer courses at the University of Oklahoma and for consulting with SIL folks in workshops in various countries around the world. Michigan agreed, and so that's how I combined the two roles. I still hold emeritus positions at both places.

AK: One of your most impressive books, in my opinion, is Tone Languages [1948]. How did you get started studying tone languages? Was Mixtec the spark here? How did you find out that it was tonal, and how did you learn to analyze these tones? What did that do for your teaching career and later writings?

KP: In the fall of '35 I went to Mexico and decided to work on Mixtec. Townsend found me an old Mixtec man in Mexico City and offered to be my interpreter for a couple of hours, since he and the man both knew Spanish and I didn't, because he wanted me to learn the Mixtec language first. (Townsend felt that if his students learned Spanish first they might never learn to speak fluently the Indian languages he wanted them to study.) When I asked for the Mixtec numbers, it turned out that the "one" and "nine" were the same, to my ears, differing only by pitch! That was a shock! Nor did I have any understanding of the nature of tone in any other languages. I was blocked for about two years in my study of Mixtec and could not see how to handle this tone problem. In the summer of 1937 at Michigan, Sapir in a kind of "Coffee-cup session" told me how he'd analyzed the tones of Navajo. With that bit of information, I went back to Mexico, worked for several months applying Sapir's techniques, and was finally able to crack the Mixtec system. My sister, Eunice Pike, and her colleague Florence Hansen (now Cowan) were at the same time living in another Indian village across the state, where they were studying Mazatec, another tone language. Since they wrote that they were having similar problems with tone, I went over there, a three- or four days journey, and helped them break into that tone system. This then became part of my teaching at SIL in the summers and eventually led to my book on tone languages, which I drafted in Ann Arbor in the fall of 1942 under a grant from Fries.

AK: Many of us, your linguist colleagues, consider Languages in Relation to a Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Behavior your magnum opus. That mammoth 760-page work contains a wealth of ideas of relevance to "language and culture" studies. How did you begin to bring cultural or social materials into your approach? What was the initial moment which turned you to some degree in that direction? And how did that expand into your current interest in philosophy?

KP: When I went to Michigan as associate professor in 1948, I thought that I would write a book on voice quality, but I'd got to where phonology was becoming boring and decided to tackle grammar instead. I wanted to try to utilize some of my phonological experience to help me write on grammar, so I went through my Phonemics book pulling out items which seemed to be very general and which might be helpful. I ended up with contrast, variation, and distribution (or their equivalents) and started applying them to grammar. But when I climbed up the hierarchy to a language as a whole and asked what the language was itself distributed into, I did not want English distributed into English; eventually, I felt language had to be distributed into culture! That opened the door to my interest in anthropology. But the minute it pushed me into anthropology, it also pushed me into the discussion of the nonverbal as well as verbal behavior of a family at breakfast, at a church service, and at a football game. This in turn eventually pointed me not only to anthropology but to the psychology underlying components of cultural structure and eventually to an attempt to understand presuppositions of human behavior which are universal. This forced me to write in philosophy - materials that were finally summarized only this year in Talk, Thought, and Thing.

AK: In listening to your fine lectures during the 1965 Linguistic Institute in Ann Arbor and many other splendid presentations over the years, I know you have been interested in linguistic theory - or should I say theories? - for a large part of your career. What are some of the basic theoretical principles, for example, in linguistic concepts, that you consider to be basic to human nature? Why do you consider them to be universal?

KP: There can be no human nature, as we know it, unless people can tell x from y: we have to be able to distinguish a tree from a dog. Similarly, there can be no human life unless we can recognize that John is still John after he has grown for 24 hours. Nor can we understand human nature in any culture unless we can see that an individual belongs to a family or to a nation or to a language group or is a part of some larger structure. Similarly, we must be able to understand an item as intelligible from different perspectives; we must all be able to see that an item is somehow a "thing" even though we see it "growing" or "changing" and even though we recognize its importance to a system. That is, we can all observe things as either particle, wave, or field. Similarly, every language must be able to talk about certain background situations, whether physical or social or mental, which have a kind of constancy in our understanding of them, even though we can talk about them in different ways. In English, we can give a result before we discuss its cause, for example, but that does not change our assumption that there is a cause. These universals are summarized in Linguistic Concepts [1982] and, again, in Talk, Thought, and Thing.

AK: I have heard you speak Mixtec and Spanish; however, you are not really known as a polyglot. Still, it is well known that you have helped analyze as many as a couple of hundred languages, either in phonology or grammar. How could you help analyze so many languages when you speak so few?

KP: I am not a United Nations interpreter; most of those folks would speak more languages than I do. But by working on Phonetics I attempted to describe all the sounds which I had read about, plus all of those which I could imagine by mental experiments with my mouth and tongue and throat. Fifty years later, after our institute has worked in close to a thousand languages, I've heard of only a few sounds which were not implicit in that book. One of them was a flapping of the lip rather than of the tongue tip somewhere in West Africa; another was made with the tongue sticking out and down toward the chin in Pirahá, a language of Brazil. A third was in the Ocaina language of Peru, where one finds a rounding of the tongue inside the mouth rather than the rounding of the lips to make a front rounded vowel. It is the generalization about all kinds of sounds, from my articulatory starting point, which has allowed me to enter into work helping people with their phonetics. Similarly, the study of the ways of putting sounds together into groups has led to universals of phonemic procedure, and the study of ways of putting words in sequences to universals of grammar, with their variability, such that one had, in Goodman's [1978] terms, "radical relativism under rigid restraints."

AK: Anyone who looks through your bibliography, compiled by Ruth Brend [1987], cannot help but be amazed at the variety of topics on which you have written. How do you explain it?

KP: The average student picks his topic for writing from the current state of the art or from materials on the frontier of the discipline. My topics arose from my attempts to help students and colleagues whenever I found them having difficulty studying any language. I would jump down into the ditch with them and try to boost them out. The topics were chosen in relationship to people who were having difficulty analyzing preliterate languages. This led to variety in my interests and in my writings.

AK: I have seen you do three or four monolingual demonstrations over the years.1 How did you get started doing these? What significance does the monolingual demonstration have for language learning, linguistic theory, and philosophical theory?

KP: In 1936, when Townsend asked me to teach phonetics at SIL, one of the students said to me, "But you're using an interpreter - what do we do if we don't have an interpreter?" I said, "I will show you; I learned the Mixtec language that way." And then, each year after that, I showed the technique to each class. The significance, however, is philosophically deep. Quine and Ullian [1978] suggest that "observation sentences" (words or phrases gathered in a monolingual demonstration) are basic to all science and knowledge and theory. In addition to this, this implies that all philosophical approaches should have a start in empirical knowledge, in human experience which is intercultural and interpersonal and relates person to thing. In addition, a monolingual demonstration shows beginning students something of the underlying problems of learning a language and thus can encourage them as to the possibility of learning a language even when they don't have an interpreter.

AK: I wonder sometimes what you senior linguists think about the past 50 years of linguistics. What do you think of Noam Chomsky's ideas? What do you think of the cognitive revolution in linguistics?

KP: It has been fascinating to watch the growth of linguistics over the past half century. The Bloch and Trager's insistence on "science," beginning with phonetics and phonemics, was useful but hyperbolic. The Chomsky emphasis upon abstraction of symbols has also been helpful and of deep interest to a number of my colleagues, but I wanted to combine both the empirical and the physical material with the abstract system. The addition of emphasis upon cognitive material helps fill in a holistic view, which is what I need in order to be able to do my job. The cognitive insistence seemed to me to be related to that, and to referential hierarchy in tagmemic theory.

AK: You have been working on experimental syntax over the years. What is it exactly? And with that, how would you answer the question as to what you would do in one of the many languages of Papua New Guinea in which there is no word for "after" or "before"?

KP: By experimental syntax I meant taking a text, numbering the sentences, and then expressing the same material with the sentences in a different order. The implication was that once one had changed the order of the sentences, the grammar had to change, or else the meaning would be changed. In many languages one is able to say, "John came home, he ate supper, he went to the movies," but in English one can change emphasis (or focus) by saying, "John went to the movies after he came home." One can accomplish something of the same kind of impact in Papua New Guinea, however, without using the word "after" if one downplays the first clauses as follows: "Coming home and eating supper, he went to the movies."

AK: What do you mean by matrix linguistics?

KP: Matrix linguistics is showing data in some kind of a structured chart of overlapping rows and columns in two dimensions. In addition, a basic system can be modified as a whole by some simple item which had to be integrated in an analysis with other components to find out the meaning of a particular cell. This then suggested that one could understand more about some of the "Venn-diagram" complexities of Navajo or Algonquin grammar. More recently, I've used matrix linguistics to suggest a possible handling of the reconstruction of historical material.

AK: I have often wondered why you have chosen the terms "particle," "wave," and "field" when they were originally coined in relation to physics.

KP: I adopted the terms after reading Einstein and Infeld on the evolution of physics. I found that this was a convenient way of insisting that the observer is part of the data in the world (with Immanuel Kant, who asserts that we do not know the thing in itself). The observer can choose to look at a sequence of items as if they were separate, in order to talk about phonemes, words, etc., but he also needs to be able to talk about them in terms of fusion, and he doesn't understand them ultimately unless he sees them in relation to a patterned system. Hence particle, wave, and field.

AK: How did you happen to work on the intonation of American English? With your work and that of linguists such as the late Dwight Bolinger [1986, 1989], do you think there is anything left of major importance to be done in this field?

KP: In 1942, Fries asked me to help work on material in Michigan's new English Language Institute. The secretary, Eileen Traver, was disturbed because one student sounded unfriendly; his intonation was not appropriate for English. At her urging, I started to try to find out why there was this problem. I tackled this by utilizing the approach from tone languages which I'd worked out for Mixtec, following the hint from Sapir about Navajo. One can never expect to complete any topic totally; there's always more to know. This is true, I think, because we never know an item in absolute isolation from the world. It's a part of a field, part of a system, part of a framework or phenomenological horizon. Hence the handling of intonation has a long way to go, although I do not know in what direction at the moment. (Someone said that you can "re-dict" the past, but you cannot "predict" the future. There's something very mysterious about the way the paradigmatic handling of intonation shows replaceable components at a particular point in a system and is important in that way, but the syntagmatic relationship of these in sequences is also important [see Pike and Pike 1983:74-103, which also treats voice quality of contrastive types but with different syntagmatic domains (less tied to grammatical units)]. Evelyn Pike [1991] has written on the treatment of intonation rhymes in a poem. Bolinger [1986 and elsewhere] emphasizes intonation pitch in a flowing (syntagmatic) form, but I feel the continuing need for explicit emic attention to contrasts at particular (paradigmatic) points in such a stream of speech. Bolinger shows contrasts between different syntagmatic forms, which are very useful, but I still miss in his work (and the work of others) the paradigmatic explicitly emic nature of the contrasts by levels. In addition, we need emic attention to patterns of units larger than the syllable, where the rhythm units, simple or compound, are in their turn contrastive within a formal systemic pattern.

AK: Your career has, by anyone's standards, been a very distinguished one. What disappointments can you recall: What advice would you give today's young graduate students in linguistics who want to be full-time, professional linguists?

KP: Regrets may be stimuli for work. As I've stated earlier, when I could not analyze the tones of Mixtec, I took the opportunity to ask Sapir about them. Sapir stimulated me to work on tone languages in general, which led in turn to my being able to help many people. I advise young graduate students to try to understand something about all of the available theories in vogue. For many years I would have my students read and ask questions about theories which at the moment were not helpful, on the assumption that eventually some component of them would be. In addition, I've encouraged students to try to understand particular personalities in the discipline, feeling that if they could understand how and when and where a scholar started working on something and broke through to something useful, they could then have a better understanding of the complicated "present. "

AK: Writing must be easy for you, since you've done so much of it. What advice can you give us about how to write scholarly prose?

KP: Actually, I have found writing very difficult. In college, in a winter in Boston, in front of an open window just in my underclothing, I'd try to write a term paper, in deep sweat. Part of my ability to write came later, when I wrote to my sister across Oaxaca about the tone language I was beginning to analyze. It may be helpful, therefore, for a person to try to be useful to someone else and at first ignore the length or size or style of writing which is normally required in order to get moving.

AK: As the developer of the linguistic paradigm called tagmemics, you are of course partial to that linguistic theory. If you could not be a tagmemicist, which other theory or theories would be attractive to you? Knowing that it is impossible to predict, where do you see linguistic theory going for the remainder of the decade?

KP: Before I was a tagmemicist, I was interested in the work of Sapir in relation to his anthropology and the work of Bloomfield in relation to his important contributions on structure. Bloch was useful to me in understanding English vowel structure. In an attempt to comprehend Chomsky, I studied some mathematics to try to understand formalism, which is not my style but which I wanted to know more about. Currently the discipline seems to be moving toward text analysis and cognitive components.

AK: Recently you told me you had become very interested in science fiction. How does that relate to your philosophical approach to linguistics?

KP: I have claimed that there are various absolute universals of human thought and behavior and that if any one of them were canceled one could not think rationally. I cannot prove any of these proposed underlying universals to be true. One would disprove one of these universals if one were able to write a hundred pages without relying on it implicitly or explicitly. I have dreamed, therefore, of writing a science fiction story eliminating one of these universals (for example, contrast, variation, distribution; particle, wave, and field; hierarchy; etc.) My model is Flatland (Abbott 1952), which had a two-dimensional, not a three-dimensional, universe - which was fun and "almost" succeeded. These universals are simultaneously linguistic and philosophical generalizations.

AK: When the history of 20th-century linguistics is the written, what do you think your place in it will be?

KP: I do not know where my material will fit in history 100 years from now. My best guess would be to look at the footnotes of the last ten years. The only concept of mine which is mentioned often is emics/etics. Perhaps this idea will survive because it insists on the relationship of the observer to the data, as against an abstract science in which the observer is somehow eliminated in principle even when this would be impossible in fact. I think, too, that the phoneme may be reborn; it is too basic to be lost forever. And we still refer to some variety of declension from 2,000 years ago and to verbs and nouns. I'm also frequently referring my students to the term sandhi, from the Sanskrit grammarians centuries ago. It would be fun if the word "emics" were to last somewhat like that.

AK: Can you tell us something about your "insider/outsider debate" with Marvin Harris at the 1988 annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association [Headland, Pike, and Harris 1990]? This debate has to do with your and Harris's versions of the emic/etic concept first coined by you in 1954 and subsequently used by Harris [1964 and later]. Has this historic "meeting of the minds" produced any agreement between you? Also, would you like to debate Chomsky one day in a similar fashion?

KP: I have come to appreciate very much Harris's view of the importance of infrastructure in understanding human history. He knows ever so much more about that than I do. His appreciation of its importance in affecting choices is valuable. When one is studying history which is not recorded in manuscripts, furthermore, one must study garbage heaps and other necessary sources of information. I gladly grant that fact, and I can see how it pushed Harris's attention in that direction. In contrast, I had no such data readily accessible but only live speakers talking together. This forced me to listen to stated (or implicit) purposes for choices based on current social relations and social interaction. As a result, my approach focused on choices, and it faced alternatives and sociocultural pressures as above, deriving in part from important needs for food and clothing. In turn, this eventually led me to treat social interaction as a starting point, with emic relations between people, as crucial to understanding people. For me, then, the need to have a generalized background framework available as a source of all human choices led me to note an etic structure (of phonetics, first) from which emic variability could be seen in particular cultures. Thus, for me, etic universal background pattern and emic culturally specific pattern were always intertwined and thus could not be treated separately, or first one, then the other, or as one as outside the mind, the other inside it. I want a holistic view from the beginning. (I may, however, have failed to represent Harris's view correctly; it astonished me to see how difficult it was for each of us to clearly understand and fairly represent the other's views.) For me, it continues to be crucial for anthropology to see the need for both a generalized etic pattern of available behavior actions in a physical and social world situation and a specifically localized and emically formalized one for a specific language or culture.

As to your query about my possible interest in a debate with Chomsky, my answer would have to be negative. It is not that I do not appreciate Chomsky's important contribution to the linguistic field (I had him lecture to my graduate students at Michigan years ago); his ideas have been impressive, and he has forced the discipline to look more closely at various kinds of inborn human capacities or important structural relations. But I do not control the literature of Chomsky himself, including its growth of topics, or the vast literature which has grown out of it. In addition, I do not see how I would have any probability of adding to his kind of abstract contribution.

AK: Why is it that linguistics is not taught in high schools? If it were, how would that benefit the field as a whole? Do you think it will ever be taught in our public schools (like English, math, etc.)?

KP: I think that linguistics is in fact taught in the high schools but not by that name. I would think, although I am not in a position to say, that high school students study something about the paradigms of Latin grammar (nominative, accusative, etc.) or subjects and predicates. I had a vague feeling a few years ago that descriptive linguistics, under the impetus of Charles Fries and others, was getting ready to have more of an impact on that level of teaching, but it was temporarily derailed by the strong emphasis placed on the transformational grammar of that era. Perhaps some of the old Latin-Greek material will come back again, combined a bit with some kind of descriptive linguistics, if a way is found to make it intelligible at that level. I would hope that in classes on writing and on the analysis of literature more emphasis would be placed on textual structures from the viewpoint of some combination of linguistic theories. For teaching composition, specific mention of structural components such as particle, wave, and field might be helpful [see Young, Becker, and Pike 1970].

AK: Linguistics and anthropology were certainly very close in Sapir's day, but today's generative linguists are, it seems to me, not interested in culture. Can you give us your impressions on this changing relationship and where is it going in the next millennium?

KP: At the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association there have often been sessions on anthropological linguistics, which included descriptive papers some of which would have been appropriate in the 1940S. (At the last AAA meeting in Washington, D.C., in 1993, eight such sessions were held, all sponsored by the Society of Linguistic Anthropology and several of which I attended.) An anthropologist who wishes to study the culture of a preliterate society must often either deal with the structure of that language or else study it through an interpreter, whose comments may not be as helpful as the insights available to the analyst who also speaks it. These researchers differ from that subset of linguists who in the 1960s were largely interested in studying well-known languages (especially those which they spoke themselves) and abstract structures. It seemed to me, however, that the aim of Sapir included both the description of culture and of specific language meaning and form (including languages which had not been written). Currently, however, a major change is in process (in my own restricted view) in some linguistic research. Scholars are studying the structure of stories, folktales, arguments, written narratives, other text material, and language in relation to social activity. In addition, there is more attention being paid to the cognitive structure lying behind such texts and situations. This combination forces scholars to look more closely at human nature in relation to society rather than merely in relation to some abstract sentence structures. I would hope that these trends will continue, both because I think they are important and because of my personal interest in them since 1954. That interest may be seen in my holistic approach to language and society and, more recently, philosophy. I believe that an understanding of people (important to anthropologists) involves an integrated view of people with garbage, with government, with family, and with thought. I hope that this will develop holistically over the next millennium! (If not, why should we choose to lose interest in people in favor of abstract math?)

AK: I have always considered myself a linguistic anthropologist or an anthropological linguist (in the tradition of Franz Boas, Edward Sapir, and the latter's many prolific students, some of whom were my own teachers). How close do you view your own work, as well as the contributions of your contemporaries such as Joseph H. Greenberg or Dell H. Hymes (two linguistic anthropologists who have accomplished much in very long careers), to have been a part of linguistic anthropology in the Sapirian tradition? Also, is the genre of scholarship going to survive, considering the Chomskyan revolution in theoretical formal linguistics?

KP: Ever since I studied with Sapir in the summer of 1937, I have felt closely allied to his approach differentiating phonemic from phonetic likenesses (notice my 28 references to him in the index to my 1967 volume). These principles are too deeply ingrained in human nature to be forever bypassed (even by a revolutionary approach which is for the moment ignoring them while making, also, an enduring contribution to the discipline). Scholars will either "reinvent the wheel" or return to them indirectly in some form. They are already doing so in relation to text linguistics, for example, and in noting the cognitive relevance to language background. It is important to realize, however, that such changes are not just circular, coming back to the same starting point, but (as I said in 1991) rather simultaneously circling around while traveling upward in a helix.

Anthropologists have joined in this upward-circular struggle. This can be seen in the work of Dundes [1962], treating folktales in relation to etics and emics, and in the work of Hymes, which includes narrative structure, speech acts, and conversational inference and considers them "not matters of anthropology and linguistics alone" [Hymes 1990:125]. I am delighted to see the growth of the joint field both where I would have hoped for it and where I would never have imagined its contribution.

References Cited

ABBOTT, EDWIN A. 1952. 6th edition, revised. Flatland: A romance of many dimensions. New York: Dover.

ALATIS, JAMES E. 1993. Presentation of the Dean's Medal to Kenneth L. Pike," in Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics 1992. Edited by James E. Alatis, pp. 4-5. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.

BLOOMFIELD, LEONARD. 1933. Language. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

BOLINGER, DWIGHT L. 1986. Intonation and its parts: Melody in spoken English. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

———. 1989. Intonation and its uses: Melody in grammar and discourse. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

BREND, RUTH M. Compiler. 1987. Kenneth Lee Pike bibliography. Bloomington: Eurasian Linguistic Association.

GOODMAN, NELSON. 1978. Ways of world making Indianapolis: Hockett.

HARRIS, MARVIN. 1964. The nature of cultural things. New York: Random House.

HEADLAND, THOMAS N., KENNETH L. PIKE, AND MARVIN HARRIS. Editors. Iggo. Emics and etics: The inside /outsider debate. Newbury Park: Sage.

HYMES, DELL H. 1990. "Emics, etics, and openness: An ecumenical approach," in Emics and etics: The insider/outsider debate. Edited by Thomas N. Headland, Kenneth L. Pike, and Marvin Harris, pp. 110-16. Newbury Park: Sage.

PIKE, EVELYN G. 1991. The higher levels of the phonological structure of a poem. Paper presented at an intonation symposium at the Albert-Ludwigs University, Freiburg, Germany, July 2.

PIKE, KENNETH L. 1943. Phonetics: A critical analysis of phonetic theory and a technique for the practical description of sounds. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

———. 1947. Grammatical prerequisites to phonemic analysis. Word 3:15-71.

———. 1948. Tone languages: A technique for determining the number and type of pitch contrasts in a language, with studies in tonemic substitution and fusion. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

———. 1967. 2d edition. Language in relation to a unified theory of the structure of human behavior. The Hague: Mouton. (First edition in three volumes: 1954, 1955, 1960.)

———. 1977. Into the unknown. (Pike on Language Program 5, on 3.4-inch videocassettes (NTSC standard) and 16mm kinescopes.) Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Television Center.

———. 1982. Linguistic concepts. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press.

———. 1993. Talk, thought, and thing: The emic road toward conscious knowledge. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.

PIKE, KENNETH L., AND EVELYN G. PIKE. 1983. Text and tagmeme. Norwood: Ablex.

QUINE, WILLARD V., AND J. S. ULLIAN. 1978. 2d edition The web of belief. New York: Random House.

YOUNG, RICHARD E., ALTON BECKER, AND KENNETH L. PIKE. 1970. Rhetoric: Discovery and change. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.


1. In these demonstrations, a moderator would bring someone up someone onto the stage whom Pike had never met before and whose mother tongue was a language he had never heard before. Pike would then proceed, without an interpreter and without using a word of English, to learn and analyze aspects of the informant's language. Audiences never ceased to be amazed when, within half an hour, the two would be conversing in the person's native tongue. Five of Pike's special presentations, including a monolingual demonstration (Pike 1977), have been filmed and are available from the University of Michigan.