Antti Arppe, Juhani Järvikivi
September 25, 2006
Geoffrey Sampson has for quite some time now argued for an empirical basis of linguistics, as he has done in earlier works (e. g., Sampson 2001) as well as in this paper under discussion. It seems, however, that Sampson has hitherto considered only corpus-based evidence as sufficiently empirical, and he sees little or no role, not only for intuition, but also for experimentation, because he sees no difference with the researcher's own intuition and that of an (external) informant, characterizing this as “merely treat[ing] the informant's intuition rather the linguist's as the source of authority.” (2005: 28). In his present paper, it now seems that Sampson has fallen into a pessimistic stance not far from defeatism, when he asserts that not even corpora can provide reliable evidence on rare linguistic items and phenomena. And if one considers corpora as the only reliable source of empirical evidence in linguistics, and intuition as the only but in effect unreliable alternative, this is, of course, a conclusion that one could possibly reach. However, in our opinion Sampson's analysis is at times incoherent and often fallacious, and his view of the range of methods and sources of evidence available to linguistic research in general is too restricted, to say the least.