Ramon Ferrer-i-Cancho is professor of computer science at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.
Discussion is the “daily bread” of science. Some problems are discussed for decades in separate articles and journals, other ones are the objects of conferences or omnibus volumes. Often, the critical point disappears because a new “school” does not consider it worth of discussion. Mostly, the criticized author does not even learn that his approach had some weak points because one cannot read everything and the critics do not send him their discovery. Even if today it is simple to convey news, it is easier to wait until the concerned author himself reacts – it can take several years and usually, in some years, the problem is not topical any more.
One should not forget that in science, we construct views, not truths, and try to corroborate plausible hypotheses as well as possible. Unfortunately, there are as many languages as there are Men, because everybody uses even the same language differently. There is no final corroboration because there are always some boundary conditions which cannot be captured by a quantitative linguist and do not interest a qualitative linguist. Qualitative linguistics searches for rules and enumerates the exceptions, quantitative linguistics searches for models of phenomena and tests the models, just as in physics. In quantitative linguistics one gets deeper and is ready to abandon a falsified hypothesis; in qualitative linguistics one adheres to a “school” and follows the prescriptions just as in a religion. Projects are accepted only if they are in line with the dominant school – represented by the members of the commissions.
Editorial board, Glottometrics 33, 2016