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Letters to Language

From: Language
Volume 84, Number 3, September 2008
pp. 469-470 | 10.1353/lan.0.0032

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Language accepts letters from readers that briefly and succinctly respond to or comment upon either material published previously in the journal or issues deemed of importance to the field. The editor reserves the right to edit letters as needed. Brief replies from relevant parties are included as warranted.

What's in a name? Plenty!

June 14, 2008

To the Editor:

Language has apparently lost its editorial memory regarding J Milton Cowan's name.

In the obituary by Mark L. Louden for William G. Moulton in the March 2008 issue (Language 84.1.161–69), Cowan's name appears in full form twice, on p. 164 and in the references on p. 168. In both cases it is given as 'J. Milton Cowan'. As Charles A. Hockett noted in the second paragraph of his 1995 obituary for Cowan (Language 71.2.341–48), there is no period after the J in Cowan's name. There are still more than a few of us who remember Cowan citing his own name as 'J, no period, Milton Cowan'.

Certainly this has been a bane for past editors, copyeditors, and writers, and perhaps it is an idiosyncrasy that will have to succumb to the passage of time, but I would be sorry to see that happen. Cowan was LSA president in 1966, our secretary-treasurer from 1941 to 1950, and surely deserving of an effort to flag the proper form of his name for future editorial staff members.

Editor's reply: I am pleased to learn this interesting detail about one of our illustrious past presidents, and gladly stand corrected. Names do matter, and had we realized this fact, we would have done it right in the first place. We are printing a formal correction at the end of this section, which has the advantage that it will forever be linked to the original in the electronic version of Language.

National Museum of Language open for business

July 2, 2008

To the Editor:

We must all be grateful to David Crystal for his call to arms in support of the International Year of Languages (IYL) in 2008 in his recent Letter to Language of March 14 (Language 84.2.215–16). Comprehensive as his review is of the realities and possibilities of such a celebration, I must point out an important omission: the existence of the National Museum of Language (NML) in College Park, Maryland. Don Osborn had alerted us to the IYL and sought our support as we were completing the final arrangements for opening to the public, but our efforts then were necessarily concentrated on our own immediate goal. Since its incorporation in December 1997 the NML has pursued its mission of creating an operating museum dedicated to the entire field of language, serving and open to the general public. The Museum did open to the public to much acclaim on May 3, 2008, featuring an exhibit with the theme 'Writing language: Passing it on'. This successful event was supported by the City of College Park, the University of Maryland's Center for Heritage Resource Studies, the Museum of the Alphabet of Waxhaw, North Carolina, and the National Capital Language Resource Center of Washington, DC. The Museum is now open to the public ten days a month. Its schedule and activities may be found on our website, www.languagemuseum.org.

We should not neglect to mention other collaborators whose friendship and help have given us hope for the future. For the past several years we have been fortunate to have the encouragement of SIL International, which has been most generous with its advice, support, and cooperation in our programs.

We are also grateful for the past support of the NML by the Linguistic Society of America, which was early and real. In May 1999, just a year after the NML elected its first Board of Directors, several members of our Board were privileged to meet with the LSA Executive Committee to present to them the origins and mission of the NML. Subsequently the LSA became an institutional member of the Museum, a connection it continued until two or three years ago, when it declined to renew its membership. We naturally regretted the...

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