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Forum A NECESSARY DISCIPLINE: HISTORICAL ROMANCE LINGUISTICS Martin Maiden Oxford Volume 31.2 of this journal carried a Critical Cluster Historical Romance Linguistics. The death ofa discipline? edited by Steven Dworkin. The title, as he admits in his introduction, "Thoughts on the future of a venerable and vital discipline", is a pessimistic and deliberately provocative one, inspired in fact by a lecture of George Greenia ("Science as (Pre)Text and die Death of a Discipline"), who provided the initial encouragement to organize the Cluster. Dworkin says that the title elicited reactions from some of those invited to contribute ranging from surprise to outrage; I was among them, but my response was, perhaps, die most extreme of all: I declined. My reason was that the title ran the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy (I may have used the word "suicidal"). Even in die academic community we live in an age of soundbites, and "death of a discipline" could turn out to be a deadi sentence, especially in die already difficult situation described in Dworkin's introduction, where in some US universities, and to some extent in Europe, graduate programmes in the field are currently in decline. Undaunted by my surly rebuff, Steven Dworkin has been kind enough to give me a second chance, by inviting me to overview the whole Cluster. I still think that the original title may have been unfortunate , but die exercise has unquestionably been a most valuable one, and the result deserves to be read not only by odier Romance linguists, but by historical linguists at large. Of course, the question whether Romance linguistics is a "dying discipline" needs to be answered on two levels which are not as intimately connected as they would be in an La corónica 32.2 (Spring, 2004): 215-21 216Martin MaidenLa corónica 32.2, 2004 ideal world: (a) has die whole enterprise of Romance linguistics run out of intellectual steam? and, (b), is die field at risk of losing its representation in universities? That the answer to (a) is overwhelmingly "no", and that to (b) is "yes" (but in some countries and institutions more so than others), is unsurprising. Turkeys are unlikely to vote for Christmas, and asking a body ofRomance linguists such a question will radier predictably elicit such answers. It is perhaps a pity that a dissenting voice could not have been found, but then I cannot easily imagine ubo might have been called on to provide such a voice. For historical Romance linguistics is possibly suffering more from neglect radier dian from any coherent intellectual or political opposition, and the real issue is how to harness the powerful intellectual case made in this Cluster to a strategy that will advertise the importance of the subject and help ensure diat it maintains a firm hold in universities. The consensus emerging from the Cluster is that, far from being a moribund and desiccated backwater, historical Romance linguistics constitutes a discipline whose dynamism and potential lies in its possibly unique capacity to deploy evidence from multiple related languages, at multiple stages in their histories, and from multiple types of attestations . Its great weakness is comparimelitalization and attendant lack of focus, manifested in the inability both of the institutions that host our discipline, and of many of us as its practitioners, to embrace the full complexity of the field. Indeed it is perhaps significant that one respect in which several contributors gave the subject a clean bill of healdi was at the level ofinternational conferences and specialistjournals : precisely fora in which the multiple facets of the subject are best able to interact. The term "historical Romance linguistics" is arguably tautologous. Romance linguistics is, by definition,1 a comparative subject, where any comparison of genetically related languages inevitably leads to reflection on historical evolution. Romance historical linguistics is at its most powerful, insightful and intellectually demanding when it is most fully comparative, with its practitioners commanding and integrating die great wealth of sources of evidence at our disposal. There is a strong consensus among the contributors to this effect.Jerry Craddock's "Reflection on a premature intimation of impending doom" clearly iden1 I am not certain that every contributor...


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