Superficial scholarship

Reading a recent article by Karl Kruszelniski on ‘How many words for snow do eskimos know’- resonated with thoughts on what constitutes academic scholarship. It  also highlights that we are better to have ‘open’ online knowledge environments to expose the myths, rather than wait 46+ years as this story reveals.    The myth about eskimo snow apparently started by an anthropologist Franz Boas in 1911 in a essay (Introduction to the Handbook of American Indian Languages) he gave four examples of words that eskimos used for snow. But in 1940 a linguist Benjamin Whorf wrote an article implying there were seven eskimo words for snow. This ‘fact’ was misquoted over again in1978 Lanford Wilson’s play Fifth of July claimed there were 50 words. In 1984 a bumper year (says Karl) – bumped the numbere of words to 100 . Second Cleveland TV in a weather forecast claimed there were 200 words. Finally in 1986 Prof Laura Martin of Cleveland University tracked this thread of the myth, calling it “an object lesson on the hazards of superficial scholarship”.


About thand

I'm a currently working at NSW Departrment of Education & Training, Connected Classrooms Program, Sydney.
This entry was posted in Informal learning, information organising, knowledge, Net Gen, open content, Web2, Wikis. Bookmark the permalink.

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