Lisa sent me this message (after trying to post a comment, and finding the blogomat wouldn’t let her post):
Thanks for the response to my question. This is exactly the sort of discussion/clarification I was hoping to elicit. My issue was really that Steve Anderson seemed to be talking past much of what John said.
I came away from John’s talk (as did others, I think, based on comments I’ve gotten on my comment) understanding that he was advocating shifting the focus of linguistic study away from what happens inside the head to the data that exists in the world. I think I see now that he’s saying that such a near-term shift in focus is compatible with a long-term goal of understanding the mind, right? But the idea of moving away from the mind/brain as an object of study came through much more forcefully in the talk.
I’m sympathetic to that view as a data-oriented person myself. But I was struck when one of Steve’s first points stated that it was uncontroversial that the proper object of linguistic study was human cognition. And certainly by the end of his talk, though it came across obliquely, Steve seemed to be saying that neurolinguistics was the wave of the future. And that does seem to be at odds with John’s view.
Anyway, on the surface at least, the two talks seemed to be advocating moving the field in very different directions, and I was really hoping for more clarification on the subject, so that we all could better understand the compatibilities and differences.