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What do linguists do?

Written By: daveski on January 25, 2010 1 Comment

Today @langology on Twitter posted a link from 2006 that still seems pertinent today, as the word “linguist” continues to be misused in popular discourse to mean “language cop”, “polyglot”, or worse. This article from boston.com News introduces the writing, work, and thought of Geoffrey Pullum and Mark Liberman, regular bloggers on one of the most longstanding and well-known web sources on all things linguistic, LanguageLog (on the FIT blogroll and a regular star in other Asides).

I’m still not sure, though, that this question from the article points us in the direction we like to take here on this blog, that is, in the applied direction:

how to spread the word that linguists are not polyglots, language cops, or anarchists, but fact-seeking, fun-loving, rule-embracing folks?

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One Response to “What do linguists do?”

  1. Laura and Alfredo Pereira on: 27 January 2010 at 6:00 pm

    We are hosting this discussion below on our Facebook page. Thanks for starting the discussion. Its an engaging topic.

    With the word ‘linguist’ being more and more often misused, when do the masses win? Does linguist already mean something else? Maybe we need another word for what was formally called a ‘linguist’? After all Merriam-Webster dictionary says a linguist is:
    1.a person accomplished in languages; especially : one who speaks several languages
    Its second entry is:
    2 : a person who specializes in linguistics

    Let’s imagine that we need a new word for ‘a person who specializes in linguistics.’ What would that word be?

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