LINGUIST List 5.1157

Fri 21 Oct 1994

Disc: "linguist"

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Bruce Nevin, Linguistician
  2. , Re: 5.1147 "linguistician"
  3. Gwyn Williams, "Linguist" in other languages?
  4. , linguistician
  5. Theriault Alain, "linguistic scientist".

Message 1: Linguistician

Date: Wed, 19 Oct 1994 17:32:03 Linguistician
From: Bruce Nevin <bnevinLightStream.COM>
Subject: Linguistician

Merriam-Webster (Webster's 10th Collegiate Dictionary) gives 1895 as
first citation date for the term linguistician, but no example.

I checked in the file /usr/dict/words on a Sun UNIX system. Here are the
-ician words for which there are obvious -ics words from which they may
be considered derived:

academician 1748 academics?
diagnostician ?? diagnostics
mathematician 15c mathematics
pediatrician 1903 pediatrics
politician 1589 politics
statistician 1825 statistics
tactician 1798 tactics

A few words have only -ic words correlative: logic, magic, music
(probably not clinic). These come up again further on. Physician
(below) is etymologically from physic, but that is not a lively
derivational source for it today--along with leeches, thank goodness!

I sense no demeaning wannabe associations of the sort cited for
e.g. beautician with the above words, with the possible exception of
academician (and that one may be for irrelevant reasons).

Now this dictionary file is notoriously spotty in its coverage. As an
indication, note that none of the above -ics words occurs in it! (More
on these -ics words in a moment.) With that caveat, here are the
remaining -ician words found in the file:

physician 13c Specialists, perhaps on the model of physician.
clinician 1875 Except for physician, these have wannabe
dietician 1846 connotations, at least to my mind. for a
mortician 1895 stronger whiff, add beautician, etc.

geometrician 15c [vs. geometrist] These are perhaps
logician ?? [*not* vs. logicist!] modelled after
theoretician (?) 1886 [vs. theorist] mathematician.
 No pejoration.

technician 1833 No pejoration with these either.
electrician 1869 Perhaps technology is sufficiently prestigious.

magician 14c (Magician, the original technician?)
musician 14c With physician (13c), these are all of
patrician 15c greater antiquity, and bear no wannabe taint
rhetorician 15c whatsoever.

I mentioned that none of the above -ics words occurs in the file.
Instead we find only the following, for which there are no -ician words:
astrophysics, cybernetics, geophysics, radiophysics, and robotics.
Interestingly, these all correlate with -icist words, on the model of
physicist, which in turn was coined (1840) in full flight from the already
established physician. These are all scientists or kindred occupations.
But for pernicious alliteration, we might be considering linguisticist.
Sounds like a term reserved for the scientism of linguistics.

 Bruce Nevin
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Message 2: Re: 5.1147 "linguistician"

Date: Wed, 19 Oct 94 23:14:13 EDRe: 5.1147 "linguistician"
From: <>
Subject: Re: 5.1147 "linguistician"

I may have missed part of this discussion but (a) is it not the case
that the terms 'linguisti' and 'linguistics' were invented in order
to differentiate the Sprachwissenschaft from "mere" philology and
grammar, and (b) if so and if we today no longer care about the
academic politics of the era whent his happened and indeed are
happy to count everybody from Dionysius Thrax to Lachmann to
Chomsky as being basically engaged in the same pursuit, then why
not resurrect grammar and grammarian as the proper terms?
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Message 3: "Linguist" in other languages?

Date: Thu, 20 Oct 1994 18:45:08 "Linguist" in other languages?
From: Gwyn Williams <>
Subject: "Linguist" in other languages?

I wonder what terms languages other than English have for "linguist".
Thai has /nakphaasaasaat/ - /saat/ 'science', /phaasaa/ 'language', /nak/
'person, one who undertakes activity in'.

Gwyn Williams <>
Linguistics, Thammasat University, Bangkok
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Message 4: linguistician

Date: Thu, 20 Oct 1994 11:43:28 linguistician
From: <>
Subject: linguistician

I'm surprised linguists don't use dictionaries. Here's the entry from the
OED2 online:

linguistician (lIjgwI'stI^&schwa.n). [See -ICIAN.] One who is versed in
 1895 E. W. FAY in Amer. Jrnl. Philol. XVI. 10 This identification of
the earlier `linguisticians' has been latterly abandoned. 1897 Classi-
cal Rev. 94 The earliest linguisticians regarded v in the words for
twenty as a by-form of dv .1949 Studies in Ling. VII. 59, I intend to
use linguistician regularly henceforth instead of linguist `worker in
linguistics'. 1950 Studies in Ling. VIII. 1 To one of these, linguisti-
cian, I not only cannot subscribe [etc.]... This meaning, exemplified by
such words as mortician and beautician, implies pretentiousness rather
than precision. 1954 English Studies XXXV. 91 In the absence of
any..description by native linguisticians, these observations by an
experienced teacher of foreign students..deserve the attention. 1967 C.
L. WRENN Word & Symbol 7 If..texts may be properly explained by allegory
and symbolism without any exact knowledge of their language, then the
English language..may as well be left to the linguisticians.
Note Jespersen's comment on linguist in the OED entry for that word:

linguist ('lIjgwIst). [f. L. lingua tongue, language + -IST. Cf. Fr.
linguiste (from 17th c.).]
 1 a One who is skilled in the use of languages; one who is master of
other tongues besides his own. (Often with adj. indicating the degree
or extent of the person's skill.)
 1591 SHAKS. Two Gent. IV. i. 57 Seeing you are beautifide With goodly
shape; and by your owne report A Linguist....(much omitted)
 2 A student of language; a philologist.
 1641 WILKINS Mercury iii. (1707) 12 Many of the other [words]..are of
such secret Sense, as I think no Linguist can discover.

.1922 O. JESPERSEN Lang. 64, I think I am in accor-
dance with a growing number of scholars in England and America if
I..apply the word `linguist' by itself to the scientific student of
language (or of languages).

But I particularly like sense 4:

 4 One who uses his tongue freely or knows how to talk; a master of
language. Obs.
 1588 T. HARRIOTT Virginia (Cent.), Artamockes, the linguist, a bird
that imitateth and useth the sounds and tones of almost all the birds in
the countrie. 1599 T. M[OUFET] Silkwormes 43 All linguists [marg. Pies,
parrats, stares, &c.] eke that beg what hart would craue Selling your
tongues for euery trifle seene As almonds, nuttes [etc.]. 1612 WEBSTER
White Devil V. i, Ile dispute with him. Hee's a rare linguist. 1691
WOOD Ath. Oxon. I. 374 Richard Martin..was a plausible Linguist, and
eminent for Speeches spoken in Parliaments.


Dennis Baron

Department of English 217-333-2392
University of Illinois fax: 217-333-4321
608 South Wright Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801
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Message 5: "linguistic scientist".

Date: Fri, 14 Oct 1994 21:33:15 "linguistic scientist".
From: Theriault Alain <>
Subject: "linguistic scientist".

I would like to come back to Professor Teeter's elitist comment about
some professional groups. I see nothing wrong with the people who
embrace those professions. Besides, doesn't English use the word
"physician" for a medical doctor? As to "linguistic scientist" I think
it is quite "pedant" (sorry, don't know the English word). Who, among
linguists, or should I say "linguistic scientists" realy believe
linguitisitcs to be a science when nobody can agree on anything?
Where could science really be when to persons can discribe the same
object in to opposite ways and still be right because they don't use
the same aproach? I am sorry, ladies and gentlemen of the linguistics
 community, but I just can not see this discipline as a science.

Alain Theriault
Ma. Student
Departement de linguistique traduction
Universite de Montreal

[Moderators' note: we had a lengthy discussion last year about whether
linguistics was a science. It was an interesting discussion, and we don't
mind restarting it if people have more to say. But it can be a hot
topic, so please, no flames, ok? Your moderators hate to censor and also
hate to post messages that offend large segments of the linguistic community;
so kindly save us from this double bind! Thanks! -Helen & Anthony]
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