LINGUIST List 5.1226

Thu 03 Nov 1994

Disc: "linguist"

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  1. Steven Schaufele, research vs. performance activities and professional labels
  2. , A linguist by any other name...
  3. TONY HALL, "Linguist/-ician": a new slant.

Message 1: research vs. performance activities and professional labels

Date: Fri, 28 Oct 1994 10:43:08 research vs. performance activities and professional labels
From: Steven Schaufele <>
Subject: research vs. performance activities and professional labels

Karl Teeter's remark in LINGUIST 5-1187,

> And the ambiguity is not all that bad: think of all the
> opportunities you have been offered to present an introductory
> lecture on linguistics in answer to the question "how many languages do
> you speak?". And also, as an occupational hazard, the linguist does often
> tend to become a polyglot, willy-nilly...then the ambiguity
> actually applies, and you can answer, "Oh, 92", as Eric Hamp was once
> reputed to do.

reminded me of a similar problem i had back in the '70's, before i
realized i would be happier in linguistics, when i was pursuing graduate
work in musicology (for anyone unsure on the subject, i'll jump the gun
and explain that, semantically if not morphologically, 'musicology' is to
'music' as 'linguistics' is to 'language'). Often at social gatherings,
when i would be asked 'what do you do?' and i would say 'i'm a musicolo-
gist', the next line would be, 'Oh? What instrument do you play?' Since
i was never a particularly good instrumentalist (or more than a passable
singer), this always struck me as a somewhat embarrassing question, but i
would gamely swing into a brief explanation that musicology was a
research, not a performance, activity. Nowadays i often get the 'How
many languages do you speak?' line, which isn't quite as embarrassing
because i actually am fairly polyglot, and i admit that, with Karl, i
appreciate the opportunity to give the brief explanation. (A couple of
weeks ago i had to deal with a barber who very intelligently refused to
jump to any conclusions at all and instead straight-out requested a
definition of 'linguistics'.)


Dr. Steven Schaufele
712 West Washington
Urbana, IL 61801

**** O syntagmata linguarum liberemini humanarum! ***
*** Nihil vestris privari nisi obicibus potestis! ***
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Message 2: A linguist by any other name...

Date: Mon, 31 OCT 94 16:33:31 BSA linguist by any other name...
From: <>
Subject: A linguist by any other name...

Given the current vigorous linguist vs linguistician debate, another potential
title in the arena might not be terribly welcome, but at least it could, for a
while, divert attention away from the existing debate which seems to be
languishing (i.e. getting nowhere). A friend of mine who is a medic suggested
the nominalized form 'linguistic' ('I am a linguistic'), based on the model of
medic/cleric. I suppose 'medic' and 'cleric' can occur as nominal forms on
account of the derivational gap left by 'medical' and 'clerical'. However,
'linguistical' has been cited, so perhaps we could shift everything across one
derivation, thus allowing the sentence 'We linguistics enjoy linguistical
questions'. I hesitate to suggest 'linguisticine' as the name of our subject.

A R Linn
Department of languages and linguisticine, U of Luton
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Message 3: "Linguist/-ician": a new slant.

Date: 2 Nov 94 17:02:25 BST
From: TONY HALL <>
Subject: "Linguist/-ician": a new slant.

I have been quite happy so far to sit back and let the discourse
about the relative merits of the terms "linguist" and "linguistician"
unfold unhampered by any intervention from me. I am, first and
foremost, a lover of language(s); a person who studies language(s),
their history and their "idiosyncrasies". I call myself a "linguist".
I might add that I do NOT myself fully understand the theories
propounded by those who call themselves "linguist[ician]s"(in the
sense of someone engaged in "linguistics", that is), nor do I
really care WHAT precisely they choose to call themselves (or their
area of study). Do "physicists" and "physicians" have the same
argument, I wonder?! I doubt it.

Quite coincidentally of this discourse, Enid Wai-Ching Mok
(<>) circulated recently a questionnaire
for information on the terms "linguist" and "linguistics" in various
languages. I happened upon an entry in her summary supposedly
explaining the two Russian terms "jazykoved" (linguist) and
"jazykoznanie" (linguistics). These were offered by a certain Woody
Mott also of <>: they were so infelicitous in
their detail and ill construed in their interpretation that I was
impelled to reply to this entry and (as a "linguist") correct certain
misconceptions. Allow me to summarise:

Notwithstanding the argument whether these words are current or
not in Russian, I think an explanation of their etymology may be
of some use to the general discourse on the merits of "linguist"
vs. "linguistician". The word "jazykoved" is composed of 2 roots:
"jazyk", meaning "tongue" or "language" and "ved", meaning
"knowledgeable person" (cognates for "ved" (< Old Russian "vEdEti" (E
= the vowel 'jat')) "knowing person", PACE Woody Mott, are Sanskrit
"ve:da", Gothic "wait", and English "wit"). The "-o-" is here merely
a link vowl. A suitable English calque on the Russian term,
therefore, would be "tongue-wit".

This, in turn, reminded me of an article some years ago in which
"Saxonist" terms were advanced in favour of "Latinate" heresies in
the English-speaking world. Thus, we have FOREWORD for "preface" (the
argument here goes back to 1842); BODEFUL for "ominous"; BIRDLORE for
"ornithology", etc., etc. I'm sure we are bounded only by time and
our imaginations as to other suggestions.

Mindful of the fact that there are probably many among you who are
staunch adherents of the "Latinate" tradition, and not wishing in any
way to alienate or belittle that corpus of English vocabulary, I
should, nevertherless, like to propose two alternatives to "linguist"
and "linguistics" based on the "Saxonist" principles above.

TONGUE-WIT (noun) "a person versed/skilled in [the study of]
TONGUE-LORE (noun) "the study of language(s)"

I leave it to the individual "linguist[ician]" to choose whether
these terms are suited to their own area of study. I think that the
"Saxonist" terms do have the advantage at least of smacking of down-
to-earth prurience and a lack of self-importance. A similar term
"tonguester", suggested earlier, is an admirable alternative. I for
one am quite happy to call myself a "tongue-wit" engaged in "tongue-
lore" -- others, I hope, will follow and leave the "linguist[ician]s"
to sort themselves out.

Tony Hall.*********************************************************************
*** Tony Hall
*** Department of Russian Language
*** University of Birmingham
*** Edgbaston Tel: +44 (0)21 414 3227
*** Birmingham B15 2TT Fax: +44 (0)21 414 5966
*** United Kingdom Email:
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