kutsuwamushi: from a Married to the Sea Comic (edumacation)
[personal profile] kutsuwamushi
There's a pretty active linguistics community on Reddit, made up of a handful of graduate students and practicing linguists and a bunch of undergraduates and interested hobbyists.

Many of those who aren't actually linguists are still quite knowledgeable. Some of them would have pursued linguistics but for some bizarre reason chose a career where they had an actual chance of making money, instead. Some of them are into conlanging and have read widely about (descriptive) linguistic typology.

Anyway, the reason I'm taking pains to say nice things about them is because I have a complaint: It's so goddamn annoying when one of them decides to get onto their high horse about what is and isn't linguistics and they're wrong about it.

A frequent theme is WRITING ISN'T LINGUISTICS. It's easy to see where they're coming from. A lot of people, including freshmen who are just starting out in linguistics, believe that writing is the "true" form of language and spoken language is just a variant. It's of course the other way around, and they have to be corrected. We teach them that spoken language is primary, and that written language is just an encoding of it--and all those rules of "proper grammar" that they learn in school are not the kind of grammar we're talking about at all.

It's a pretty frequent problem in these communities that the nuances get lost. So "spoken language is primary" gets turned into "ANY AND ALL QUESTIONS ABOUT WRITING ARE TOTALLY IRRELEVANT." And "linguistics is descriptive, not prescriptive" gets turned into "DESCRIPTIVISM MEANS YOU CAN NEVER CRITICIZE SOMEONE'S LANGUAGE." I mean, when you're an undergraduate, you don't really get the same amount of exposure to the breadth of the type of work that linguists do, or the opinions that they have.

I've started responding to it a bit more, but I think my frustration is starting to bleed through and I'm becoming kind of a dick. I think maybe what I need to do is just create a macro - once - and repost it whenever it comes up.
waketosleep: wonder woman is an equal opportunity misanthrope (DC - wondy hates everyone)
From: [personal profile] waketosleep
lmao I think your first mistake was going on Reddit, especially in a computer science-adjacent topic area.

I'm getting curmudgeonly (my degree and I are celebrating our 10th anniversary next spring) and there are entire classes of people with whom I would rather eat a rusty nail than tell that I studied linguistics. Besides the "so how many languages" and "lol speech pathology" crowd, I've discovered a category of people who will react to this revelation with widened, glistening Disney eyes and the breathless exclamation that they "love language". They're almost universally interested in boring shit like historical/socioling, or orthography nonsense, or semiotics/pragmatics with no foundation in morphosyntax, or lexicography (okay lexicography is okay, I thought about becoming a lexicographer for 10 minutes once), or "proper grammar rules" Strunk and White garbage, or even more tangential stuff that's really for English and other social science majors, and I wind up with the same wooden smile on my face as if they asked how many languages I speak. Ghhhhhh.

I was a syntactician and liked my applied linguistics in the manner of first and second language acquisition. Nobody ever tries to start a conversation with me about THAT. :/

I went and saw Arrival with a friend and basically MST3K'd the whole thing after he attempted to tell me it was reputed to have actual research in it, and I swore up and down that I was gonna write a This Is What Linguistics Actually Is primer slideshow because I was tired of it. I mean, I still haven't, but it probably does need to exist.
waketosleep: signboard saying 'I have seen the truth and it doesn't make sense' (Default)
From: [personal profile] waketosleep
The closest I've gotten to the trivia experience is the "did u know that X language has [no word/75 words] for Y??" Or my personal favourites: people telling me Chinese has no grammar or Z language (often Japanese, I speak that too) has no swear words. Swear words are one of my favourite linguistic topics. From the fucking-infix to the fact that every known human language seems to have developed words that can get you into a fight to the different subject matter all the swear words originate in and the context that brings about cultural mores and taboos (e.g., English's worst swear words are all sexually toned or relate to bodily functions, Québécois French swears are mostly religious imagery). This is a rant I sometimes kick off when someone tells me lies about swearing, because education is important and I gotta do my part somewhere. ;)

Hahaha historical is bound to bore me as a syntactician because those guys are all phonologists and I am emphatically not. I do think it's some kind of magic that any work can get done on sound change when all you have to work with is writing samples but it's not my cup of tea.

I've had two historical classes; one was "the sociopolitical history of the French language" (taught in French, I needed French credits) and was okay because it was a history class. The other was a 3rd year historical class and the prof did the Germanic ones. I was the only syntax fan in a class of like 15 and we had to do a term paper/presentation. I was on my own for picking a topic because the prof was like "lol idk about sentences" but I ended up doing one on negation cycles in English and Old Frisian that was some of my best work, honestly. I had to keep my presentation super basic so people could follow what I was saying (hilarious) and I got a super high mark on the paper... hard to say if the prof was like "I don't understand this but it seems legit". Ah, undergrad.


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