kutsuwamushi: from a Married to the Sea Comic (edumacation)
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.


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