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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Linguistics and Math or Linguistics and Programming
Question: I am wondering whether it would be more valuable to a student who
intends on studying Theoretical or Descriptive Linguistics to
complement their studies with courses in Mathematics and Statistics
or with courses in Programming and Computer Science, if they do not
plan on becoming a computational linguist, but rather want to
broaden their education to develop a stronger applicable skill set.

Reply: As much abstract math and logic (set theory, foundations, algebra, topology, matrices,
modal logics) <b>and</b> statistics (including probabilities and where they come
from) <b>and</b> programming (in R, Python, or C) <b>and</b>experience with
databases and corpora as one can manage will come in handy eventually for any
linguist.

(I'd also recommend familiarity with audio/video equipment and editing. The field is
changing rapidly.)

The more math you know, the better you can program. And vice versa. And the better
you can think about natural language in both cases, because all of math, stat, and
programming involve disciplined pattern recognition and description of phenomena
(natural or artificial), and that's all linguistics is, only with ultimately phonetic data.
That's where the sound aspect comes in; language is ultimately spoken.

So, if you're asking about majors and minors and requirements, my advice is to pay as
little attention to official rules as you can get away with, and make sure that you take
the courses that <b>you</b> want and need, whether you're officially required to, or
advised to, or not.

It's <b>your</b> education and you're paying for it and you're going to be stuck with
it for the rest of your life, so make damn sure it's what <b>you</b> want.
Reply From: John M. Lawler      click here to access email
 
Date: 24-Jul-2013
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Linguistics and Math or Linguistics and Programming    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (24-Jul-2013)

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