LINGUIST List 10.55

Wed Jan 13 1999

Disc: Discipline Recognition

Editor for this issue: Scott Fults <>


  1. Rebecca Larche Moreton, Discipline recognition
  2. Cornelia Gerhardt, Discipline Recognition
  3. Tom Payne, Discipline Recognition

Message 1: Discipline recognition

Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 06:10:55 -0600
From: Rebecca Larche Moreton <>
Subject: Discipline recognition

One reason 'linguist' is linked in the general public's mind with 'speaks
lots of language' is that it designates a military intelligence job
category which includes interpreters, code decrypters, and those who
gather intelligence from various media sources. The effect spills over
into such government agencies as the Foreign Service Institute, too: to
distingish military linguists from "real" linguists, the term "scientific
linguist" was used up until the mid-sixties, then, when the government
wanted to increase the number of "scientists" it could count for its
statistics, to reassure the public that we were keeping up with the
Soviets, the job description "scientific linguist" became by fiat
"linguistic scientist" (I am not making this up). I do not know what the
current designation is. 

Rebecca Larche Moreton
301 South Ninth Street
Oxford, MS 38655

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Message 2: Discipline Recognition

Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 14:21:30 +0100
From: Cornelia Gerhardt <>
Subject: Discipline Recognition

Dear Lyndra,

you wrote:

>2. Do something spectacular to distinguish the "science" of linguistics
>from the "art" of foreign-language study, in such a way that nobody can
>ever again equate "being a linguist" to "knowing a lot of foreign
>languages." The something needs to utterly distinguish us from all
>"Spanish," "French," "Chinese" departments -- which are literature and/or
>area studies -- without alienating them, since we may in practice work with
>them. We'll also need a good sound-bite summary of our uniqueness for use
>on university administrators, grant-awarders, and members of the general
>public. Anyone who can manage it will be my hero for at least a week.
>Lyndra Givens

Being an English linguist at a German university, I work for a
"Lehrstuhl" which is part of the "Anglistik", the English
department. At my university (I suppose this is true for most German
universities), German linguistics is part of the German department,
the "Germanistik", Romance linguistics part of the "Romanistik",
etc. (We also have some general or applied linguistics departments
covering computer linguistics, translation studies, and phonetics and
phonology.) I am personally happy with this classification and and do
not see why this should lead to the "art of foreign language study" as
opposed to the science of linguistics. I wonder what exactly the "art
of foreign language study" is? I do also see the advantage of having
one central linguistics department. Having recently counted the
number of linguists in the different departments of my university, I
realised that that there are many more of us than there appear to
be. And I do feel that in official publications of the university we
do not get as much attention as we could if we were all in one

On the other hand, our kind of classification has advantages too: by
tying money to certain languages or fields (and not to "linguistics"
in general), one ensures diversity. A linguistics professor in the
Spanish section cannot decide to change to Scandinavian languages
'just' because his personal interest has changed. No field of study
(in lingustics) can simply vanish without there being a big discussion
(because it would mean closing one half of a department).

Furthermore, most students of linguistics in Germany do literature at
the same time (and vice versa). The terms "Anglist", "Germanist"
etc. (at least for me) imply that you do (or did) both. I personally
think that this is an interesting combination. Of course, in German,
we call both disciplines sciences (Sprach- und
Literaturwissenschaften) and do not have this fear of being called "an

I do not want to misrepresent the meaning of your mail. Nevertheless,
there is definitively a tendency (to put it mildly) in
U.S. linguistics to take mostly English as LANGUAGE (and I wonder if
you are implying that everything else is "literature and/or area
studies.") Somehow your mail sounds a bit too "U.S.ish" to me.

As far as the original query is concerned I think the first thing to
do is to simply write to the institutions concerned and tell them that
you do not fit into their system. The same problem exists for me with
German forms. If I decide to tick the lingustics box, I am
automatically "Germanist" and if I decide to tick the "Anglistik" box,
I am automatically a literature person (although this does not reflect
academic reality as I pointed out). No "box-ticking" system is
perfect and I would not overestimate the "meaning" of a lacking
lingustics box.

Cornelia Gerhardt
Lehrstuhl fr englische Sprachwissenschaft
Universitt des Saarlandes

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Message 3: Discipline Recognition

Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 06:14:37 -0800
From: Tom Payne <tpayneHUMnet.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Discipline Recognition

For one small, but effective, approach to getting linguistics into
middle and high schools, please see the "Linguistic Olympics" website: There is
also an unlinked page that contains my report to the LSA on last
year's Linguistic Olympics in Eugene. It is at: Comments

Tom Payne
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