LINGUIST List 16.960

Wed Mar 30 2005

Ask:: What Is It That You Do Exactly?

Editor for this issue: Neil Salmond <>

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        1.     linguist, Thoughts from Ask-a-Linguist Panelist Jim Fidelholtz
        2.     linguist, How to donate...
        3.     linguist, Thank you to all our marvellous supporters!

Message 1: Thoughts from Ask-a-Linguist Panelist Jim Fidelholtz

Date: 30-Mar-2005
From: linguist <>
Subject: Thoughts from Ask-a-Linguist Panelist Jim Fidelholtz

Fund Drive 2005 is now on! Visit to donate now!
Dear Subscribers,

One of the many services LINGUIST provides free of charge is Ask-a-Linguist.

As the name implies, Ask-a-Linguist is designed to be a place where anyone
interested in language or linguistics can ask a question and get the response of
a panel of professional linguists. This year, we have 37 valued panelists who
have generously donated their time to answer the thousands of questions we receive.

Below is a letter by James L. Fidelholtz, one of our most active panelists. As
you read Dr. Fidelholtz's letter, please take a moment to reflect on what
LINGUIST's services mean to you.

If you have ever used, or think you will use, Ask-a-Linguist or any other
service LINGUIST provides, please consider donating to this year's Fund Drive.
Without donations from subscribers like you, services such as Ask-a-Linguist
(and LINGUIST itself) would cease to exist.

If you are interested in being a Fund Drive coordinator for your school, please

This page has all the materials you will need to coordinate Fund Drive at your
school, including a fabulous Ask-a-Linguist poster.

This poster (to the far right of the other 5 posters) poses one of the questions
which linguists are most frequently asked - "So what is it that you do exactly?"

We hope you enjoy reading Dr.Fidelholtz's letter and seeing Ask-a-Linguist from
a panelist's point of view.


----- ----- ----- -----

Well, I'm sure there are as many reasons why we are Panelists on Ask-a-Linguist
as there are Panelists. Some of us just like to show off every now and then. I
think most of us, though, genuinely enjoy the experience of helping people get
answers to the (sometimes quite tough) questions they pose. Especially when you
see really long answers to a question, you can tell that that question piqued
the interest of that Panelist.

I should also mention that I myself answer a lot of questions each year (from
100 to over 200, far from the most of any Panelist [this year, if he had
continued answering questions as he did before he died, I calculate that R.
Larry Trask would have answered about 495, more than anyone else did; see below
for a complete listing]), and have since the founding of Ask-a-Linguist.

Still, there are a lot more that I *could* answer, but don't. Of course, we
have access to the other Panelists' previous answers to each question, and when
I see that other Panelists have answered a question, I have by now enough
confidence in them that I will usually skip that question. Only if I personally
have a special interest in that particular question, or if I think I have
something to contribute not touched on by the other answers, would I then answer
that question.

The Top Twenty AaL Panelists, with the number of questions each answered in
2004, in descending order (according to the AaL search engine):

Joe Foster 419
Anthea Fraser Gupta 351
Geoffrey Sampson 341
Susan Fischer 332
Suzette Haden Elgin 211
James L. Fidelholtz 201
Herb Stahlkl 193
Robert A. Papen 180
Nancy Frischberg 158
Elizabeth Pyatt 141
R. Larry Trask 115*
John Lawler 103
Madalena Cruz-Ferreira 65
Deborah D. K. Ruuskanen 43
Jonathan Derek Kaye 37
D. Fagan 34
Charlie Rowe 33
Steven Schaufeln 30
Alice Faber 24
Norvin Richards 23

The above include all 37 active members of the Panel, and one, Peggy Speas, who
is no longer on the Panel. It also includes Larry Trask, who died last year
unexpectedly. He was one of our most prolific members, and perhaps the most
respected in general for his breadth of knowledge and clarity of expression. I
admit that I occasionally took exception to some of the things he said, but I
could never say them with such clarity, and in fact he sometimes convinced me he
was right and I was wrong. But that in fact is what science (including
linguistics, according to most of us) is all about. As all of us feel and many
of us expressed on the private Panel list last year, Larry is and will be sorely

About the above list of Panelists: I can think of a few responses I have read
which I would wish had not been written (including some of mine). On balance,
though, I think that all the panelists answer extremely well and with a great
deal of well-rounded linguistic (and other) knowledge.

I have to admit that I am proud (and a little abashed) to be associated with
this Panel. Any linguist who reads through the list of names will certainly
recognize those names of people who work in their area, and will be impressed by

Any unrecognized names can only come from an area the person does not work in.
In short, it is an impressive and hard-working group. (Only a few of us are
lazier than we should be.)

We gladly give our time to answering AaL questions. Most of us also
contribute what we can to the annual fund drive, and we would now ask you to do
so as well.

James L. Fidelholtz
Posgrado en Ciencias del Lenguaje, ICSyH
Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla MÉXICO

Message 2: How to donate...

Date: 30-Mar-2005
From: linguist <>
Subject: How to donate...

This Year the LINGUIST List hope to raise $48,867. This money will go to help
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Thank you very much for your support of LINGUIST!

Message 3: Thank you to all our marvellous supporters!

Date: 30-Mar-2005
From: linguist <>
Subject: Thank you to all our marvellous supporters!

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