LINGUIST List 2.535

Tue 17 Sep 1991

Disc: What is a linguist?

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  1. Margaret Fleck, what is a linguist?
  2. , What is a linguist?

Message 1: what is a linguist?

Date: Fri, 13 Sep 91 16:54:52 -0500
From: Margaret Fleck <>
Subject: what is a linguist?
I can't resist add some further mud to the waters. I'm not a native
speaker of UK English, but I lived there for four years. It appears
that, over there, terms such as chemist or mathematician are regularly used
not only to describe paid professionals, but also for students of the subject.
Thus, "chemist" may refer to a professor in the department, but can
equally well be used to refer to an undergraduate student of Chemistry.
Even if their real major interest in life is actually rowing, not Chemistry.
To an American, this usage comes as quite a shock.
I think, but am not sure, that the person has to be actively engaged in
work or study in the profession. For example, I don't believe that
Margaret Thatcher could be refered to as a chemist, because she no
longer works in that area. But I could be wrong. I don't think it's
a usage special to Oxford (the location where I worked), but it might be.
Perhaps a native speaker of British can fill in the details.
I don't specifically know that the term "linguist" is used in an
analogous way, but I would assume so.
Margaret Fleck
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Message 2: What is a linguist?

Date: Sat, 14 Sep 91 11:18:51 PDT
From: <>
Subject: What is a linguist?
 Date: Mon, 9 Sep 91 16:53:42 -0700
 From: sakacogsci.Berkeley.EDU (Paul Saka)
 Subject: RE: what is a linguist?
>Linguist List: Vol-2-472. Sat 07 Sep 1991. Lines: 165
>Date: Wed, 4 Sep 91 20:46:12 PDT
>Subject: Re: Linguistic Novels, Films/467
>I wonder if anyone would care
>to share their thoughts about what, in this day and age,
>constitutes "a linguist", and how one can tell a linguist form
>a non-linguist. (I meant "from" not "form").
My personal takes:
	In ANY day and age, a scientist is someone who
does research into the object of inquiry; a linguist is
someone who does research into language. Although it is
impossible to tell what citizens do in the privacy of
their own homes, prima facie we may suppose that someone
who publishes their linguistic research is a linguist.
	Another interpretation of "-ist" would
say that a linguist must be somehow saliently or typically
occupied with the study of language. In that case, we
might say that a linguist is someone who, like a professor,
is paid to do linguistics.
Milton Azevedo
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