LINGUIST List 3.481

Thu 11 Jun 1992

Disc: How we became linguists

Editor for this issue: <>


Directory

  1. , Re: 3.457 How did we end up linguists, Z. Harris
  2. Will Fitzgerald, How did we become linguists?
  3. , RE: 3.462 How did we become linguists?
  4. Jason Johnston, Re: The Make-up of LINGUIST
  5. Johanna Rubba, Re: 3.462 How did we become linguists?
  6. , why we became linguists

Message 1: Re: 3.457 How did we end up linguists, Z. Harris

Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1992 19:23 MST Re: 3.457 How did we end up linguists, Z. Harris
From: <CAROLGCC.UTAH.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.457 How did we end up linguists, Z. Harris


I think Michael Kac has come the closest -- behind all the other
reasons that have been given for why we become linguists, the
aptitude in language learning, the interest in language per se,
the interest in puzzles, cryptograms, etc., the frustration with
literary analysis and the rest, is an aptitude for *abstraction*,
the actual fondness for abstract analysis, however it first
presented itself.

As I think Gerald Gazdar said, "Linguists are people who like to
take out their brains and play with them."

Carol Georgopoulos
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Message 2: How did we become linguists?

Date: Thu, 4 Jun 1992 21:35:17 -How did we become linguists?
From: Will Fitzgerald <willils.nwu.edu>
Subject: How did we become linguists?

Here's how I got interested in linguistics ... my freshman year at college,
one of the guys on our dorm floor would make these incredibly odd sounds
while he was in the shower. Turns out he was taking Articulatory Phonetics
(Dean MacIntyre, are you out there?), which led to a discussion of
linguistics in general, which led to a change of major.
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Message 3: RE: 3.462 How did we become linguists?

Date: Mon, 8 Jun 92 17:47 GMT
From: <HILTONMmole.pcl.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: 3.462 How did we become linguists?

An interesting discussion this. For me the wheel has come full circle.

At school, the only thing I felt capable of doing at our A-level was languages,
and yet I was not a literary type of person, spending my time reading
psychology mostly.

I then read Chinese at Cambridge which included during the first year a course
on the linguistic description of Modern Standard Chinese, which I enjoyed.
However I talked myself out of Linguistics as my part two option as I couldn't
bear the thought of a two year specialised course wheethroughoutre my sole
 fellow student
would have been a charming man who had driven me mad throughout the first two
years with his inability to understand the structural differences between MSC
and say the language of Confucius' Analects! Pity really.

It was only some years later that I took a post-graduate course in linguistics
in the hope of extricating myself from the dead-end EFL teaching job I was
doing at the time.

Little did I know that a) I would end up teaching linguistics. Not only that,
but my interest gravitated towards Generative Grammar - which only later, did I
realise combines my original interests in languages and psychology.

Mark R. Hilton
hiltonmuk.ac.pcl.mole
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Message 4: Re: The Make-up of LINGUIST

Date: Tue, 9 Jun 1992 17:32:25 GRe: The Make-up of LINGUIST
From: Jason Johnston <jcjextro.ucc.su.OZ.AU>
Subject: Re: The Make-up of LINGUIST

I'm curious about the discrepancies between the numbers of subscribers-
per-country and the population of that country. Australia (55) and Finland
(45) seem over-represented when you consider that the UK has 110 - only
twice as many as Australia with, surely, at least three times the
population. Most remarkably, the Netherlands has more subscribers than
Germany! What are the factors - access to the English language, to the
Internet, to computers? Cultural differences re the validity of this sort
of computer-mediated discussion?

Jason Johnston
University of Sydney, Australia.
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Message 5: Re: 3.462 How did we become linguists?

Date: Wed, 10 Jun 92 18:22:38 PDRe: 3.462 How did we become linguists?
From: Johanna Rubba <rubbabend.UCSD.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.462 How did we become linguists?

I have to put myself not in the category of a-foot-in-both-worlds,
but more in the category of disheartened lit majors. I began college
(never having heard the word linguistics before then) as a German major,
but my interest was done in by all the Sturm und Drang -- it was just
out and out too depressing! 'Der Schimmelreiter' was the last straw --
we hadn't even gotten near Kafka yet!! (Apologies to lovers of German
lit ..)

I had a French prof, on the other hand, who let us in on this nifty
code (IPA) for representing how French was _really_ pronounced, and
who drew little Chinese pictures on the board during exams. (The latter
had nothing to do with linguistics, but reinforced his image as a
human being rather than a Professor). He let me do a little paper
on how English has disjunctive pronouns just like French, and he
praised it to the skies (whether he should have is another matter ...)
-- I changed my major to an invented one called 'language studies'
(Rutgers didn't have a ling program or a dept at the time). I went on
to take phonetics, psycholinguistics, anthropho-sociolinguistics, ESL
applications, etc etc, and did the U of Manchester's first year
linguistics course, and was completely enthralled. Phonetics, morphology,
and historical captivated me the most. I remember how the regularity
of sound changes, and how the same change affected a whole class of
sounds, for some reason evoked in my mind the image of a certain game/toy
that was around back then, in which marbles trickled down a plastic board
through various little gates and around obstacles that changed their course
... the mechanical nature of this device somehow seemed akin to that of
the consonants all following similar, predictable paths to a new identity.
Strange how our minds work!

Well, I think I always had a fascination for languages, starting with
the time my sisters and I bought a German-English dictionary so we
could decode the things the Germans said on 'Combat', but I didn't
discover my own potential for captivation with linguistic analysis until
somebody showed me that it (i.e. lc analysis) was there. From that point
on it was clear that this was a major interest. I think it ties in, too,
with a strong interest in anthropology -- how and why we humans behave.
The ultimate mystery, within the cosmos of our own minds.

Jo Rubba - UC Riverside/UC San Diego
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Message 6: why we became linguists

Date: Thu, 11 Jun 1992 11:24 PDTwhy we became linguists
From: <HSLAPOLLAccvax.as.edu.tw>
Subject: why we became linguists

Science might be said to be the search for relationships, for the connections
between one thing and another, and the relationships we see give us our
view of the universe. As the relationships we see change, so does our
view of the universe. For me linguistic knowledge is a key for opening
the door to a whole range of connections that would otherwise be hidden
from view. This is true of second language learning, as it allows us to

understand another culture, to see the connections as that culture sees
them, and it is true of knowledge of "Language" and also of language history,
particularly etymology. For this reason linguistic knowledge has always
been to me like a kind of mystical knowledge: just as the mystic sees things
others cannot, so does the linguist see connections and principles where
others cannot. What makes it somewhat different from some of the other
sciences (though similar to some aspects of physics, bilology, and chemistry)
is the fact that the knowledge we get is about something we are involved
in every day, and something that is very much a part of us, so gives us a
window toward understanding ourselves.

Of course I really went into linguistics for the big money.

Randy LaPolla
Institute of History & Philology
Academia Sinica
Taipei 11529 Taiwan
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