Katarzyna Dziubalska-Kolaczyk, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań
How I became a linguist
In fact, pretty accidentally. This must have been a stroke of fate.
I was brought up by my parents in the atmosphere of love and reverence for physics and engineering as well as general respect for education. At high school I attended, with pleasure and success, a math-physics-profiled class. Since I was learning English, too, and I was interested in the language and its literature, especially modern American theatre, I decided to enter the English language competition (the so called Olympiad) organized by the School of English at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (of which I am now head; who would have thought!). In the last year at high school, I got into the finals and received a free entrance (and the examinations were severe) to study English at AMU.
When here, already in the first year I was inspired by a very good teacher of phonetics and phonology (dr Elzbieta Górska) and discovered that linguistics was my thing. A linguist instead of an engineer? Well, linguistics is certainly half way between sciences and humanities, and I guess this is where I had always been. I owe a tremendous lot to Professor Jacek Fisiak who incessantly encouraged and supported my interest in linguistics and was tolerant of my synchronic and general theoretic inclination in his M.A. seminar on the history of English, and later, in my Ph.D. under his supervision on the acquisition of second language phonology within the natural phonological framework. Professor Fisiak introduced me to Professor Wolfgang U. Dressler from the University of Vienna, who became my other great mentor and friend. It is thanks to him that I became involved in Natural Linguistics and started gathering a Natural Phonological circle of students in Poznań.
Shortly after graduation I received a one-year scholarship at University College London, Department of Phonetics and Linguistics, where I had a chance to get acquainted with Professor John Wells, whose views have since then been present in my phonetics teaching and research. Much later, after getting a post-doctoral degree, I had a privilege to spend a Fulbrightyear at the University of Hawai'i with the founders of Natural Phonology, Professors David Stampe and Patricia Donegan. I have been lucky indeed to have met so many inspiring linguists who have enriched me and helped me shape my own views on language, no matter how controversial they might be (for instance, I denied the necessity for the syllable in my Beats-and-Binding Phonology). Many more names could be mentioned. Nothing has been more conducive to my becoming a linguist than to study and work at the School of English at AMU. In Polish its name is Instytut Filologii Angielskiej (IFA in short), and I am, with many others, IFAtuated.
Actually, I am convinced there's nothing more fascinating than the study of language, the human means of communication and thought. Linguistics should, in fact, be much more recognized in the world as a discipline which has a potential to reconcile conflicts and bring peace as well as ensure progress. People won't succeed without the power of language. Anyway, although I had never planned or dreamed to become a linguist, I think I became one naturally (and indeed, I do work in Natural Phonology!). Let us encourage young people to study linguistics and learn languages. This by and large appears to me to be the only reasonable (and feasible) way to ensure mutual understanding, and, consequently, respect among nations. Pompous? I don't think so. Simply true.