LINGUIST List 5.1147

Wed 19 Oct 1994

Disc: "linguistician"

Editor for this issue: <>


  • Karl Teeter, Re: 5.1129 "linguistician"
  • benji wald, "linguistician"

    Message 1: Re: 5.1129 "linguistician"

    Date: Mon, 17 Oct 1994 10:41:10 Re: 5.1129 "linguistician"
    From: Karl Teeter <>
    Subject: Re: 5.1129 "linguistician"

    Thank you, Sheila Embleton, for recalling me to my scholarly duty. As I have said, these days I am generally too lazy to look things up unless I have to. Since you insist, I back up my human memory by quoting an entry from Eric P. Hamp, A Glossary of American Technical Linguistic Usage 1925-50, published by CIPL in 1957. "Linguistician: term which arose in an attempt to avoid the ambiguity of linguist -polyglot-; philologist is also ambiguous; scientific linguist, linguistic scientist, and linguistic analyst are all cumbersome, and the first two are open to misinterpretation as implying presumption and arrogance...-Another term, coined in 1943 or 1944 by the magazine Time, is linguistician...has much in its favor.' R.A. Hall Jr., SIL 7.59.1949; -It is true that the term linguist is ambiguous, but so is the suffix -ician. It has not only the meaning of 'a practitioner of a science' but also that of 'a member of an occupation which is seeking for a higher status'...exemplified by such words as mortician and beautician, implies pretentiousness rather than is a mistake to attribute the coinage of this word to Time. Am. Speech 12.237(1937) reports it from the Associated Press as the invention of a Miss Annetta Sprung of Lincoln, Nebraska high school...It does not seem to me that we would be well served in associating ourselves with the neologisms of the current press.' E. Haugen, SIL 8.1.1950; -The discussion is closed herewith, and the established term linguist will continue to be used in SIL." G.L. Trager, SIL 8.1.1950. Once more let me express my personal adherence to the term LINGUIST despite the ambiguity: in fact, it is an occupational hazard of the linguist that s/he is also a linguist. Yours, Karl (=Karl V. Teeter, Professor of Linguistics, Harvard University)

    Message 2: "linguistician"

    Date: Tue, 18 Oct 94 17:03 PDT
    From: benji wald <IBENAWJMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
    Subject: "linguistician"

    Teeters, among others, demonstrates that linguists have just as much right as "normal" people to have strong feelings about words (if not about strings of words). I share his revulsion for the word "linguistician", but wonder if it's because of a deeper association of it with "lab technician", as one who must handle and analyse urine, feces etc. In order to encourage ABDs to stop stalling on finishing their dissertations, it might be worth considering forcing them to call themselves "linguisticians", the pupa of "linguISTs" who HAVE been awarded their doctorates. Imagine the social consequences of contradicting an ABD at a cocktail party and saying "NO! S/he's not a LINGUIST but a LINGUISTICIAN and doesn't speak ANY languages (That's why I'm talking for him/her)." If this is too cruel to do to our own people we can at least clamour that Safire and the rest of the people who have their degrees in something else (or nothing) are LINGUISTICIANS, NOT LINGUISTS. A word, even LINGUISTICIAN, is a tragic thing to waste. Benji