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Languages and research (was Re: Untranslated notes)

From:Christopher B Wright <faceloran@...>
Date:Thursday, April 18, 2002, 18:36
Boudewijn Rempt sekalge gith pehur:
Stuff and nonsense. The physics will stay -- and stay more or less the
Your successors can study exactly the same phenomena. The same doesn't
hold for languages. Those disappear, at an alarming rate. If there's a
anywhere, it's in linguistics, biology or archaeology.

What are linguists actually needed for?
 - Work on dead or dying languages
 - Teaching (includes linguistic theory)
 - Writing dictionaries and so forth

The dictionary writers will almost always do it in their L1. If not, then
they'll do it in languages that they are equally fluent in, though there
is almost no need for this, since there are linguists and philologists
from almost every country, speaking most current languages.

Linguistic theory starts after the writers of dictionaries and recorders
of grammars are finished. At that point, they are dealing with snapshots
of language. Enough of those yield a good picture of language change,
which is what a lot of language theory deals with.

Dead languages aren't going anywhere. Dying languages don't generally
need a lot of help from the whole linguistic intelligensia.

Now, if it is necessary to communicate with people and there is no common
language between, there are two ways of dealing with the problem. The
first is to find someone who can use a language you know to help. That
way, you don't need to deal with translations or learning more languages
when you haven't the time. The other way is to use translators. A skilled
translator does _not_ mangle the translation because s/he has mastered
the nuances and shades of meaning in both languages.

Most high schools in the world don't offer German as a language. Also,
there are many other languages for linguists to write articles in. One
person cannot be expected to stay fluent in over twenty languages at once
and still have time for linguistic research. Obviously, translation is
the best solution.

Linguistics will stay, and stay very much the same. It's just all those
blighters called details that change all the time.

The slightly amused
Chris Wright


Boudewijn Rempt <boud@...>