Outsiders' views of the value of linguistics

Yokoyama, Olga olga at humnet.ucla.edu
Wed Oct 20 17:43:28 UTC 2010


I take it that your article is about the academic community's attitudes towards linguistics. Although not part of your topic but still very important for the status of linguistics and the budgetary decisions made especially in public institutions are attitudes towards linguistics in the lay society. We all have experienced the routine questioning along the lines of "Oh, you're a linguist? So how many languages do you know?". Misunderstandings out there are vast and we linguists need to address them. One way my department did it this summer was by addressing the Arizona ruling on teachers with accented English in a public conference, which combined international scholars and practitioners in one room (http://sites.google.com/site/uclalinguisticdiversconf2010/). U. Oregon's Olympiad for secondary school students is another step in the right direction. Linguists need to start talking to the public at large and make sure that the future generations don’t vote for closing linguistics and language departments (cf. the latest SUNY Albany case) based on budget considerations combined with glaring ignorance about what language studies are.


Olga T. Yokoyama

Professor and Chair

Department of Applied Linguistics and TESL

University of California, Los Angeles

Tel. (310) 825-4631

Fax (310) 206-4118


-----Original Message-----
From: funknet-bounces at mailman.rice.edu [mailto:funknet-bounces at mailman.rice.edu] On Behalf Of Frederick J Newmeyer
Sent: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 10:13 AM
To: Funknet
Subject: [FUNKNET] Outsiders' views of the value of linguistics


For a survey article that I'm writing, I plan to assemble quotes from people outside the field of linguistics on what they see as the value, or lack of value, of work done in linguistics. So I would like to cite published quotes from psychologists, anthropologists, literary specialists, etc. on their views about the value/relevance of linguistics for their particular concerns and its value/relevance in general. Can anybody help me out by pointing me to relevant quotes?

Let me give one example of the sort of thing that I am looking for. The late computational linguist Fred Jelinek reportedly wrote: 'Whenever I fire a linguist our system performance improves'.

Thanks. I'll summarize.

Best wishes,


fjn at u.washington.edu

Frederick J. Newmeyer

Professor Emeritus, University of Washington

Adjunct Professor, University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University

[for my postal address, please contact me by e-mail]

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