Caveat emptor

Johannes Reese johannesreese at GMX.DE
Tue Sep 17 13:37:03 UTC 2013

> My experience is a bit different from Dan’s and I hold with much of 
> what Sebastian is saying. As I see it, many (not very many, it is 
> true) typologists have had astonishingly good job opportunities in 
> recent years (not all of them permanent, it is true, but a 
> considerable number of typologists have got tenure in recent years). 
> By this I certainly do not claim that things are ideal in our field. 
> However, I do not think that things have gone all bad in typology all 
> of a sudden. It is probably not worse now than a decade or two decades 
> ago. When I started my Ph.D. in Stockholm in 1997 I was certainly not 
> sure that I was going to be a linguist all my life. I thought 
> Stockholm would be a good place so I would at least learn Swedish if 
> nothing else was resulting from all this in the long run. As a matter 
> of fact, in comparison to other linguists, typologists seem to have 
> much better chances on the academic job market at least in Europe than 
> linguists pursuing other approaches. (And compare this, e.g., to the 
> art business: all the musicians, dancers and singers without permanent 
> jobs!) A major issue as elsewhere in academia (and art) is mobility. 
> In academia you cannot expect to get a job where you live at the 
> moment and where your family is at the moment (there are country 
> differences here, there are some residues where this still seems to be 
> possible). There are hundreds of good things about academia, but in 
> this respect some other professions have some advantages. Many 
> talented linguistics students of my acquaintance who have left the 
> field more or less against their intentions have not been willing or 
> did not have the possibility to look for jobs abroad (there is perhaps 
> also a gender bias in this in some countries). (By this I do not imply 
> that you always can get a job if you are willing to go somewhere 
> else.) Interestingly, a researcher’s willingness/possibilities to go 
> somewhere else for doing fieldwork seems not to correlate much with 
> somebody’s willingness/possibilities to go somewhere else for life. 
> Any time a student tells me s/he thinks of the possibility of a career 
> as a researcher I tell them that it is important for them to know that 
> they cannot expect to get jobs where they are just now or where their 
> family is. Otherwise I will certainly not tell promising students not 
> to try to opt for research if they really want to try this. And yes, 
> many people’s joy of doing what they do fades as years go by. Again, I 
> think typology is not particularly bad off in this respect.

Though I don't have statistical data, I (intuitively) disagree with 
Bernhard's point. I believe the ratio between available jobs for 
linguists inside their fields per world and available linguists per 
world is so low that even mentioning the minority (?) of those who are 
keen to stay where they are is probably pointless.

As to David's argument: very optimistic, but can you really imagine a 
world where the world outside linguistics will ever get interested in 
linguists? Take e.g. machine translation: firms busy inside this field 
rarely employ linguists (mostly not even computer linguists), they take 
computer specialists doing statistics and the like (the firms I have 
heard about at least, again I lack statistical data).


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