Hesitant...The happiest days of my life were those studying linguistics; don't understand focus on p

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Hesitant...The happiest days of my life were those studying linguistics; don't understand focus on p

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Out 8, 2008, 10:53 pm

It's funny, I guess, but you wouldn't believe how gleeful I was when I explored the list of LT groups for the first time and found this one. I *love* words, language use, dialects, etymology, phonology, basically anything language-related, so much! OK, it's true, I received my linguistics M.A. in the early '90s when my life was carefree, while I experienced life-wrenching, painful episodes in the '00s (by the way, I like to call these the ohs, just for fun--sure to hear about that on yet another negative thread), so I may in my head over-idolize those days. OK, not just days: months, semesters, shutting myself off from the world to study for my comprehensive exam, etc. My concern is wider than just the sequence of postings on LibraryThing. My growing concern is: Oh, my goodness. The general public is evidently now equating linguistics with negative, prescriptive, views of vocabulary and grammar--gripes, basically. That hurts me deeply, as--oh, no one will ever believe this story now, but in 1985 when I started my linguistics program, I was so poor that I couldn't afford a phone landline. There was no such thing as cell phones then. So, to keep in touch with my parents, I wrote "letters," yes, as in using a "pen" on "paper" to express and describe all manner of exciting linguistic knowledge I was acquiring. In every person's life, I guess, there was a time when you felt you were really living your life (when I was studying linguistics) vs. now (when I am patiently waiting for all this unhappiness to finally unfold). I'm just curious: Is there anyone there who just absolutely adores how beautiful, quirky, and often un-rule-governed language is, and just grok on the sublimity of that, or is it time for me to disassociate myself from this board?

Out 8, 2008, 10:59 pm

last part of subject: et peeves

Out 9, 2008, 1:34 am

When I was failing to get my master's degree in linguistics in the early 80's it was all about rules, but descriptive rules rather than prescriptive ones. I made the claim that much more than any of them would believe language usage was ad hoc. I believe there's been some experimentation on that demonstrating it to be true, but their ad hoc was different from my ad hoc, and I've forgotten their ad hoc.


Out 9, 2008, 4:20 am

I used to be one of those people who complained about a lack of respect for the language. Then I started writing for a living and suddenly everyone else was editing my own language. Once, using "kids" in marketing copy, several reviewers huffily pointed out that "kids are baby goats" and that it wasn't appropriate to use such lax language when marketing to school districts. Another reviewer tried to school me on "purticipial phrases." It cured me.

Now, when I look at my shelves of grammar, linguistic, and etymology references, I let myself simply delight in discovering new things about the language. I listen to podcasts that delight in the development of language--A Way with Words, podictionary, Grammar Girl. I peruse Wikipedia and sometimes even Urban Dictionary to see what new words and phrases are catching on.

That's not to say that I don't still have a pet peeve or two. But, I no longer let those pet peeves get in the way of allowing English room to grow and be a living language.

Out 9, 2008, 9:10 am

ME! ME! ME! I was first hooked during probably the most poverty-stricken period in my life 8-\ I was always good at "grammar", but it wasn't FUN until I started studying language history and structure. I've extended it to other languages besides English, and I'm still playing* in Middle High German and occasionally still with Old Norse.

*pun of sorts: playing harp and singing, mostly

Out 9, 2008, 9:18 am

Is there anyone there who just absolutely adores how beautiful, quirky, and often un-rule-governed language is, and just grok on the sublimity of that, or is it time for me to disassociate myself from this board?

Hardly. It's time for people who use this board to ask specific questions of English grammar to realize how badly they misconstrue the field of linguistics. But I think the general public has always had this problem.

PS--If you're not already a reader of Language Log, you should be.

Out 9, 2008, 9:58 am

I do love language, in all its quirky glory. If I had it to do over again, I would pursue linguistics, starting with a Bachelor's degree and most likely going all the way up into a Ph.D. I would also try to learn German, Japanese, Norwegian, and Spanish. (Right now I am formerly fluent in German and a beginner in Japanese.)

Editado: Out 10, 2008, 12:15 pm

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

Out 10, 2008, 10:55 am

Clea, I can't think of a more likely venue to discuss all the things you list, including rhetoric! 8-)

Korzybski, anyone??

Out 15, 2008, 3:36 pm

Amysisson, I couldn't agree with you more! My language picks would include German, Spanish (both of which I've studied & speak to some degree), Russian, Mandarin & Hebrew.

Jan 7, 2009, 10:38 pm

You betcha I love the quirkiness of language. I blush to admit I used a PhD in linguistics (applied linguistics) to teach English to college freshmen for 30 years. I was the only linguist in the dept., and the only one who appreciated English for its practical communicative value. Looking back on it (I'm retired), it was a blast. At the time, it was often drudgery, of course.
So when I retired, I wrote the book I'd been thinking about for 20 years, about a woman who shows up at an observatory speaking an extinct Indo-European language, warning of imminent disaster to the planet. They tossed her out, thinking she was crazy, and the story of her struggle to convince people of the truth involved a certain amount of linguistic history. It was great fun. (If you're curious, you can check out Distant Cousin, or is that Distant Cousin. I see Distant Cousin: Repatriation has loaded as a link, but that's the second book. The first one is simply Distant Cousin. It proved so popular that now there are three, the third being Distant Cousin: Reincarnation. (A fourth is in the works.)
Anyway, yes, the disorder of English has always charmed me. That's why my main character is ever remarking on it, and trying to learn it. You might too, if you were from another planet.

Jan 8, 2009, 12:34 am

AnaDarcy: Thanks for your post and for pointing me to Distant Cousin, which I had not heard of before. Can't find it in my local "first life" libraries' catalogs, so I may have to splurge and *purchase* it, as you've highly piqued my interest. By the way, I frequently feel like I'm from another planet! :)

Jan 8, 2009, 9:33 am

Hey, I can't even find Distant Cousin via ILL in my state! But I have to make a note for later, because right now there's a very thick ILL book and some fiction at the library waiting for me to drive up there to collect and I have this pile right here already.

Jan 12, 2009, 5:24 pm

Thank you for posting this thread; you have expressed some ideas that I have recently been pondering myself. Although I am one of those prescriptivists, I joined this group because I have a (possibly unhealthy) interest in linguistics. (I realize that this is my first actual post for this group, but I have read through the discussions since then.)

As an aside, may I just say I am in awe of how many of you possess degrees in linguistics? I'm just starting my college's introductory course in the next week.

Jan 12, 2009, 6:22 pm


I just wish a local college had an available introductory course. (I took one in 1987 but let's just say I need a refresher.)

Houston has a zillion colleges that don't teach linguistics. The one university that does teach it is Rice University -- they have an entire linguistics program -- and they do not encourage part-time study. It's more of a traditional four-year, full-time school (plus grad work, of course).

Fev 15, 2009, 4:19 pm

This member has been suspended from the site.

Fev 16, 2009, 4:31 am

"I do love language, in all its quirky glory"

I haven't posted before, (just read everything) but this describes me quite well, though I would have to make it plural (languages). I do have a degree in linguistics, only a BA, from many years ago, and I went to three different universities in two countries to get it. Given where I live, I pretty much HAVE to speak/read Hebrew, and for years I have had French-speaking neighbors who have made sure I haven't forgotten ALL of my highschool French, so there is plenty of diversity to be interested in--puns in a combination of three languages, anyone?

Fev 16, 2009, 5:41 am

Multilingual puns are fun - except that you have to have someone else who understands what's going on.

Maybe I need to move to Israel for a few months at least to finally make some progress in Hebrew. Not going to happen, I'm afraid. Maybe I should just be working trhout a few more verses of Genesis instead of writting messages here.

Fev 16, 2009, 7:44 am

Oh MarthaJeanne, there is a language joke about someone who learned Biblical Hebrew almost drowning because he was crying for help in archaic wording (which I don't know how to convey in English) instead of the modern Herbrew work for "Help!" which is neither related nor similar. That said, if I can help at all let me know.

Fev 17, 2009, 10:25 am

I make bilingual German/English puns from time to time, but most people don't notice except when I'm in Germany. . .

Fev 21, 2009, 10:55 pm

I have that "other planet" feeling myself, grammargoddess, all the time. Maybe it's normal.
It would be a bummer if you had to actually purchase Distant Cousin, though Amazon would be happy to sell it to you. It's a handsome volume and there's a face hidden on the cover. (There are a couple new, neat reviews for it there, worth a look even if you don't plan to get the book.) If you happen to have a Kindle, it's only $4, or maybe a library will order it for you if you ask nicely.
I hope I haven't oversold it linguistics-wise. That underlies the story, but the story is an adventure/romance with a frosting of science fiction, since the main character comes from another planet. Otherwise, she's a normal human, pretty much. It's fun. If you don't like it, I'll buy it back from you!

Fev 21, 2009, 11:05 pm

Maybe a library will order it for you, erilarlo. A good library would. If you happen to have a Kindle, you can get it in about two minutes for $4 (or you can get a generous sample for free).
I like bilingual puns too, in English and Spanish. I even know one in French and Spanish, but as someone observed, not a lot of Americans, anyway, can appreciate them. Bummer! Help fight monolingualism!
By the way, public TV will show a documentary on Feb. 26 called "The Linguists." Google it for reviews. It sounds good.

Fev 22, 2009, 11:10 am

AnaDarcy: I do enough reading on my computer as it is, without adding a computerized book 8-) No Kindle for me.

Thanks for the heads up on the TV program; I'll have to find it.

Monolingualism is stultifying for the brain!! 8-)

Fev 22, 2009, 11:48 am

22: Unfortunately I don't think any library here in Israel will be able to get it for me--another addition to the "hunt for" list, as it sounds just up my alley!

Fev 22, 2009, 8:39 pm

Looked up "The Linguists" on our local PBS station's online schedule: I can choose between watching it 2 a.m. Friday or 3 a.m. Sat.! Something tells me I may not stay awake.

Fev 23, 2009, 9:00 am

I wonder if I can convince the school librarian that she needs to buy Distant Cousin. It sounds like my kind of book.

Fev 23, 2009, 10:35 pm

I told my VCR to time-shift "The Linguists" for me.

I also widened my search for Distant Cousin. There doesn't seem to be a copy in either Wisconsin or Minnesota, and only a sequel is available from an on-line bookstore.

Fev 24, 2009, 6:29 pm

Amazon.com has Distant Cousin, and so does Amazon.de, and Amazon.fr. I had nothing to do with the price, but at least it isn't a massmarket paperback that'll fall apart once it's been read a couple times. It's a trade paperback (the bigger one), and a handsome volume if I do say so. Don't miss the face on the cover! Most people only see the Sombrero Galaxy, but there's a face there too.

I don't blame anyone reluctant to order one in Europe. I know of a couple readers in France and Italy, and at least one in Australia, though. There are a couple excerpts and reviews at http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewwork.asp?AuthorID=48424&id=23167, for those interested. Again: this is not an exercise in linguistics. It's beach reading, or airport reading, that's somewhat informed by linguistics, OK?

By the way, the Kindle is not backlit. It's as easy to read as paper, and you can't see it in the dark. Plus, you can change font size easily. Distant Cousin is $4 for Kindle!

Fev 24, 2009, 11:44 pm

AnaDarcy, this week I submitted a request form on my local library's site to either acquire Distant Cousin or find it through interlibrary loan. I'll see what happens.

Mar 7, 2009, 10:59 am

Well, good luck. All I can tell you is that I know of at least several libraries which have successfully ordered all three volumes in the series through their regular sources. It's available. I hope you get your hands on it one way or the other.
Best wishes!

Mar 31, 2009, 4:30 pm


I just wanted to thank you for recommending A Way With Words. I've been listening to it practically non-stop this week. I love it!

Maio 1, 2009, 10:11 pm

News for grammargoddess, erilarlo, MarthaJeanne, carolcat, et al., about a new, worldwide availability of the Distant Cousin series. They are available from Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=distant+cousin) in EIGHT different e-book formats. Several of the formats can even be printed, if you really want to. They're budget-priced, $4 each, which is a steal!

The listing is too new to have any reviews, but you can check Amazon for reviews if you like, or, get this: read 40% of the book for free. Talk about a new frontier!

I repeat the earlier caveat: these are light-hearted, recreational stories with something for almost everyone that are somewhat informed by reasonably accurate linguistics, OK?

Jul 27, 2009, 12:36 pm

I bought all three from Smashwords, thanks, and have read the first - it's a fun read with an interesting premise, sympathetic characters, and lots of local color.

So... I think I dimly remember that Luwian was a neighbor of Hittite? Any hints as to where the philological investigations are heading??

And BTW a more casual take on extracted/preserved languages is found in Pournelle's Janisseries, where some bits of Archaic or Minoan Greek are purportedly displayed.

I enjoyed the writing, thanks!

Ago 27, 2009, 9:55 am

Oh what a tangled mess this thread has been.

Ago 27, 2009, 8:20 pm

:) *nonverbal communication*