Where Is/Are the Where(s) of Linguistics?—Candace Castaway SpecGram Vol CLXXXVII, No 3 Contents The SpecGram Linguistic Advice Collective

Linguistic Folk Wisdom

Collected by Knuttink Gnu & Underda Sun
X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies

In a continued effort to improve the lot of researchers and students in linguistics, we sent a team of interns out to gather proverbs of folk wisdom from linguistics departments around the globe. Aside from malaria, black eyes and a profound sense of hygge, this is what they brought us.

  1. Never trust the grammaticality judgment of someone whose theory depends on it.

  2. Made up linguistics examples are like imaginary friends: they are a shadow of the real thing and you really should grow out of them eventually.

  3. The usefulness of a theory or textbook is inversely proportional to the length of time it takes to understand its key terminology.

  4. Never tie your career to being on the right side of a theoretical debate.

  5. If your child says “Bye mum, I’m off to find something new in the linguistics of English,” don’t bother converting their bedroom into a games room. They’ll be back in two weeks.

  6. No-one ever changed the world by studying a sub-field starting with post- or ending with -ism.

  7. With the right informants, anything can be classed as a language, even HTML (well, maybe not CSS).

  8. You are not Chomsky or Bloomfield. Be glad.

  9. Producing strange noises at night will either win you tenure or send you to jail.

  10. You can get any grammaticality judgment you need with the application of sufficient amounts of ethanol.

  11. Most times, both sides of a theoretical debate are wrong; just for different reasons.

  12. Although it doesn’t look like one, English really is classed as a “natural language”.

  13. With enough data, absolutely anything can be statistically significant, just ask comp ling people.

  14. The most valuable item of field data is invariably scribbled on a napkin. (In some cases, the napkin makes it home with you, rather than ending up in the toilet.)

  15. The time required to adequately prepare a class lecture can be reduced by one half for each education major taking the course.

  16. Committee meetings are the best time to write conference abstracts.

  17. Serving as Interim Dean assures you that the University will come up with funding for your research; but you won’t have time to use it.

  18. Be wary when talking to computational linguists, lest they convince you that grammar is actually “statistics all the way down” or that it is honorable to work “in industry” for “fat stacks of cash”.

  19. There is no greater joy than a FedEx package that contains a newly-published grammar.

  20. That phoneme that you can’t pronounce is the one you need for the difference between “attractive horse” and “mother-in-law.” The minimal pair that will escape your notice is analogous to the minimal pair in English catch it/cat shit.

Where Is/Are the Where(s) of Linguistics?Candace Castaway
The SpecGram Linguistic Advice Collective
SpecGram Vol CLXXXVII, No 3 Contents