Since another thread (Reading Old English) was getting severely hijacked, here’s as good a place as any to broach whatever floats your boat about Linguistics.

I’ll start.

Why the heck does everyone have to ask me how many languages I know when they find out my major is Linguistics?

For their edification (and also because my head’s not doing well against that brick wall), from Merriam-Webster:

Be so kind as to notice definition two. {BTW, I can converse in more than one language.}

Whatever you consider to be your favourite language, what one thing tops the list of things that make it your favourite?

the cursing

sleeping: How about telling us the name of the language and giving an example of its cursing? What is it about the cursing that fascinates you?

See, this is why I’m careful to call myself a linguistician. Of course, you have to be careful about calling yourself a linguistician, otherwise you can spray the entire room with spit.

(I did try to get people to call me a “linguisticist”, but they all reckoned I was just taking the mickey.)

Yeah, I get the “how many languages do you speak” question all the time. Probably doesn’t help that I’m also majoring in French. That’s why I usually just say that I’m majoring in Broke. (or in Being A Grad Student)

Of course, my university’s been using underhanded tactics to intimidate everyone out of the Ling department so that when it goes under review it will be deemed too small to keep, so it’s a bit of a touchy topic 'round here.

English is still my favorite. Perhaps because of the way the language developed geographically/historically, it can aquire and adapt any expressions or nuances that it needs from other languages. Rigid structure, adaptable vocabulary. Very handy, indeed…

I love the sound of German and Russian, but North American English is great because it’s so sloppy and lazy, you can make words up and absolutely butcher the grammar, and everyone knows what you’re talking about anyway. Irish English sounds pretty cool, too.

My interest in linguistics is purely as a hobby, but I may wind up doing some grad work therein someday.

Oy… picking a favorite language, that’s a difficult task. Probably I’d have to go with Church Slavonic, the great pan-Slavic language of the Orthodox Church. It’s majestic-sounding, it and its descendents have a huge literary tradition, and it has plenty of cases to play with. I also have to give props to Greek (prettiest language I’ve heard), and Georgian (cos consonants rule.)


Two questions for you:
[ul][li]Is the <c> in <linguisticist> pronounced [k] or [s]?[/li]I checked your profile and that’s moved me to ask: Are you involved in Computational Linguistics at all?[/ul]

Especially since I started working as a professional linguist, I always get that question. “How many languages can you speak?” I’m never sure how to count them. I start counting up various levels of proficiency in my head, while the questioner is waiting for a snappy answer, a single figure. “Well, I guess I speak three or four pretty well, two more are so-so, and four or five really half-assed.”

But if I haven’t lost them by then, I try to explain that I work with written languages and actually haven’t studied spoken languages much. (Why do they always ask how many you speak, not how many you can read?)

I always blow people away when I tell them that for library purposes (I also work as a foreign language librarian), I can read over two dozen, maybe three dozen languages. (That doesn’t mean I’m fluent in all of them, just that I can figure out what they’re talking about well enough for library work. Is that cheating? Yes.)

English is my first language, but my absolute favourite is German. I just love listening to Rammstein, who sing in German. They’re sort of a heavy metal band, and it makes it ten times better to hear it sung in German.

Then there’s In Extremo. They’re a German band who sometimes sing in Latin, and once or twice did a song in French. I don’t know why, but I seem to prefer listening to music sung in different languages.

Not that I have anything against English. I suppose it’s just too mundane.

I am an amateur linguist, I’m not old enough to have been in any university yet. I have read a book on linguistics written by an herbicologist, but I sometimes do searches on the internet for more info.

Monty, you’re American, right? So what’s with the British spelling of “favorite”? What are all these extra u’s doing creeping into American writing? :confused:

General Questions is for questions with factual answers. IMHO is for opinions and polls.

Off to IMHO.

DrMatrix - GQ Moderator

Jomo: Too much time spent reading and writing to non-American English speakers, I guess. That, and getting taught to spell years ago by a Brit.

DrMatrix: Well, I kind of hoped that there will be factual discussions, but that can happen here too.

& since we’re in IMHO now, I guess it’s okay to ask this: I recently got a Palm m515 and am searching for some decent software for it that’ll display Vietnamese correctly. If I can get that, then I need documents for it, in Vietnamese, about Vietnamese Zen Buddhism. Anyone have recommendations?

Well…how many languages do you know? So sorry, just couldn’t help myself…

The best response I’ve ever heard to that question came not from a linguist but from a foreign exchange student. Her parents were from two different countries (and had two different native languages), and after they married settled in a third country (with several national languages), where this young woman was raised. When people heard of her background they often asked how many languages she spoke, and she would always blink innocently and say…


I only speak English with any fluency. I took some French in High School, and know some Spanish, a few words of other languages. So I don’t have much basis for comparison, but I like English because of its utter weirdness and complexity.

All the strange plural constructions, there’s an exception to every rule, so many words that mean almost the same thing…

But I really love how many pronunciations there are for the letters “ough”. Tough, cough, through, bough, dough. It’s nuts, I tells ya!

I can converse in French, English, Japanese and Spanish (in order of proficiency) and can read to some extent/ hold a basic conversation in Mandarin, Portuguese and Italian. I have also studied Russian, though all I can manage to remember now, for some reason is “give me the ashtray”.

I could not possibly pick a single one as my favourite.

It’s hard to judge French, as it’s my native tongue.

I like the often very concrete, onomatopoeic aspect of English. E.g. “crush”, “punch”, “hiss”, “flip”, etc.

For Japanese, it’s the precision with which you can express relationships between the subjects and objects of your speech. E.g. “Aitsu ni miserarete shimatta.” vs. “Ano kata ni haiken sasete itadaita.”

Spanish, strictly IMO, may well be one of the most pleasent-sounding languages, plus it’s one I have strong sentimental attachment to given that part of my family is Mexican.

There’s not doubt, though, that what makes any language great is what cannot be accurately expressed in any other tongue.

And, of course, that varies from language to language.

The worst thing about being a linguistics major if you’re gay is that people incessantly make that damn “cunning linguist” joke.

Oh, and I speak fluent English, conversational French, functional Spanish, and some basic Russian. I’ve studied Old Irish, Mohawk, and PIE as well.

I like PIE a lot; just the way that they’ve reconstructed it cross-linguistically rocks my world. I’m also a big fan of Gothic, if only because I can yell at my Goth friends about how they don’t speak their own language.