Linguistics useless and obscure? Think again!

So, the other day I came across this tweet, which led me to this brilliant blog post:

You want to write better foreign language curriculum, help stroke sufferers and autistic children communicate better, or create literacy programs. Who you gonna call? The Ghost Busters?

You want to revive a dead language, invent a language for your fictional universe (see: Elvish, Klingon, or Simlish), or solve an ancient mystery. You want to coach your American actor to sound like he’s from Liverpool, help people with stigmatized accents or dialects learn a more standard and accepted variety, or figure out if men and women really are from Mars and Venus and can’t communicate and, if so, why not. You want to write a spell-check program, build a machine that will pass the Turing Test, or design an interactive online dictionary, complete with audio clips. You want to create voice activation software for your GPS or cell phone, write a program that automatically transcribes live TV broadcasts into closed captioning, or make a better customer service hotline that actually understands your requests. You want to know what the limits of human cognition are, trace human migration patterns, or figure out what the first language ever spoken was. You want to document a dying culture and preserve a bit of human history and a unique world view, but the tribe only speaks an unknown language and has no written tradition. You want to know why babelfish is so damn bad at translating, and, more importantly, what we can do to improve it. Aliens just landed and have a completely unknown communication system, but you want to make peace with them before they pull out their ray guns. Who the fuck are you going to call now?

People use language every single day. Why can’t they accept that they need linguistics every single day?

All I can say to that is: WERD!


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