Category Archives: Linguistics and Language

7
Jan

The Future of the English Language as a Global Lingua Franca

-by Tyler McPeek

This post was originally published on floridalinguistics.com on Feb. 20, 2012. -TM

In some of my classes, students tell me that their professors in non-linguistics classes often wax-philosophical about the inevitability of Chinese as the next global lingua franca. Sometimes they even present it as an imminent development that has already started to take a foothold, due to the rising economic power of the PRC and the increasing frequency of successful Mandarin speaking students matriculating in American and other Western universities.

I’ve been troubled by this assumption, and its lack of scientific grounding. In fact, it reminds me very much of other non-scientifically-based assertions about language that were profligate in years gone by, such as the “Eskimos having a hundred words for ‘snow’ in their language” as evidence for how ones environment and culture shapes ones perspective on the world. Language scientists, namely Geoffrey Pullum, have been crusading ever since, in vein, to try and dispel this fallacy about West Greenlandic Eskimo (which in fact has only 2 root words for the “snow”) ever since. Still, non-linguistically trained academics of otherwise excellent intellectual quality continue to profligate the fallacy, as it makes for a nice opener to a lecture, talk, or speech.

29
Dec

The Importance of Linguistics to Students of Japanese

-by Tyler McPeek

Below is a blog post that I wrote for “Polyglossia” (the group blog for floridalinguistics.com), originally titled, "The Mainstreaming of the Linguistic Sciences."  The content is something important to consider for all students of Japanese, literature, and other foreign languages.  Please give it a read and give me your thoughts. -T

For awhile now, I’ve been working on a site that deals with issues related to Japan, Japanology, and the Japanese language.  What originally started as a kind of “Japan Fan” site, assisting and entertaining people who study Japanese, enjoy “things Japanese,” have lived in Japan, or hope to live in Japan, took on new meaning for me when I started studying linguistics.  I realized that I was doing a disservice to my visitors, especially those who are studying the Japanese language, if I don’t provide a scientific view of the Japanese language that is geared to the mainstream and literary student of Japanese.  In fact, the mainstreaming of the linguistics discipline for literature and foreign language discipline-based students of language generally has become a very important issue and goal for me.

When talking to a friend from Taiwan, I was somewhat surprised to hear that Taiwan has not a single undergraduate linguistics department, although they do have graduate programs.  What was even more surprising was the fact that all students of English, and presumably other foreign languages, in Taiwan are required to take at least an intro course in linguistics.  So, while Taiwan does not have any universities who have reached the level of offering an undergraduate program in linguistics, they appear to understand the importance of linguistics and the scientific study of language to the average language learner even better than Americans, though we have many undergraduate programs in the US.  We are missing something here in The Sates.

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