It’s a pretty small rent

bq. It seems that at Stanford — and for that matter at Penn — you can go through an entire undergraduate and graduate program in English without ever learning anything about the analysis of language. Think about it: you can get a doctorate in English without knowing how to analyze or even describe the structure of a sentence, the meaning of a word, the rhythm of a phrase, or the flow of a discourse. I think that this state of affairs is bizarre. If that be rent-seeking, make the most of it.

I think that there’s a pretty big difference in degree between the kind of rent-seeking, if that’s what it is, that asks that an English major be able to describe the structure of an English sentence, and the kind of rent-seeking that “Glenn Whitman was bemoaning”:
at Agoraphilia. True, he mentions Language Log specifically, but he also acknowledges in his “to be fair” aside that linguists have a point about the ignorant presenting themselves as experts on language because they happen to speak in a language. The overall point is really about people who think “Mine is the most important job in the world”, not those who stop at “Mine is a pretty important job if you happen to be studying this closely related field.”

I hope that Mark Liberman posts more about his talk, or makes notes available on the web, since I happen to think that even if linguistics _isn’t_ the most important job in the world, it’s one of the most interesting.

Posted in Linguistics

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