August 23, 2004

Acres of diamonds

Linda Seebach has a column on eggcorns and mondegreens in the August 21 Rocky Mountain News. A quote I especially like: "That's one of the great things about linguistics. What you need for research is all around you for the taking, like acres of diamonds, and surprisingly little is known about most of it."

Sometimes linguistic gems need more strenuous excavation: years of field work, or design and implementation of ingenious experiments, or long hours with old manuscripts. And diamonds once found need to be cut and polished. But Linda is right: if you have the basic descriptive skills and pay attention, everyday life is a linguistic treasure trove. A linguist experiencing ordinary human talk and writing is like a botanist wandering in the Amazon rain forest. And by linguist I don't mean someone who is paid to exercise one of the linguistic professions, but rather someone who interested in the phenomena of speech and language, in an informed way, whatever their role in society.


Posted by Mark Liberman at August 23, 2004 09:36 AM