Monday, August 24, 2009
On the Study of Linguistics
From the BC thread "A Tribute To Our Decency," linked to below.
(whose daughter is enthused about a course)
The Origins of Language course sounds interesting. Linguistics is a complex field that draws from many other traditions, such as neurology and philosophy. It is however a very dense and jargon laced discipline that is, like the related subject of psychology, subject to abuse if taught at an undergraduate level before a thorough grounding in another area, such as anthropology, is obtained at the entry level. Instruction in complex and technical matters to students without a prior firm grasp of broader underlying principles can easily become indoctrination into arcane matters that are accepted as a faith.
The worst case scenario would be if the course was used to recruit adherents for the ideology of Noam Chomsky. Some years ago his work was discussed in the Belmont Club by others who know more about it then I do. My suggestion to you is that you read up on the subject and particularly on Mr. Chomsky. Given my criticisms of some web based information in the past you can understand my urging you to be careful when evaluating anything in wikipedia. Still that would be a good place to start by reviewing the articles on Linguistics and Chomsky. A look at the articles associated discussion pages may at least alert you to a partisan debate that is attempting to pass as an assertion of fact.
The good news is that Linguists are in demand in the job market. Intelligence shops, like the NSA, love them.