Polyglots vs Linguists vs Philologists

A lot of people are confused by the term “linguist”. A linguist is a scientist of linguistics, not somebody who can speak many languages. I know many linguistics professors who are not sufficiently bilingual, but they can still call themselves linguists. Speaking and studying are two different things. Multilingual or polyglots speak many languages. And this ability is not related to the science of linguistics, although I’m sure linguists could study or analyze polyglots. Philology was replaced by linguistics and there aren’t really any practitioners of it today, except Professor Arguelles. Professor Arguelles is not a polyglot unless he has the ability to speak the languages he studies.

15 Replies to “Polyglots vs Linguists vs Philologists”

  1. A strange thing you told was that Malay and Swahili had more difficult patterns than Finnish, at least that was how I saw it. As a good Polyglot you should recognize the richness of Finnish.

  2. SO MUCH YES. I have this exact problem everytime someone asks what major i’m doing at university. However, it would be cool to be all three, particularly a polyglot.

  3. Wikipedia’s definition for ‘philology’: “Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.” According to this definition, philology is the study of a language within it’s culture. I am studying Czech philology in Berlin and we study Czech(oslovak) history, literature, culture and Slavic linguistics. We deal with Slavic philosophy too. So really it’s not merely language acquisition but comprehensive Czech studies.

  4. How about someone who can imitate many dialects of the same language? I have a friend who can speak American English, the Queen’s English, East London English, Scottish English, Irish English, Australian English, Canadian English…but he find that he is not good in learning other languages.

  5. also telling polyglots that they are amateurish when they actually can communicate in many languages is like telling world-class olympic athletes ( or Micheal Jacson with regards to his dancing) that they are amateurish because they don’t have graduate level degrees in kinesiology.

  6. How many languages must someone know to be a polyglot? Is a bi-lingual person a polyglot or are more required? Also, On the issue of polyglot v linguist. As “linguist” is not a protected name or a legally regulated profession, such as a medical doctor or accountant, anyone can freely call themselves a linguist. The OED defines a linguist as “a person skilled in foreign languages” and “a person who studies linguistics”. So in modern usage can it not mean both a scientist and polyglot?

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