What do Linguists do?

Passed on to me by Peter Lasersohn on Facebook, this entry (“What do Linguists do?”) from the InsideJobs site (on this site, all job titles are capitalized), which is headed:


Also known as Army Linguist, Cryptologic Linguist, Scientific Linguist

(Notice that the site manages to put together linguist in all of its senses.)

The article in its entirety:

Linguists strive to answer the question, “How did words get their meaning?” Tasked with scientifically studying language — both written and spoken — they do so by approaching words like a Zoologist approaches animals: They study their anatomy, behavior, and habitat in order to figure out why they do what they do.

When you’re a Linguist, you specialize in either theoretical linguistics or practical linguistics. In theoretical linguistics, you study grammar, syntax, semantics, etymology, and phonetics. Grammar is the structure of language, while syntax is its arrangement. Semantics, meanwhile, is the meaning of language, while etymology is its origin. Finally, phonetics is the sound of language.

On the other hand, if you specialize in practical linguistics, you focus on the use and application of language by Interpreters, Translators, Speech Therapists, Foreign Language Teachers, etc.

Because you understand language, you understand communication, which means you’ve got many employment options. As a Linguist, you might work in computers, helping companies develop speech recognition software, search engines, and artificial intelligence. You might work in business, helping companies name products, or in international relations, performing cross-cultural translation. Or, you might work in education, teaching foreign languages.

If you prefer research, you might conduct language surveys and document the emergence of new words. You might also work in government, helping military and intelligence agencies decipher communications. You might even work in theater, training Actors in pronunciation, intonation, and dialect.

Really, the options are endless — and so are the words for describing them, all of which you know (and in every language, too)!

Should I be a Linguist?

You should have an advanced degree or higher and share these personality traits:

Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.

Ready for a Challenge: You jump into new projects with initiative and drive.

Team Player: You’re able to listen, communicate, and work with tons of different people.

Many sighs (the personality traits are, of course, generic). And there’s an illustration linking to other jobs:

Neither Peter nor I have any clue about what the animal silhouettes are supposed to represent.


2 Responses to “What do Linguists do?”

  1. bfwebster Says:

    OK, the animal silhouettes matched with job descriptions are the funniest thing I’ve seen today.

  2. Benjamin Slade Says:

    As far as I can tell, the animal silhouettes are placeholders for professions they don’t have stock photos for (note that “Linguist” has a ‘real’ picture (albeit a fairly generic one, of a woman with a slightly pained expression)); penguins are used for all jobs starting with “P”, ants for all jobs starting with “A” etc.

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