View Single Post
Old May 7 2010, 01:15 PM   #39
Rear Admiral
DevilEyes's Avatar
Location: basking in the warmth of the Fire Caves
View DevilEyes's Twitter Profile
Re: Was Uhura a linguist?

greenguy wrote: View Post
DevilEyes wrote: View Post
greenguy wrote: View Post
There is a huge difference between being a linguist and being a translator. Linguists formally study various elements of language, not necessarily foreign languages and translation. Like many linguists, I am a linguist but not a translator. Most linguists do not even venture into foreign languages unless they are doing comparative/historical linguistics or finding a unifying theme among syntax and phonology.
Or not such a huge difference. I studied English Language and Literature (which is a foreign language to me) which included studying general linguistics as well as phonetics, morphology, syntax and history of the English language, as well as translation, and a bunch of other things (including comparative analysis). I would say that I am a linguist since I studied a language at the University, and I am or have been a translator since I've worked as a translator. I fail to see how being a translator precludes one from being a linguist, or vice versa.
I never said that being one precludes being another. Obviously many linguists can perform translation and have proficiency in other languages, and many translators have a basic grasp of IPA and sentence structure and morphology. My main point is to attention to the fact that the terms are often merged and misused: people hear "linguist" and they assume that that person speak four languages, when that is not the reality of the situation or the field. I have seen little evidence that Star Trek has any sort of formal linguistic depth or merit beyond dropping the term "syntax subroutine;" Uhura does not qualify as a linguist to me. My upper-level phonology, language model, and psycholinguistics professors each are brilliant and Ivy-trained and do not speak more than a few words of any other foreign languages.

You are a translator with basic linguistic training; I am a formal linguist with little to no translation training although I do speak two other languages. I wouldn't call myself a translator because I did not study literature and do any immersion beyond a few months in France. Conversely, I am sorry if you take offense, but I would not call you a professional or even trained linguist, per se, even if you have taken basic linguistics classes, because translation and literature don't have anything to do with formal linguistics or topics and models of language like generative grammar, Optimality Theory, connectionism vs. externalism, or government/binding theory, which are pretty much all you do past the intro classes.
How does any of this apply to Uhura being or not being a "linguist"? We don't know what the term means in the 23rd century, or exactly what kind of education and training it involves. It seems like you are insisting on one particular 20th/21st century idea of education as primarily providing specialization for everyone in just one narrow vocation. I'm not even sure that this is always really reflective of the present day realities of job market, and I really don't see why it would still be dominant in the Star Trek 23rd century, where people supposedly have a lot more time on their hands, no pressure of finding a paying job, and presumably a lot more opportunities to educate themselves. I don't see why it would be such an incredible idea that someone working in communications might speak the few major languages of the quadrant (such as Klingon) at least to the level that would enable them to communicate should the need arise (universal translators not working, for instance), while also being familiar with linguistic theories that might help while analyzing patterns of completely unfamiliar languages.

I mean, they have a position called "science officer", for crying out loud! That's quite a broadly defined field of expertise!!
Treason, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

my Buffy/Angel rewatch
DevilEyes is offline   Reply With Quote