First, to philology: Let's leave aside the humorous definitions, like "the art of reading slowly", which has been attributed to Calvert Watkins (for what I've always assumed was the inspiration for that comment, see the quote here) or dismissive ones like Hilfswissenschaft 'helping science', used by some German scholars.
Merriam-Webster has a pretty interesting definition:
1 : the study of literature and of disciplines relevant to literature or to language as used in literatureNeither of these comes very close to how I think most historical linguists and medievalists use the term today, which is often more like "the study of written texts", with some additional sense that there's some kind of focus on language. Mountains have been written about this and I'm not goingg to review it or resolve it, surely. Hans Henrich Hock, in his Principles of Historical Linguistics (2nd edition, 1991:3-5), calls philology "a related branch of inquiry into the history of languages", and writes:
2 a : LINGUISTICS; especially: historical and comparative linguistics b : the study of human speech especially as the vehicle of literature and as a field of study that sheds light on cultural history.
… although philology can be given short shrift in a book like this which is concerned with the linguistics of language change, it should be noted that practicing historical linguistics usually cannot divorce themselves from philological work: Quite frequently new insights can be gained only from a better interpretation of text data.Certainly if we understand philology as defined above, for many historical linguists it provides the empirical base we work from. Most of us have come to appreciate the need for a better empirical base, so most of us do plenty of philological work — building databases, for example.
Still, the M-W tradition lives on in many places. The Society for Germanic Linguistics was, until a decade or so ago, the Society for Germanic Philology. (The transition was without real controversy that I know of.) Non-linguists in the German Dept here on campus have only recently made the switch away from 'philologist' in talking about their colleagues who study language.
But what should we be called? A couple of weeks ago, a historian (from the southern hemisphere) referred to people in our field as "linguisticians" and you hear that around. Yeah,
tonguewit is clever, but I see bad things lurking.
In a reasonably serious conversation, a colleague has suggested language engineer, since it (1) gets linguists as far as possible from the humanities (= death in the current academy) and (2) sounds like money.
I'll stick with linguist for now.