Saturday, January 03, 2009

"The best linguists I've ever seen"

Who said that? And who were they talking about? Was it someone who sat at the elbows of Chomsky and Halle during the writing of Sound Pattern of English? Or a discussion of Ken Hale or Kenneth Pike as field linguists? A fan of the Neogrammarians, or maybe the University of Wisconsin's great structuralists back in the day? Nope:
Frank Luntz, a Republican consultant who wrote a treatise on political linguistics called “Words That Work,” told Politico: “Obama's team are the best linguists I've ever seen. Republicans aren't in his league right now."
Of course this is another meaning of 'linguist' than the most of the ones we've talked about here — people engaged in the scientific study of language, military language experts, people concerned about usage, etc. Luntz is praising the name that Obama and his team are giving to their economic plan: “American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.” I guess this gets close to the 'framing' stuff that George Lakoff has been doing in recent years.*

*If you have access to the Chronicle of Higher Education, check out the piece by Evan Goldstein in August, called "Who Framed George Lakoff? A noted linguist reflects on his tumultuous foray into politics."

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