My colleague Willem quoted this from one of his teachers in Amsterdam: ‘Language is like football; every Dutchman thinks he’s an expert.’ Technorati lists 669 blogs that say they are about language (1,748 on football). I thought they would be just non-linguists (not all of them Dutch) airing their pet peeves on grammar, usage, and etymology (and there’s a lot of that). But there are also lots of academic linguists out there, in varying degrees of hardness.
Language Log – For those who don’t know about linguists but do know about football, I can say that the list of linguists contributing looks like Real Madrid. It’s good to see the witty essays of Geoff Pullum; he used to have a light column called ‘Topic . . . Comment’ ‘in the heavy journal Natural Language & Linguistic Theory. Geoffrey Nunberg has a regular NPR radio show on language, and there's Mark Liberman, Roger Shuy, Arnold Zwicky - a pretty good range. It has even led to a spin-off on the topic of eggcorns.
Language Hat – As far as I can tell, this one is anonymous, but they seem to know what they are talking about. It serves up mainly offbeat comments on words in different languages, and it has built up a big and enthusiastic audience of readers.
The Language Guy – is by Michael Geis, whose name I know as author of a book on the language of television advertising. It bills itself as ‘Commentary on how language is used and abused in advertising, politics, the law, and other areas of public life’.
My phonetic blog - by John Wells, dean of British phoneticians. Lots of IPA symbols, but surprisingly accessible, with interesting examples of pronunciation and intonation from everyday conversation, teaching, television, and announcements on the underground.
Professors Geis and Wells are retired, which may explain why they have time to write long and thoughtful posts. The following is a selection from the many listed as 'Linguistic Blogs' on blogrolls:
Tenser, Said the Tensor - is by ‘a graduate student in linguistics’ (at University of Washington, apparently) who is a very good writer. As the title suggests, he has a side interest in science fiction – or is the linguistics the side interest?
Noncompositional - by another grad student. As the title would suggest, parts of it are (for me) fearsomely technical semantics, but there are also interesting examples that I can understand.
Linguistic Life - by an English language teacher at Michigan State, is less about linguistics and more about life.
Literal Minded - - by Neal Whitman, apparently, is full of neat and very complex grammar examples from the press and other pop culture sources.
Polyglot Conspiracy - - more informal, offbeat bits of words picked up in various places, by a clever writer.
(Hey, how do all these people get their PhDs written when devoting so much energy and wit to their blogs? Could one get a PhD for a series of posts on various topics? Could the viva be held in the Comments section?)
But hey, who am I to police the boundaries of linguistics as a discipline? (Most of the above wouldn’t consider me a linguist). I find Mother Tongue Annoyances engaging even though he is a non-linguist giving his pet peeves on grammar, usage, and etymology, and he even wants to get rid of just the bits I want to study. On the other hand, he doesn’t claim to be an expert on football.