Are linguists more likely to have a musical background?

By: | Post date: 2016-11-26 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: General Language, Linguistics

Zeibura S. Kathau has a rather more perceptive and fine breakdown on this than I’d hope for; vote #1 Zeibura S. Kathau’s answer to Are linguists more likely to have a musical background?

I’ll just add two observations.

  • Of my fellow PhD students in linguistics, one was a composer and pianist, one a bassist, one an orchestral violinist, and me, who at least attempted to compose once. That’s out of a sample of I dunno, 20.
  • In my day job in Schools IT policy, we have 8 people in the consultancy. Outside of me, the CEO is a folk mandolinist, the CTO a bassist, and the Comms guy a sax player.

So I suspect that musicians don’t just gravitate to linguistics. But I do also suspect that people interested in formal systems gravitate to also working with other formal systems. Though that’s nothing like as thorough an analysis as Z-Kat suggests.

I’ll note a potential counterpattern. There were a fair few refugees from computer science (as it was then) to linguistics in my cohort too; I was one of them. My master’s supervisor observed to me that when computer people came to linguistics, they did not want to do syntax or formal semantics, as she expected. They did the fluffiest linguistics they could stand: discourse analysis, for example, or historical linguistics. If they wanted to do formal symbolic analysis, after all, they would have stayed in computer science.

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