Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is a Linguist always a Polyglot?

I am sorry to say that yesterday's daily Match Up word game from the "Free Dictionary" included a misleading and inaccurate synonym. The word in the left column was polyglot and the answer in the right column was linguist. While polyglots are generally considered linguists, linguists are not necessarily polyglots and for a pair of words to be true synonyms they should be interchangeable; that is not the case here. The definitions found on the "Free Dictionary" website don't even support the synonymity of linguist and polyglot. These definitions are as follows:

Synonym: A word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or other words in a language.

Linguist: A person skilled in the science of language. Also linguistician.
Polyglot: A person having a speaking, reading, or writing knowledge of several languages.

In sum, as these definitions indicate, a person can be skilled in the science of language without speaking many languages (or even two languages for that matter). Semantically this is called lack of entailment because being a linguist does NOT entail being a polyglot.


ElbeReth Gilthoniel said...

I consider myself as a foreign languages lover, I always had that problem, I didn't know if I was supposed to be a linguist or a polyglot, but now I've decided that I'm both! I'm studying languages and on thye other hand I'm studying foreign languages!!

I just love it!

Thanks for the explanation anyway!

Ann said...

Linguists = people intrigued or obsessed by all language is and can do, and all you are because of it, and can do with it (especially your native language which you know best). It's contingent not defining whether these people learn other languages but usually they love all language and languages.. They are language lovers.

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