Over the last few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about the public perception of linguistics and language research. I’ve often been frustrated at the abuse and misunderstanding of basic linguistic concepts in the popular media (for example, this summer’s debacle over President Obama’s speech-style reported on “The Global Language Monitor”, see CNN’s coverage here), or even at the lack of widespread response from linguists on public policy issues, such as the Arizona immigration law or, reaching back, the Ebonics school funding debates. Why isn’t the public better educated about linguistics? I fear that it’s because we, as linguists, haven’t done the best job of getting the word out. We haven’t yet provided the public with a single non-specialist standard for linguistics-based reporting.
Oh, there are exceptions, certainly. Blogs like Language Log and Language Hat, Ben Zimmer’s “On Language” column for the New York Times, and occasional pieces here and there in this magazine or that newspaper. But a single trusted source, a regular, dedicated place where people can go and read about all aspects of our research, with articles written by true experts of the field… that’s what linguistics has been lacking.
If physics could bring quantum entanglement to the masses in Scientific American, if psychology could bring cognitive dissonance to the world outside of academia in Psychology Today, if my 90 year old grandmother could read about nanotube technology in Popular Science, why couldn’t we bring linguistics out into the wider world? That was the kernel that popped in my head way back in the late summer of 2007. Linguistics didn’t just need our own PR machine; we needed a magazine.
With that in mind, I’d like to present the first issue of Popular Linguistics Magazine, a monthly online publication where we aim to bring linguistics and language research to anyone who’s interested, regardless of whether they’re a linguist or not. Our goal here at Popular Linguistics is to present to you, dear readers, all aspects of linguistics, from breaking news in language technologies to stories from intrepid documentary fieldworkers, from research detailing how language works in the brain to stories showing how language works in society. Linguistics for everyone, finally.
You can see the table of contents for the first issue here.