Monday, June 19, 2023

Good writers in linguistics

Back in 2021, I asked the following question on Twitter:

Linguists and people who read linguists: who do you consider to be good writers in linguistics? That is, independently of the merits (or otherwise) of the content, whose prose is pleasurable to read?

There were a lot of answers given! This post is just a summary. To avoid my own biases creeping in too heavily, I’m providing the answers in two lists.

List A

This is simply a list of people whose names came up more than once in the replies, I’m assuming independently.

David Adger

Alexandra Aikhenvald

Artemis Alexiadou

Felix Ameka

Mark Baker

Jonathan Bobaljik

Dwight Bolinger

Joan Bybee

Deborah Cameron

Wallace Chafe

Bernard Comrie

Greville Corbett

Niklas Coupland

David Crystal

Alexandra D’Arcy

Amy Rose Deal

Guy Deutscher

R. M. W. Dixon

Matthew Dryer

Penny Eckert

David Embick

Nicholas Evans

Nelson Flores

Liliane Haegeman

Michael Halliday

Heidi Harley

Martin Haspelmath

Ray Jackendoff

Roman Jakobson

Barbara Johnstone

William Labov

Bob Ladd

Peter Ladefoged

George Lakoff

Roger Lass

John McCarthy

Jim McCloskey

John McWhorter

Marcin Morzycki

Barbara Partee

Steven Pinker

Geoff Pullum

Ian Roberts

Edward Sapir

Anna Siewierska

Deborah Tannen

Sally Thomason

Larry Trask

Peter Trudgill

Bodo Winter

List B

This is everyone else who was mentioned.

Elzbieta Adamczyk

Uju Anya

Diana Archangeli

Dawn Archer

Laura Arnold

Jenny Audring

Kent Bach

Ad Backus

April Baker-Bell

Rusty Barrett

Michael Beißwenger

Emily Bender

Émile Benveniste

Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero

Katie Bernstein

Catherine Best

Jan Blommaert

Frederick Bodmer

David Britain

Penelope Brown

Siobhan Brownlie

Lyle Campbell

Anne Charity Hudley

Yiya Chen

Lisa Cheng

Andrew Chesterman

Guglielmo Cinque

Guy Cook

Ewa Dabrowska

Katrina Daly Thompson

Helen De Hoop

Hendrik De Smet

Ana Deumert

Jill de Villiers

Jean-Marc Dewaele

Gaston Dorren

Sebastian Dubreil

Rod Ellis

Stephan Elspass

Nick Enfield

Vyvyan Evans

Cathrine Fabricius-Hansen

Charlie Farrington

Esther Figueroa

Charles Fillmore

William Foley

H. W. Fowler

Elaine Francis

Gillian Gallagher

Ginny Gathercole

Anna Giskes

Lila Gleitman

Petra Goedegebuure

Karl-Heinz Göttert

Adele Goldberg

Ernest Gowers

David Gramling

Robert D. Greenberg

Lenore Grenoble

Hubert Haider

Michael Hancher

Jorge Hankamer

Jonathan Harrington

Rebecca Hasselbach

Stefan Hauser

Jeffrey Heath

Irene Heim

Monica Heller

Martin Hilpert

Charles Hockett

Nicole Holliday

Larry Horn

Susan Hunston

Jim Hurford

Nina Hyams

Larry Hyman

Dell Hymes

Mark Johnson

Brian Joseph

Laura Kalin

Noah Katznelson

Geoffrey Khan

Sharese King

Leonid Kogan

Claire Kramsch

Julia Kristeva

Dave Kush

Utpal Lahiri

Robin Lakoff

Howard Lasnik

Julie Legate

Sterre Leufkens

Beth Levin

David Lightfoot

Henning Lobin

Juri Lotman

Martin Luginbühl

Jack Lynch

Dave Malinowski

Peter Matthews

C. M. I. M. Matthiessen

Tony McEnery

Norma Mendoza-Denton

Simon Meier-Vieracker

Craig Melchert

Marianne Mithun

Koldo Mitxelena

Robert Moore

Akira Murakami

Lynne Murphy

Terttu Nevalainen

Marco Neves

Andrew Nevins

Corrine Occhino

Nicholas Ostler

Django Paris

Joe Pater

Aneta Pavlenko

Alison Phipps

Ingrid Piller

Lola Pons Rodríguez

Philomen Probert

Vladimir Propp

Malka Rappaport Hovav

Paul Reed

Timo Roettger

Jonathan Rosa

Deniz Rudin

Ivan Sag

Gillian Sankoff

Michelle Sheehan

Jesse Sheidlower

Michael Silverstein

Peggy Speas

Dan Sperber

Lauren Squires

Arran Stibbe

Sali Tagliamonte

Christine Tardy

Anne-Michelle Tessier

Erik Thomas

Steve Thorne

Susanne Tienken

Adam van Compernolle

Berthold van Maris

Marc van Oostendorp

Ariel Vasquez Carranza

Kai von Fintel

Rachel Walker

Henriette Walter

Chantelle Warner

Calvert Watkins

Andreas Willi

Deirdre Wilson

Martina Wiltschko

Tim Wolcott

Walt Wolfram

Marina Yaguello

George Yule

Ben Zimmer


Any list like this should come with an insane number of caveats! For one thing, the replies are skewed by who happens to be following me on Twitter, and who happened to retweet it. For another, the notion of “good writer” wasn’t defined (and quite possibly can’t be): I don’t personally even believe that it’s wholly possible to disentangle prose style and merits of the content. And, thirdly, famous people are more likely to appear on both lists by virtue of their fame.

And finally my own disclaimer: I don’t agree with all of the suggestions. In some cases, I think that they’re a good writer, but a bad person. Or a bad writer, but a good person. Or a good writer and a good person, but a bad linguist… or any combination of the above! But the point of the lists isn’t to represent what I think. Hopefully, instead, it’ll spread good vibes and encourage people to take a look at writing by people they haven’t checked out before.

No comments: