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July 01, 2003

The Little-Known Linguist

A recent edition of the UK's Guardian newspaper included a feature on Larry Trask - a little-known name but a very interesting article, that begins, "Asked to name a linguist, most people come up with Chomsky or Pinker. But Larry Trask - an expert on Basque - deserves to be famous too." Here is an excerpt:

His short book Language: the Basics, which has been in print since 1995, is the best primer around: it's not just instructive, but written with clarity, verve, and a sense of fun. He hasn't got any sensational theories, but his field, like any other, is extraordinarily interesting when the orthodoxy is well explained: after all, the mainstream of any science is the result of tens of thousands of smart and dedicated scholars refining their knowledge over decades or centuries. This fact is particularly important in linguistics, since it's like teaching, in that everyone feels that a little common sense would solve all its problems. "Everybody has his own ideas about what is sensible," he says, "and a linguistics based wholly on common sense would be chaotic."

Read the full article.

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