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Type: Correspondence
Published: 2010-12-24
Page range: 11–14
Abstract views: 136
PDF downloaded: 100

Being obsessive-compulsive about terminology and nomenclature is not a vice, but a virtue

terminology nomenclature


At first glance, discussions among linguists seem utterly absurd to those without linguistic training. Scientific debates on the Chinese languages are a good example. For decades, linguists have been arguing over how many Chinese languages exist. Should Chinese characters be classified as ideographs or pictographs, and are they phonetic or rather syllabic in nature (DeFrancis 1984)? Reading linguistic treatises is reminiscent of reading any specialized scientific article—they are difficult to understand if one is not among the experts. It is only natural that non-experts ask sooner or later whether all of these linguistic discussions are of any practical use, and how much money, often derived from taxes, is spent on them. Of course these discussions are of practical use and money is well spent.