McWhorter, J. PhD Linguistics (Stanford). Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue (2009).
p. 54 Bottom
There is ample scholarly work on how going to went from referring to locomotion to becoming a future tense marker, complete with statistical analysis, tables, and so
on. It’s great stuff, and it’s what a scholar of language change is trained in.
However, charting how Celtic languages impacted English involves different strategies. It requires being a different brand of linguist. Often, that brand is language contact specialist. That person has an eye on what sorts of features are common around the world and what sorts are not, is obsessed with not just one language family but with several, and has a native taste for history as well as linguistics. Such linguists are less tickled by things that sprung up in a language by themselves than by things that languages did to one another.
As such, it’s as if scholars of The History of English are engaged in a lusty game of Monopoly when adherents of the Celtic idea bust into the room asking who wants to play a game of Clue. Or, some people are building things with an Erector set and someone pops in with a little car made of Legos. To the traditional specialist on how English got from Beowulf to The Economist, drawing parallels between English and some other language is just Not What They Do, especially not at any length. That feeling is understandable, but the problem is that the language contact specialist’s analysis, in this case, squares with logic in a way that the same-old same-old analysis simply does not.
The emboldened sentences imply that this brand of historical linguistics ('language contact specialist') is rare. But why?
McWhorter insinuates that the traditional linguists of English's history don't operate under this brand. But isn't it irresponsible for a linguist who studies English's history to neglect other language families and 'things that languages did to one another'?