I'm a Linguistics major at OSU, I have one semester left. During my time here, I've tried to read whatever I could on philosophy of language on the side, especially from people who aren't usually considered in the realm of linguistics, such as Bakhtin, Voloshinov, Derrida, Lacan, Kristeva, Deleuze, etc.

A lot of times, I've wanted to talk to my professors about whoever it is I'm currently reading, but, with only one exception, no professor I have had has ever even heard of these people. This is something that just seems weird to me; I think a lot of concepts that authors like these have, like "speech genres", "heteroglossia", "order-words" etc. definitely provide some insight into language and would be useful for linguists to know. It's weird to me that people who are concerned with understanding the nature of language have never encountered these kind of people, despite studying linguistics for years. There are tons of times when I think their ideas can be applied to, especially in areas like sociolinguistics.

So, my questions are, is this just something particular to my school? And if it isn't, then why haven't authors who have been influential in other areas that also deal with language, such as rhetoric or literary theory, not been as influential in linguistics?


1 Answer 1


It naturally depends on which OSU you are referring to, but if we're speaking of the Buckeye version of OSU, there are three explanations to consider. The first is that you don't have an exhaustive sample (did you knock on every door?). The second is that you're misinterpreting their answers (I seriously doubt that only one professor there has heard of Bakhtin, Derrida, Lacan; but I admit that I myself don't know who Voloshinov, Kristeva and Deleuze are). Consider the possibility that the answer means "I would not waste my time on them", or "What does that have to do with linguistics". The third is that linguistics is a very broad field, and philosophy is irrelevant to many sub-disciplines (what does Derrida have to do with computational phonetics?), so it's unreasonable to expect every linguistics professor to know every potentially-connectable philosopher. Consider, for example, what kind of sociolinguistics is done there. You could survey the same population and ask who Malcolm Guthrie, Hans Wehr, Patajali, or James Foley are, and probably get a similar low recognition rate.

  • I mean, you can seriously doubt it, but it's true. Examples: Me (to my historical linguistics teacher): What do you think of Derrida? Response: Who? Me (to my intro to linguistics teacher): What do you think of Derrida? Response: who? Me (to my Language, Race and Ethnicity teacher 2 days ago): Have you ever heard of Mikhail Bakhtin? Response: No who is that? Me (to my Language Race and Ethnicity teacher a few ago): Have you ever heard of Lacan? I think about his ideas a lot in this class Response: No, who is that? Nov 24, 2019 at 1:58
  • 1
    Honestly, I feel kind of uncomfortable putting names here, but I'm looking at the site now, and I will admit most of my teachers have been grad students. I have had a few associate professors who gave similar responses, but if grad students don't count, the number is a lot less now. So, point taken. Nov 24, 2019 at 2:30
  • 1
    Frankly, I’m a bit shocked that even a grad student wouldn’t know who Derrida, Deleuze, Lacan and Bakhtin are (perhaps not all of them, but at least some of them). I absolutely hate most philosophy and steer well clear of it, but even I know that those are all 20th-century philosophers. Nov 24, 2019 at 4:03
  • 1
    There's also the problem with asking people out of context whether they've ever heard of [attempt at pronouncing <Insert French philosopher>'s name, in French, naturally]. This can go awry very easily. Be ready with some context, like "I've been reading this French philosopher <...> and I was wondering if you know anything about him".
    – jlawler
    Nov 24, 2019 at 19:58
  • 1
    I taught linguistics at OSU for one year in 1970, and I plead guilty. I'm sure, at the time, I would not have recognized any of these names, and in the years since, none of their writings ever came up in any serious way in my linguistics classes or dissertation direction. What does it matter whether I recognize the names? Is there anything there worth discussing?
    – Greg Lee
    Feb 27, 2020 at 17:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.