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The Case for Computational Linguistics

Because I am a masochist, I am considering launching anew into graduate studies. I won’t take time off to do it, which means I will be stuck in a familiar role, that of a full-time worker and part-time student. And this time, I will be eyeing the landscape beyond the Master’s degree, though that will be my first stop.

I have, of course, already spoiled the reveal of the program that has caught my fancy. But why linguistics? After all, my professional background is in the evolving universe of information technology, and I aligned my undergraduate and Master’s level graduate work to match (just, you know, mixed in with business, because pragmatics FTW I guess). But I would be understating the case if I suggested that I couldn’t bear another round of classes grounded solely in the intersection of management and information systems. With some prep work, I am confident I could teach more than a few of these classes, and while there is some minor appeal to teaching, this field is, in my mind, pragmatic to a nauseating degree. That is, it was useful in extracting a salary, and I happen to be good enough at it to keep myself fed, but aside from the system bits and bobs I pick up on my own in pursuit of my own projects, I am not learning much here. In the meantime, I have found myself in strange waters whose depths invite me. At the risk of being seduced by the unfamiliar before its inevitable flaws cut and bruise me, I am certain I will wander in.

For the sake of thoroughness, here are some other fields that interest me. This is not an exhaustive list.

  • Literature
  • Philosophy
  • Technology Governance
  • Public Policy
  • Political Science
  • Anthropology

What follows is a list of points I am using in favor of a computational linguistics degree.

  1. It’s computational. The part I like best is programming. This I can do.
  2. The structure of language has at times been more interesting to me than learning languages.
  3. I have been known to read dictionaries, not just to find out what words mean, but also because I was interested in their etymology.
  4. I have also been known to discard dictionaries that lacked etymologies.
  5. “Grammarian” has been used in the past as a nickname. I have matured, of course.
  6. I still attempt to make plausible linguistic efforts in naming fictional chararacters and places.
  7. I’ve even made programs to try to make that easier.
  8. And I want to improve them even more.
  9. Before my wife and I were married, during a long bus ride from Germany to France, I talked her ear off about creating languages.
  10. I almost ended up going to the Army’s language school, once upon a time. I would have if it weren’t for a change in my selection of occupations.

Is this enough of a case?