2010-07-02

Philology vs. linguistics

Being a linguist, I have been feeling more and more strongly that there seems to exist an unbridgeable gap between philology and linguistics. Although I am interested in languages, I find philologically oriented talks more and more boring and less and less bearable. True philology may be supposed to be different, but almost all the philologically oriented talks I have heard in academic conferences have two things in common: 1) they have no theoretical framework; 2) they are linear in that they have no internal structure with chapters, sections, subsections, etc. In other words, they sound like collections of linguistic anecdotes.

Philology, as it is studied now, seems to be occupied too much with trivial details that do not lead to a better understanding of language in general and a specific language in question in particular as a system. I am bothered by the fact that these philologists seem to "sanctify" anything written by anyone as long as it is old enough. Even if I left some texts in some foreign language, they might have the potential to become objects of investigation for future philologists. I am also bothered by the fact that few of these philologists take the trouble of adding glosses and translations to their examples as is common among linguistcs working on less known languages, even when they know in advance that the audience is not familiar with their languages. So I end up being choked with anecdotes about trifles with no discovery or insight about the mechanism, whether structural or social, of language or a language.