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Classical Linguistics


kittie

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Hey there, lurkers!

Let's all just start randomly posting things on this forum.

Maybe we can bring Classics back to the land of at least the undead!

Sooooo. I have a question.

Does anyone have any experience with Classical Linguistics from their undergrad years?

I'm considering different advisors at different programs and I am drawn to both the History side of Classics as well as the linguistic.

I've emailed some people and a few say that my history background is limited, which it is because my department was more geared toward philosophy (blech) and philology (YAY!)

I haven't emailed faculty who specialize in classical linguistics, so I'm not sure how they'll regard my application.

I've never taken a linguistics course or written a linguistic themed paper, so how would I gear myself and my application towards a professor with a linguistic specialty? Do I need a linguistic background to dare to even apply to Classical Linguistic program?

A little info about me, I teach Latin and Greek at the Intro and Intermediate levels, but history is what makes me hot. Linguistics excites me too!

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Hey Kittie,

I'm afraid I don't know much about Classical Linguistics programs, but I am all for resurrecting this forum! Out of curiosity, what is your history background that professors are deeming insufficient? I am also applying to some history(ish) programs but have a mostly philological background. I have a feeling that few classics undergrads come out having much experience in linguistics prior to grad school; maybe you could talk about your personal study of linguistics outside of school in you SOP?

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Well, let's see.

Even though I've been studying and teaching Latin and Greek for 10 years now, I was told by one potential advisor at UCSB that I was weak in Greek. Yup. me. weak. in.Greek.

bah

He also said that I just didn't have enough courses that centered on Historiography. Most of my profs enjoyed literary analysis of Roman historians, but they weren't extensively trained in Roman History and its issues. The ones that were had to tailor their courses towards more literary themes.

I consider myself self-taught, plus I was a TA for 3 years, for year long Intro Latin, Intro Greek, and an Ancient History course, and several single semester Roman history courses. You can't afford to be ignorant of your subject when you are a TA. They will crush you! Or worse. They will stop coming to class/tutorial/office hours because they have deemed you incompetent or useless. I've seen it happen to people who were only so-so in Greek, but given the task of being the Intro Greek TA. not pretty.

Since I've never studied Classical linguistics or written a paper on linguistics, it's hard to appear knowledgeable of the subject on the SOP. I'm hoping that someone out there reading this knows what is what and can refer me to a intro Classical linguistic book because I have to start somewhere!

I've learned that you need to play with your strengths and that few advisors are comfortable taking on a person who hasn't proven themselves in a particular discipline of Classics. It sucks, but I believe we are all pidgeon holed. Philology stays in Philology. History in History. Philosophy in Philosophy. I'm hoping that I am strong enough to move past philology onto history and linguistics, but I don't know if it can be done.

I'll let you know next spring!

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I really, really hope this doesn't come across as obnoxious, but...if you don't have any experience in classical linguistics, and in fact have never read so much as an introductory text, WHY on Earth do you want a graduate degree in it? To be honest, it sounds like your interest is more in classical *history, even if it's, like, 'how new words shaped Greco-Roman thought' (e.g. the introduction of esse in participle form), or how attitudes change when a text is translated from Greek to Latin, or WHEN various texts are translated, or whatever (I don't know the field--I'm sure you could come up with better examples). Have you thought about that? History MA and PhD programs don't all require a history major in undergrad.

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I really, really hope this doesn't come across as obnoxious, but...if you don't have any experience in classical linguistics, and in fact have never read so much as an introductory text, WHY on Earth do you want a graduate degree in it? To be honest, it sounds like your interest is more in classical *history, even if it's, like, 'how new words shaped Greco-Roman thought' (e.g. the introduction of esse in participle form), or how attitudes change when a text is translated from Greek to Latin, or WHEN various texts are translated, or whatever (I don't know the field--I'm sure you could come up with better examples). Have you thought about that? History MA and PhD programs don't all require a history major in undergrad.

+1.

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Well, Sparky, I'm starting to consider Classical Linguistics more and more because minor aspects of it keep coming up in my Latin and Greek classes. Questions from students only elicit more questions.

What is more, I read a book recently called "Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English" by John McWhorter and I was just overawed by the linguistic background of the author and his analysis of the evolution of English.

As I was reading, I could see much of myself in him.

With my background in Latin, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, and now German, I felt that with the proper training in Classical Linguistics, I could become like this man.

It's rare for me to be so moved by an author. I haven't felt this way since I read my first book by Adrian Goldsworthy 4 years ago. Classical Philology, even though that is what I know, just doesn't excite me like History and now Linguistics.

In my experience, it's important for a person to be excited by the content they are studying. Love of your subject can get you through the most difficult struggles.

I know that for me to survive a Phd program like my MA program, I need to have an incredible amount of motivation and passion, which I just don't display towards philology.

As I said in my first posts, I graduated with a BA and MA in Classics, but many potential advisors have told me that I don't have enough History to be in their Classics Phd with Ancient History Emphasis programs. One of my former advisors told me that BA, MA in Classics, but a Phd in History would not get me a job in the long run, and that's why I ruled out History Phds. If History MA and Phd programs don't require a history major in undergrad, than those aren't the types of places I want to apply to.

So I'm going to return to my earlier question, if one has no undergraduate background in Classical linguistics, but wants to focus on it in a graduate program, where does one acquire an initial understanding? How do advisors determine whether an applicant is suited for study of Classical linguistics? If it's all about language experience, then I definitely have an edge over other applicants with the minimum 2 years of Latin and Greek.

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But it really sounds like what you're interested in is the history of the *language*, not necessarily *linguistics*.

As for not getting a job...dude, please tell me about the sizzling job market in classical linguistics--or even classics as a whole. You will get a job by breaking new ground in your field with a snappy dissertation (if you get a job at all), and you won't do that if you're just retreading the steps of another scholar.

It's your PhD that matters. Okay, maybe it would be harder to get a job at Harvard, but realistically, how many people get jobs at Harvard? If you look at department websites, you'll see that quite a few profs don't have MAs or (especially) BAs in the subject they teach.

As for not having a history background...I applied to several straight-up history programs, ALL of which told me it was absolutely not a problem that my BA and MA are in a different field, as long as it's related. I vaguely recall BC's website saying something about only accepting people w/a history BA, but that's the only one I can think of.

I mean, if it's what you want to do, it's what you want to do. But it doesn't sound like it is.

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Hi Kittie,

I was wondering what you meant by applying to Classical Linguistics programs? As far as I know (and I've researched this a bit, since I myself partially geared my grad school applications towards programs with a linguistic leaning), there are only Classics programs, or Linguistics programs, although Cornell specifically has a phd specialization in Classical linguistics (and for that I think you would need a bit more experience on the linguistics side of things, since you actually apply to the specialization). However, there are a few schools with scholars who work on classical linguistics, and you can always talk about those profs in your SOP (SUNY Buffalo, UCLA, Princeton, and the ma program at Georgia all come to mind). If I were you, i would do some reading about classical linguistics, and then in your SOP I would talk about a couple of professors that you think you would like to work with at the school, not just classical linguistics people, and I would also say something like "In addition, I have recently found myself interested in classical linguistics, and in particular I am eager to explore [whatever/something sort of specific that maybe the professor has written on]. Working with Professor x would give me the opportunity to further develop my interests in this field, and that is one of the main reasons why your department would be a good fit for me" - except in a much more exciting and articulate way.

As far as reading goes, I like Fortson's Introduction to Indo-European Linguistics, although it can be a bit too technical especially if you don't have a linguistics background (which I don't), for introductory reading books on historical linguistics are good, I like Anthony Arlotto's, and there are also the Vox Latina and Vox Graeca.

Hope this helps!

PS. Don't feel bad about not knowing a huge amount about Classical Linguistics, the field unfortunately is sort of unfashionable, and so it's very hard to be exposed to it from the Classics side of things. As far as I know, very few undergraduate programs offer even a class on the subject, and none offer a program of study at that level.

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Well, Pippa, there are a few programs out there with elements of Classical Linguistics. The ones I'm most familiar with are SUNY-Buffalo, UCLA, but especially Cornell.

At SUNY, there isn't a Classical Linguistics emphasis, but I have noticed that a handful of the 30 or so graduate students are listing their specialties with some form of linguistics rather than one of the three established emphases: philology, ancient history, and archaeology.

I'm definitely applying to SUNY, but I know I can't focus my SOP heavily on the linguistics side because there isn't a lot of it offered there. I will include it in my SOP.

SUNY wants every phd student to take a graduate seminar from a department other than Classics, so I will mention my willingness to to enroll in not just Classical linguistics classes, but linguistics concentrating on other languages!

I emailed a few professors at UCLA, but the one I would be most interested to work with is on leave for the 2010-11 school year and that discouraged me from applying to their program. I never even considered Princeton. Even if it is all hype, I just don't want to bother applying there.

Thank you so much for your book recommendations! I was really hoping that there was someone like you out there who could point me in the right direction.

I'm trying to bring this classics forum back to life, but it's hard to do, especially when a lot of the comment aren't constructive.

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Offering suggestions /= not being constructive. At least not on the planet I come from.

Also, if the prof is on leave for the 2010-2011 school year, s/he'll be back when you would start, and might be less likely to take a sabbatical while you are there. How is that discouraging? Did the prof specifically say s/he is not taking on students for 2011-2012?

Edited by Sparky
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