20th-century Linguist Quotes
It is generally believed that scientific talent reveals itself in early youth. [...] This was certainly not my case. I somehow slid into my scientific profession. My mother wished for me to become a physician, just like my father. [...] I myself wanted to be a lawyer, defender of the unjustly accused. But my career is the result of political circumstances, academic possibilities, and lucky accidents.
If only there were a lexicographer of Liang Shih-ch'iu's ability who also had the perspicuity to arrange his dictionary by sound rather than radical! … No wonder most of us are so sour and gray by the time we reach fifty! The amount of time consumed and the spirit expended in this sort of meaningless, not to mention destructive, type of activity is beyond calculation.
A physical system is just that: a physical system. What is systematized is matter itself, and the processes in which the system is realized are also material. But a biological system is more complex: it is both biological and physical — it is matter with the added component of life; and a social system is more complex still: it is physical, and biological, with the added component of social order, or value. … A semiotic system is still one step further in complexity: it is physical, and biological, and social —and also semiotic: what is being systematized is meaning. In evolutionary terms, it is a system of the fourth order of complexity
A community is known by the language it keeps, and its words chronicle the times. Every aspect of the life of a people is reflected in the words they use to talk about themselves and the world around them. As their world changes — through invention, discovery, revolution, evolution, or personal transformation — so does their language.