26
Apr
09

Why Linguistics matters

To ease the outrage of the cutting of Linguistics, university management has assured the cuts are part of a “longer-term strategy to make a sustainable future for English Language teaching and research”. But Linguistics is not English Language. A sustainable future for English does not have to come at the expense of Linguistics.

Linguistics is the study of languages. It is crucial to industries such as voice-recognition and translation software. Linguistics underpins speech therapy, used to treat mental pathologies and disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, autism and aphasias, and informs education strategies for children with learning disabilities like dyslexia, dysphasia and dysgraphia. To understand the themes uniting human thought and civilization, we must understand the nature of human communication.

Linguistics has a pivotal role in the future of the arts and the sciences. Its research supports subjects like the philosophy of mind, and of language, artificial intelligence, robotics, neuroscience, psychology, the social sciences, anthropology, history, archaeology, evolutionary biology and behavioural genetics, second language teaching and literature.

The structure of interdisciplinarity, one of Sussex University’s watchwords and unique selling points, is the complementary discourse between departments. Students take courses from outside their degree programme, and researchers share their work in research groups. With Linguistics closed, students from English, Education, Philosophy, Psychology, Neuroscience, Informatics, Languages and other courses will no longer have the access to Linguistics courses they do now, so the learning of future Sussex students will be damaged.

Despite the management talk about a “sustainable future”, the reality is that expertise will be lost. Staff will go, and those who stay will have to adapt their research to the agenda of the English Language department. Whole areas of work and knowledge will cease to exist at Sussex.

In a unilateral decision made without consultation, university management have committed our university to a future of impoverished academic diversity. Sussex’s reputation for interdisciplinarity is to be eroded, and staff and students in all fields will no longer benefit from the widespread applications of Linguistics.

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