List of Famous Linguists People

List of Famous Linguists

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List of famous linguists, with photos, bios, and other information when available. Who are the top linguists in the world? This includes the most prominent linguists, living and dead, both in America and abroad. This list of notable linguists is ordered by their level of prominence, and can be sorted for various bits of information, such as where these historic linguists were born and what their nationality is. The people on this list are from different countries, but what they all have in common is that they're all renowned linguists.

Use every person on this list for yours, from Noam Chomsky to Larry Wall.

From reputable, prominent, and well known linguists to the lesser known linguists of today, these are some of the best professionals in the linguist field. If you want to answer the questions, "Who are the most famous linguists ever?" and "What are the names of famous linguists?" then you're in the right place. (172 items)


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  1. 21

    Marc Okrand

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    Marc Okrand
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    Marc Okrand is an American linguist, well known as the creator of the Klingon language.more

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    • Age: age 67
  2. 22
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    Ferdinand de Saussure
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist and semiotician whose ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments both in linguistics and semiology in the 20th century. He is widely considered one of the fathers of 20th-century linguistics and one of two major fathers of ...more

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    • Age: Died at 56 (1857-1913)
    • Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland
  3. 23

    Morris Swadesh was an influential and controversial American linguist. In his work, he applied basic concepts in historical linguistics to the Indigenous languages of the Americas. In Europe there was a very clear example of language change over centuries: the shift from Latin to the Romance languages ...more

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    • Age: Died at 58 (1909-1967)
    • Birthplace: Holyoke, Massachusetts, United States of America
    • Profession: Linguist, Anthropologist
  4. 24
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    Karl Vollmöller
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    Karl Gustav Vollmöller, usually written Vollmoeller was a German playwright and screenwriter. He is most famous for two works, the screenplay for the celebrated 1930 German film Der Blaue Engel, which made a star of Marlene Dietrich, and the elaborate religious spectacle-pantomime Das Mirakel, which he ...more

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    • Age: Died at 70 (1878-1948)
    • Birthplace: Stuttgart, Germany
    • Profession: Linguist, Poet, Entrepreneur, Screenwriter, Author, + more
  5. 25

    John Maxwell "J. M." Coetzee is a South African novelist, essayist, linguist, translator and recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature. He relocated to Australia in 2002 and lives in Adelaide. He became an Australian citizen in 2006. In 2013, Richard Poplak of the Daily Maverick described Coetzee ...more

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    • Age: age 75
    • Birthplace: Western Cape, City of Cape Town, Cape Town, Africa, South Africa
    • Profession: Linguist, Literary critic, Novelist, Essayist, Translator, + more
  6. 26

    John DeFrancis was an American linguist, sinologist, author of Chinese language textbooks, lexicographer of Chinese dictionaries, and Professor Emeritus of Chinese Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.more

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    • Age: Died at 98 (1911-2009)
    • Birthplace: Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States of America
    • Profession: Linguist, Professor, Author
  7. 27

    William Stokoe

    William C. Stokoe, Jr. was a professor and pioneer researcher in American Sign Language who taught at Gallaudet University. His studies of ASL on linguistic principles revolutionized the understanding of ASL in the United States and sign languages throughout the world and had a profound impact on deaf ...more

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    • Age: Died at 81 (1919-2000)
    • Birthplace: New Hampshire, United States of America
  8. 28
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    Roman Jakobson
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    Roman Osipovich Jakobson was a Russian–American linguist and literary theorist. As a pioneer of the structural analysis of language, which became the dominant trend in linguistics during the first half of the 20th century, Jakobson was among the most influential linguists of the century. Influenced by ...more

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    • Age: Died at 86 (1896-1982)
    • Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
    • Profession: Linguist
  9. 29
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    Daniel Jurafsky
    Photo: Freebase/Fair use

    Daniel Jurafsky, commonly known as Dan Jurafsky, is a Professor of Linguistics and Computer Science at Stanford University.more

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    • Birthplace: Yonkers, New York, United States of America
    • Profession: Linguist, Computer scientist
  10. 30
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    Ivan Sag
    Photo: Freebase/Fair use

    Ivan Andrew Sag was an American linguist and cognitive scientist. Born in Alliance, Ohio on November 9, 1949, Sag attended the Mercersburg Academy but was expelled shortly before graduation. He received a BA from the University of Rochester, an MA from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied ...more

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    • Age: Died at 64 (1949-2013)
    • Birthplace: United States of America
    • Profession: Linguist, Professor
  11. 31

    Luce Irigaray is a Belgian-born French feminist, philosopher, linguist, psycholinguist, psychoanalyst, sociologist and cultural theorist. She is best known for her works Speculum of the Other Woman and This Sex Which Is Not One.more

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    • Age: age 85
    • Birthplace: Bernissart, Belgium
    • Profession: Linguist, Sociologist, Psychoanalyst, Writer, Philosopher, + more
  12. 32

    Mary Rosamund Haas was an American linguist who specialized in North American Indian languages, Thai, and historical linguistics.more

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    • Age: Died at 86 (1910-1996)
    • Birthplace: Richmond, Wayne Township, Indiana, United States of America
    • Profession: Linguist, Anthropologist
  13. 33

    Donna Jo Napoli is an American writer of children's and young-adult fiction, as well as a prominent linguist. She has worked in syntax, phonetics, phonology, morphology, historical and comparative linguistics, Romance studies, structure of Japanese, structure of American Sign Language, poetics, writing ...more

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    • Age: age 67
    • Birthplace: Miami, Florida, United States of America
    • Profession: Linguist, Novelist, Author, Writer
  14. 34
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    Ali-Shir Nava'i
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    Mīr 'Ali-Shir Nava'i, also known as Nizām-al-Din ʿAlī-Shīr Herawī was a Central Asian Turkic poet, writer, politician, linguist, mystic, and painter. He was the greatest representative of Chagatai language literature. Nava'i believed that the Turkic language was superior to Persian for literary ...more

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    • Age: Died at 60 (1441-1501)
    • Birthplace: Herat, Afghanistan
    • Profession: Linguist, Painter, Poet, Politician, Writer
  15. 35

    Alfred Marston Tozzer was an American anthropologist, archaeologist, linguist, and educator. His principal area of interest was Mesoamerican, especially Maya, studies. He was the husband of Margaret Castle Tozzer and father of figure skating champion Joan Tozzer.more

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    • Age: Died at 77 (1877-1954)
    • Birthplace: Lynn, Massachusetts, United States of America
    • Profession: Linguist, Anthropologist, Educator, Archaeologist
  16. 36

    Professor Kate Burridge, BA, PhD, FAHA, is a prominent Australian linguist specialising in the Germanic languages. Burridge currently occupies the Chair of Linguistics in the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University. Burridge's work has mainly focused on Pennsylvania ...more

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    • Profession: Linguist, Professor, Author, Radio personality
  17. 37

    George P. Lakoff is an American cognitive linguist, best known for his thesis that lives of individuals are significantly influenced by the central metaphors they use to explain complex phenomena. The metaphor thesis, introduced in his 1980 book Metaphors We Live By has found applications in a number of ...more

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    • Age: age 74
    • Birthplace: Bayonne, New Jersey, United States of America
    • Profession: Linguist, Professor, Author
  18. 38
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    Jan Potocki
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    Count Jan Nepomucen Potocki was a Polish nobleman, Polish Army Captain of Engineers, ethnologist, Egyptologist, linguist, traveler, adventurer and popular author of the Enlightenment period, whose life and exploits made him a legendary figure in his homeland. Outside Poland he is known chiefly for his ...more

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    • Age: Died at 54 (1761-1815)
    • Birthplace: Kalynivka Raion
    • Profession: Linguist, Politician, Adventurer, Historian, Military Officer, + more
  19. 39

    George Chychele Waterston was a language teacher and the father of Sam Waterston.more

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    • Age: Died at 91 (1904-1995)
    • Birthplace: Leith, United Kingdom
    • Profession: Linguist, Diplomat, Teacher
  20. 40

    Gregory Bateson was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields. In the 1940s he helped extend systems theory and cybernetics to the social and behavioral sciences. He spent the last decade ...more

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    • Age: Died at 76 (1904-1980)
    • Birthplace: Grantchester, United Kingdom
    • Profession: Linguist, Anthropologist, Scientist, Author, Cyberneticist
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