Towards establishing what linguists think the general public should know about language: Salient versus important issues in linguistics

Tomás Lehecka*, Jan-Ola Östman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In order to develop effective strategies of science communication and public outreach in linguistics, one needs to choose what topics to prioritise in such efforts. We carried out a global online survey study among experts in linguistics (n = 538) asking what they perceive as the most important facts about language that the general public should be aware of. We used two distinct methods to collect the respondents' opinions: open-ended text responses and rating questions. In this paper, we compare the findings from the two tasks and we discuss the differences between them. Thus, the paper constitutes a methodologically-laden commentary on the nature of linguists' opinions on what everyone should know about language. We argue that both open-ended responses and rating questions provide valuable information about linguists' views, but from different perspectives. In particular, we see a need to distinguish between what issues are the most salient to linguists, and what issues are perceived as the most important. The aim of our study is to provide a starting point for a rich and methodologically diverse line of research—and, consequently, for an empirically-based debate—on the public relevance of language-related knowledge and the role of linguists as science communicators in disseminating that knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12482
JournalLanguage and Linguistics Compass
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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