Famous 20th Century Linguists

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 1 
Noam Chomsky
(A Major Figure in Analytic Philosophy Who is Also Known as 'The Father of Modern Linguistics')
Noam Chomsky
21
Birthdate: December 7, 1928
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Regarded by many as the father of modern linguistics, Noam Chomsky has authored over 100 books on varied topics, such as politics, linguistics, and war. A multi-talented personality, Noam Chomsky is considered a popular figure in analytic philosophy. Apart from influencing a wide array of academic fields, he has also contributed to the development of cognitivism.

 2 
Steven Pinker
(Cognitive Psychologist and Advocate of Evolutionary Psychology and the Computational Theory of Mind)
Steven Pinker
8
Birthdate: September 18, 1954
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Montreal, Canada

Steven Pinker is a Canadian-American linguist, cognitive psychologist, and popular science author. He is also a supporter of the computational theory of mind and evolutionary psychology. His works have earned him awards from organizations like the National Academy of Sciences, the American Psychological Association, and the American Humanist Association. In 2013, he was named in Prospect magazine's World Thinkers list.

 3 
Katharine Gun
(Linguist)
Katharine Gun
8
Birthdate: 1974 AD
Birthplace: Taiwan, Taiwan
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 4 
Antonio Gramsci
(Italian Philosopher Best Known for His Theory of 'Cultural Hegemony')
Antonio Gramsci
6
Birthdate: January 22, 1891
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ales, Italy
Died: April 27, 1937

Antonio Gramsci was an Italian politician, journalist, philosopher, linguist, and writer. A founding member of the Communist Party of Italy, Gramsci went on to serve as the leader of the party before he was arrested by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime. Since his death, Antonio Gramsci has been the subject of several plays and films.

 5 
John McWhorter
(Linguist)
John McWhorter
10
Birthdate: October 6, 1965
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Philadelphia
 6 
Julius Nyerere
(Politician)
Julius Nyerere
6
Birthdate: April 13, 1922
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Butiama, Tanzania
Died: October 14, 1999
 7 
Charles Sanders Peirce
(Scientist, Philosopher)
Charles Sanders Peirce
6
Birthdate: September 10, 1839
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 19, 1914
 8 
Jamie Hyneman
(Television presenter, Journalist, Linguist, Wrangler, Machinist)
Jamie Hyneman
14
Birthdate: September 25, 1956
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Marshall
 9 
Zhou Youguang
(Chinese economist and linguist)
Zhou Youguang
4
Birthdate: January 13, 1906
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Changzhou, Jiangsu, Qing dynasty Qing Empire
Died: January 14, 2017

Best remembered for creating a new writing system that allows Mandarin to be written in Roman alphabets, Chinese economist Zhou Youguang started working on the project in 1955, reaching his goal after three years of labor. Known as Father of Pinyin, he has also authored forty books, most notable among them being The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts.

 10 
J. L. Austin
(Philosopher of Language Best Known for Developing the 'Theory of Speech Acts')
J. L. Austin
4
Birthdate: March 26, 1911
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Lancaster, England
Died: February 8, 1960

Philosopher J. L. Austin is remembered for his study on ordinary-language philosophy and is also considered a pioneer of the theory of speech acts. His lectures at Harvard were later collected in How to Do Things with Words. He died of cancer while developing a theory on sound symbolism.

 11 
Roman Jakobson
(Linguist)
Roman Jakobson
4
Birthdate: October 11, 1896
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Moscow
Died: July 18, 1982
 12 
Michael Halliday
(Linguist who developed the internationally influential systemic functional linguistics (SFL) model of language)
Michael Halliday
4
Birthdate: April 13, 1925
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Leeds, England
Died: April 15, 2018

British linguist Michael Halliday is best remembered for his neo-Firthian theory of language. Born to a dialectologist father and an English teacher mother, Halliday naturally developed a love for languages. An expert in Chinese language, he has conducted research on child language development and the theory of grammar.

 13 
Luce Irigaray
(Philosopher, linguist, Feminist)
Luce Irigaray
4
Birthdate: May 3, 1930
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bernissart, Belgium
 14 
Anne Carson
(Linguist, Poet, Translator, Writer, University teacher, Literary critic)
Anne Carson
3
Birthdate: June 21, 1950
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Toronto

Born to a banker in Toronto, Anne Carson grew up to study Classics and later taught at institutes such as Princeton University. Her signature style consists of a mix of prose and poetry. One of her notable works, Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse, was inspired by Greek mythology.

 15 
Robert Bly
(Linguist, Poet, Translator, Writer)
Robert Bly
3
Birthdate: December 23, 1926
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota, United States
 16 
Jon Elia
(Linguist, Philosopher, Poet, Literary critic)
Jon Elia
4
Birthdate: December 14, 1931
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Amroha
Died: November 8, 2002

Jon Elia was a poet, biographer, philosopher, and scholar. Best remembered for his unconventional ways, Elia is widely regarded as one of the most important modern Urdu poets. Apart from writing in Urdu, Jon Elia was also fluent in several other languages including Sanskrit, Hebrew, English, and Persian.

 17 
Lin Yutang
(One of the Most Well-Known Twentieth-Century Chinese Writers)
Lin Yutang
3
Birthdate: October 10, 1895
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Banzai, Fujian, Zhangzhou, China
Died: March 26, 1976

Son of a Christian minister, Lin Yutang was initially supposed to join the ministry but later rejected Christianity to become a professor. His works include several Chinese and English books, such as Moment in Peking. He also introduced the concept of satire magazines in China with Lunyu banyuekan.

 18 
William Labov
(Linguist)
William Labov
3
Birthdate: December 4, 1927
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rutherford, New Jersey, U.S.
 19 
Ferdinand de Saussure
6
Birthdate: November 26, 1857
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland
Died: February 22, 1913

Known as the father of linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure laid down the concept of semiotics. He distinguished between parole and langue, leading later thinkers to explore structuralism. His only book was his dissertation on vowels in Indo-European languages, with the rest being collections of his lectures.

 20 
Girish Karnad
(Linguist, Author, Film director, Actor, Translator, Screenwriter)
Girish Karnad
6
Birthdate: May 19, 1938
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Matheran, Maharashtra, India

Actor, film director and playwright, Girish Karnad was also a Rhodes Scholar with a Masters degree in philosophy, political science and economics. A prolific writer, he authored scores of plays in Kannada, which were later translated into other languages. Also an eminent actor, film director and screenwriter, he was conferred with numerous awards including the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.

 21 
Michel Thomas
(Linguist)
Michel Thomas
3
Birthdate: February 3, 1914
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lodz, Poland
Died: January 8, 2005
 22 
Amos Oz
(Writer, Linguist, Journalist, Novelist, Translator, Essayist, Educationist, University teacher, Children's writer)
Amos Oz
6
Birthdate: May 4, 1939
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Jerusalem

Originally called Amos Klausner, Oz Amos was an Israeli short story writer, novelist, essayist, and educator, known for his advocacy of two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Professor Hebrew literature at Ben-Gurion University, he wrote forty books, many of which have been translated into forty-five languages, earning him  numerous international awards and honors, including Legion of Honour of France.

 23 
Enoch Powell
(Former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care of the United Kingdom)
Enoch Powell
17
Birthdate: June 16, 1912
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Birmingham
Died: February 8, 1998

Enoch Powell was a British politician, linguist, classical scholar, philologist, and poet. Also a soldier, Powell served in World War II, reaching the rank of brigadier. His political career is remembered for his iconic and infamous Rivers of Blood speech, which was interpreted as a demonstration of racism. The speech became the subject of a play titled What Shadows.

 24 
Valentin Inzko
(Linguist, Diplomat)
Valentin Inzko
3
Birthdate: May 22, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Klagenfurt
 25 
Sol Plaatje
(South African Journalist, Linguist, Founding Member and First General Secretary of the 'South African Native National Congress')
Sol Plaatje
3
Birthdate: October 9, 1876
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Boshof, South Africa
Died: June 19, 1932
South African writer and journalist Sol Plaatje, known for his novel Mhudi, was well-versed in a number of languages, apart from his native Tswana. He founded what later became the African National Congress and made people across the globe aware of the plight of black Africans in his country.
 26 
J. M. Coetzee
(South African-Australian Writer and Recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature)
J. M. Coetzee
0
Birthdate: February 9, 1940
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Cape Town, South Africa

Nobel Prize- and two-time Booker Prize-winning author J. M. Coetzee had started his career as a Fulbright scholar. After teaching English in the U.S. and South Africa, he now lives and teaches in Australia. He is best known for his colonial settings in novels such as Waiting for the Barbarians.

 27 
Yuri Knorozov
(Linguist)
Yuri Knorozov
3
Birthdate: November 19, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kharkiv, Soviet Union
Died: March 31, 1999
 28 
Niki Karimi
(Actor, Linguist, Film director, Translator, Screenwriter)
Niki Karimi
7
Birthdate: November 10, 1971
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tehran
 29 
Paul Grice
(Philosopher)
Paul Grice
0
Birthdate: March 13, 1913
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Birmingham, England
Died: August 28, 1988
 30 
Daniel Everett
(Linguist and author best known for his study of the Amazon Basin's Pirahã people and their language)
Daniel Everett
4
Birthdate: July 26, 1951
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Holtville, California, United States
 31 
Zellig Harris
(Linguist)
Zellig Harris
5
Birthdate: October 23, 1909
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Balta, Ukraine
Died: May 22, 1992
 32 
S.I. Hayakawa
(Politician)
S.I. Hayakawa
5
Birthdate: July 18, 1906
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Died: February 27, 1992
 33 
Otto Jespersen
(Former linguist who specialized in the grammar of the English language)
Otto Jespersen
3
Birthdate: July 16, 1860
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Randers, Denmark
Died: April 30, 1943

Otto Jespersen was a Danish linguist best remembered for his expertise in the English language and its grammar. Counted among the greatest language scholars of his generation, Otto Jespersen played a prominent role in the international language movement. He also served as a professor at the University of Copenhagen between 1893 and 1925.

 34 
Dell Hymes
(One of the First Sociolinguists to Pioneer the Connection Between Speech and Social Relations)
Dell Hymes
3
Birthdate: June 7, 1927
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon, United States
Died: November 13, 2009

Dell Hymes was part of some of the pioneering studies on linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics, and later focused on ethnopoetics and the SPEAKING model. He also founded the journal Language in Society and served as its editor. In his later career, he was accused of sexual harassment.

 35 
Joseph Greenberg
3
Birthdate: May 28, 1915
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: May 7, 2001
 36 
Teun A. van Dijk
(Linguist, University teacher, Sociologist)
Teun A. van Dijk
3
Birthdate: May 7, 1943
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Naaldwijk
 37 
Michael Witzel
3
Birthdate: July 18, 1943
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Swiebodzin, Poland
 38 
Nikolai Trubetzkoy
3
Birthdate: April 16, 1890
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: June 25, 1938
 39 
George Lakoff
(Linguist)
George Lakoff
0
Birthdate: May 24, 1941
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bayonne, New Jersey, United States
 40 
Heinrich Zimmer
(Linguist)
Heinrich Zimmer
3
Birthdate: December 6, 1890
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Greifswald, German Empire
Died: March 20, 1943
 41 
John Rupert Firth
3
Birthdate: June 17, 1890
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Keighley, England
Died: December 14, 1960
 42 
Robin Lakoff
(Linguist, Professor)
Robin Lakoff
0
Birthdate: November 27, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
 43 
Fatana Najib
(Linguist)
Fatana Najib
3
Birthdate: August 9, 1953
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Baghlan, Afghanistan
 44 
Alexander Argüelles
(Linguist, Philologist)
Alexander Argüelles
1
Birthdate: April 30, 1964
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
 45 
Ghil'ad Zuckermann
(Linguist, Philologist)
Ghil'ad Zuckermann
1
Birthdate: June 1, 1971
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
 46 
Arthur Waley
(Translator)
Arthur Waley
3
Birthdate: August 19, 1889
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England
Died: June 27, 1966
Guillermo Cabrera Infante
3
Birthdate: April 22, 1929
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Gibara, Cuba
Died: February 21, 2005

Guillermo Cabrera Infante was a Cuban novelist, essayist, translator, and screenwriter. He initially planned to become a doctor but ditched his plans to become a writer instead. He had a successful career and eventually became the editor of the magazine Carteles and director of the Instituto del Cine. He received the Premio Cervantes in 1997. 

 48 
Joseph Wright
(Philologist, Linguist)
Joseph Wright
1
Birthdate: October 31, 1855
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
Died: February 27, 1930
 49 
Gregory Rabassa
(Translator)
Gregory Rabassa
2
Birthdate: March 9, 1922
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Yonkers, New York, United States
Died: June 13, 2016
 50 
Charles Kay Ogden
2
Birthdate: June 1, 1889
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Fleetwood, England
Died: March 20, 1957