Linguists

Linguists study, describe and explain the human faculty of language. Modern linguistics as a field began to develop in the 18th century. Swiss linguist and semiotician Ferdinand Mongin de Saussure who laid a foundation for many significant developments both in linguistics and semiology in the 20th century is considered one of the founders of 20th-century linguistics. Czech literary, linguistic, and aesthetic theorist Jan Mukařovský and Russian–American linguist and literary theorist Roman Osipovich Jakobson are both considered pioneers of the structural analysis of language. The discipline of linguistics was further enriched in the late 20th century by the emergence of the likes of Noam Chomsky, William Labov, and Michael Halliday. While Chomsky made pivotal contributions to generative grammar, Halliday worked on systemic functional linguistics and also modern psycholinguistics. Among the prominent ladies in the field, Alexandra Yurievna Aikhenvald is one who stands out owing to her specialization in Linguistic typology and the Arawak language family. Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig is another woman linguist who had conducted extensive research on second-language temporality and tense-mood-aspect systems and interlanguage pragmatics. This section provides you information about the life and works of famous linguists.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 
Noam Chomsky
(The Father of Modern Linguistics)

Noam Chomsky
20
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
(Psychologist)

Steven Pinker
6
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 
Antonio Gramsci
(Best Known for His Theory of Cultural Hegemony)

Antonio Gramsci
4
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.

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 4 
Julius Nyerere
(Politician)

Julius Nyerere
4
Birthdate: April 13, 1922
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Butiama, Tanzania
Died: October 14, 1999
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 5 
Katharine Gun
(Linguist)

Katharine Gun
8
Birthdate: 1974 AD
Birthplace: Taiwan, Taiwan

 6 
John McWhorter
(Linguist)

John McWhorter
8
Birthdate: October 6, 1965
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Philadelphia
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 7 
Charles Sanders Peirce
(Scientist, Philosopher)

Charles Sanders Peirce
4
Birthdate: September 10, 1839
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 19, 1914
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 8 
Jamie Hyneman
(Television presenter, Journalist, Linguist, Wrangler, Machinist)

Jamie Hyneman
12
Birthdate: September 25, 1956
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Marshall
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 9 
Noah Webster
(Lexicographer)

Noah Webster
4
Birthdate: October 16, 1758
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: May 28, 1843

Noah Webster was an American textbook pioneer, lexicographer, political writer, English-language spelling reformer, author, and editor. Dubbed the Father of American Scholarship and Education, Webster's books have been credited with teaching the art of spelling and reading to five generations of American children. Thanks to his work as a spelling reformer, his name became synonymous with dictionary in the US.

 10 
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.

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Enoch Powell
13
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.

 12 
Mary Somerville
(Mathematician, Linguist, Translator, Astronomer, Scientist)

Mary Somerville
4
Birthdate: December 26, 1780
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Jedburgh
Died: November 28, 1872

One of the two pioneering female honorary members of the Royal Astronomical Society, Mary Somerville was a 19th-century polymath and science writer. Though she specialized in math and astronomy, she was also well-versed in botany and geology. The Connection of the Physical Sciences remains her most notable work.

 13 
Muhammad Asad
(Journalist)

Muhammad Asad
4
Birthdate: July 2, 1900
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lviv, Ukraine
Died: February 20, 1992

Austro-Hungarian journalist Leopold Weiss was a descendant of rabbis and ran away from home in his teens, taking up odd jobs, before finally becoming a journalist in Germany. His work took him to the Middle East, where he converted to Islam and adopted the name Muhammad Asad.

 14 
Peter Abelard
(Philosopher)

Peter Abelard
4
Birthdate: 1079 AD
Birthplace: Le Pallet, France
Died: April 21, 1142

Medieval French philosopher, theologian, and poet Peter Abelard was born to a knight but gave up his inheritance to study philosophy and logic. He fell in love with his pupil, Héloïse, but her uncle got Abelard castrated, following which Abelard became a monk and made Héloïse a nun.

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 15 
L. L. Zamenhof
(Linguist, Ophthalmologist, Inventor, Poet, Translator, Esperantist, Physician, Writer, Bible translator)

L. L. Zamenhof
4
Birthdate: December 15, 1859
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Białystok
Died: April 14, 1917

L. L. Zamenhof was an ophthalmologist best remembered for creating the most widely spoken international auxiliary language, Esperanto. He came up with the constructed language after being consumed by the idea of a warless world. L. L. Zamenhof received several honors for creating Esperanto, including the Légion d'honneur. He also received 12 nominations for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize.

 16 
J. L. Austin
(Philosopher)

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.

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 17 

Samuel Ajayi Crowther
3
Birthdate: 1809 AD
Birthplace: Nigeria
Died: December 31, 1891

 18 
Wilhelm von Humboldt
(Philosopher, Diplomat)

Wilhelm von Humboldt
4
Birthdate: June 22, 1767
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Potsdam, Germany
Died: April 8, 1835

 19 
Roman Jakobson
(Linguist)

Roman Jakobson
4
Birthdate: October 11, 1896
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Moscow
Died: July 18, 1982

 20 
Wilhelm Grimm
(Lexicographer, Anthropologist, Librarian, Writer, Law librarian, Children's writer, Educationist, Linguist, Specialist in literature, Germanist, Jurist, University teacher, Poet lawyer, Mythographer)

Wilhelm Grimm
3
Birthdate: February 24, 1786
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hanau
Died: December 16, 1859

 21 
Luce Irigaray
(Philosopher, linguist, Feminist)

Luce Irigaray
4
Birthdate: May 3, 1930
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bernissart, Belgium

 22 
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.

 23 
Edward Sapir
(Anthropologist, Linguist, Sociolinguist, University teacher, Ethnologist)

Edward Sapir
3
Birthdate: January 26, 1884
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lębork
Died: February 4, 1939

Edward Sapir was an anthropologist-linguist. He played a pivotal role in the development of the discipline of linguistics in USA. He studied Germanic linguistics at Columbia and later researched Native American languages. He was an expert in the study of Athabascan languages and Chinookan languages. He also worked with Yiddish, Hebrew, and Chinese languages. 

 24 
Robert Bly
(Linguist, Poet, Translator, Writer)

Robert Bly
3
Birthdate: December 23, 1926
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota, United States

 25 
Mesrop Mashtots
(Linguist)

Mesrop Mashtots
3
Birthdate: 0362 AD
Birthplace: Hatzikk, Armenia
Died: February 17, 0440

 26 
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.

 27 
Lin Yutang
(Inventor, Linguist, Novelist)

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.

 28 
William Labov
(Linguist)

William Labov
3
Birthdate: December 4, 1927
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rutherford, New Jersey, U.S.

 29 
Benjamin Lee Whorf
(Anthropologist, Linguist)

Benjamin Lee Whorf
3
Birthdate: April 24, 1897
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Winthrop, Massachusetts
Died: July 26, 1941

Benjamin Lee Whorf was a linguist cum fire prevention engineer. Along with his mentor Edward Sapir, he developed what is frequently called the “Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.” Even though he was a chemical engineer by profession, he developed an early interest in linguistics and presented several papers at linguistics conferences. Unfortunately, he died at the relatively young age of 44. 

 30 

Ferdinand de Saussure
4
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.

 31 
Vuk Stefanović Karadžić
(Philologist, Anthropologist and Linguist)

Vuk Stefanović Karadžić
3
Birthdate: November 6, 1787
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tršić, Serbia
Died: February 7, 1864

 32 
J. M. Coetzee
(Novelist)

J. M. Coetzee
4
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.

 33 
Isabelo de los Reyes
(Linguist, Journalist, Trade unionist)

Isabelo de los Reyes
3
Birthdate: July 7, 1864
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Vigan
Died: October 10, 1938

 34 
Girish Karnad
(Linguist, Author, Film director, Actor, Translator, Screenwriter)

Girish Karnad
4
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.

 35 
Michel Thomas
(Linguist)

Michel Thomas
3
Birthdate: February 3, 1914
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lodz, Poland
Died: January 8, 2005

 36 
Valentin Inzko
(Linguist, Diplomat)

Valentin Inzko
3
Birthdate: May 22, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Klagenfurt

 37 
Sol Plaatje
(Journalist)

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.

 38 
Amos Oz
(Writer, Linguist, Journalist, Novelist, Translator, Essayist, Educationist, University teacher, Children's writer)

Amos Oz
4
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.

 39 

Dimitrie Cantemir
3
Birthdate: October 26, 1673
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dimitrie Cantemir, Romania
Died: September 1, 1723

 40 
Conrad Gessner
(Physician)

Conrad Gessner
3
Birthdate: March 26, 1516
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Zürich, Switzerland
Died: December 13, 1565

Born to a poor fur dealer, Conrad Gessner was sent to study under an uncle who dealt in medicinal herbs. He then studied theology but later grew up to become a Renaissance polymath, excelling in subjects such as natural history and medicine. His Bibliotheca universalis remains a major work in bibliography.

 41 
William Jones
(Philologist)

William Jones
3
Birthdate: September 28, 1746
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, England
Died: April 27, 1794

 42 
Sibawayh
(Grammarian)

Sibawayh
3
Birthdate: 0760 AD
Birthplace: Beyza, Iran
Died: 0796 AD

Sibawayh was a Persian grammarian of Basra. He was the author of the earliest book on Arabic grammar and linguistics, an unnamed work simply referred to as Al-Kitāb, or "The Book." Modern scholars call him the greatest of all Arabic linguists and one of the greatest linguists of all time in any language. 

 43 

Constanzo Beschi
3
Birthdate: November 8, 1680
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Castiglione delle Stiviere, Italy
Died: February 4, 1747

 44 
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.

 45 
Niki Karimi
(Actor, Linguist, Film director, Translator, Screenwriter)

Niki Karimi
7
Birthdate: November 10, 1971
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tehran

 46 
Alexandre de Rhodes
(Lexicographer, Missionary)

Alexandre de Rhodes
3
Birthdate: March 15, 1593
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Avignon, France
Died: November 5, 1660

 47 

Ali-Shir Nava'i
3
Birthdate: February 9, 1441
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Herat, Afghanistan
Died: January 3, 1501

 48 
Hermann Gundert
(Linguist)

Hermann Gundert
3
Birthdate: February 4, 1814
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Stuttgart, Germany
Died: April 25, 1893

 49 

Hermann Grassmann
3
Birthdate: April 15, 1809
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Szczecin, Poland
Died: September 26, 1877

Hermann Grassmann was a German polymath remembered for his work in linear algebra, although he wasn’t acknowledged as a mathematician for most part of his life. His work Die lineale Ausdehnungslehre, ein neuer Zweig der Mathematik was revolutionary in the field of mathematics and was far ahead of its time. During his lifetime, he was only known as a linguist.

 50 
Zellig Harris
(Linguist)

Zellig Harris
5
Birthdate: October 23, 1909
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Balta, Ukraine
Died: May 22, 1992