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.

Vote for Your Favourite Linguists

 1 Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky.
Famous As: Linguist
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 Jamie Hyneman

Jamie Hyneman.
Famous As: Television presenter, Journalist, Linguist, Wrangler, Machinist
Birthdate: September 25, 1956
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Marshall
Recommended Lists:

 3 Enoch Powell

Enoch Powell.
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.

 4 Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker.
Famous As: Psychologist, Linguists
Birthdate: September 18, 1954
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec

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.

Recommended Lists:

 5 Ferdinand de Saussure

Ferdinand de Saussure.
Famous As: Linguist
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.

 6 Katharine Gun

Katharine Gun
Famous As: Linguist
Birthdate: 1974 AD
Birthplace: Taiwan, Taiwan
Recommended Lists:

 7 Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes.
Famous As: French Literary Theorist & Philosopher
Birthdate: November 12, 1915
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cherbourg-Octeville
Died: March 25, 1980
Born to middle-class parents in France, literary theorist and critic Roland Barthes explored Ferdinand de Saussure’s semiology and influenced fields such as structuralism. His iconic works, such as Mythologies and The Death of the Author, influenced later thinkers. He died of injuries sustained in a road accident at 64.
You May Like

 8 Girish Karnad

Girish Karnad
Famous As: Linguist, Author, Film director, Actor, Translator, Screenwriter
Birthdate: May 19, 1938
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Matheran, Maharashtra, India
Recommended Lists:

 9 Julius Nyerere

Julius Nyerere
Famous As: Linguist, Politician, Translator
Birthdate: April 13, 1922
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Butiama
Died: October 14, 1999

 10 Zhou Youguang

Zhou Youguang
Famous As: Chinese economist and linguist
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.

Recommended Lists:

 11 John McWhorter

John McWhorter
Famous As: Linguist
Birthdate: October 6, 1965
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Philadelphia

 12 Peter Abelard

Peter Abelard
Famous As: Philosopher
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.

 13 Noah Webster

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

 14 Leon Battista Alberti

Leon Battista Alberti.
Famous As: Architect, Linguist
Birthdate: February 18, 1404
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Genoa
Died: April 20, 1472
Born into an affluent banker family of Florence, Leon Battista Alberti was rumored to be an illegitimate son of his father and a Bolognese widow. The ideal Renaissance man, he later applied mathematical precision to his paintings and architectural work. His written work on art remains invaluable.
Recommended Lists:

 15 Mary Somerville

Mary Somerville
Famous As: Mathematician, Linguist, Translator, Astronomer, Scientist
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.

 16 Amos Oz

Amos Oz
Famous As: Writer, Linguist, Journalist, Novelist, Translator, Essayist, Educationist, University teacher, Children's writer
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.

Recommended Lists:

 17 J. L. Austin

J. L. Austin
Famous As: Philosopher
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.

 18 Harriet Martineau

Harriet Martineau
Famous As: Linguist, Journalist, Economist, Historian, Translator, Writer, Sociologist, Essayist, Feminist
Birthdate: June 12, 1802
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Norwich
Died: June 27, 1876

Regarded by many as the first female sociologist, Harriet Martineau was a prominent 19th-century social theorist, classical economist, and intellectual who penned the iconic work The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte. She was partially deaf and had lost her sense of taste and smell in childhood.

 19 Muhammad Asad

Muhammad Asad
Famous As: Journalist
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.

 20 Wilhelm von Humboldt

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

 21 Michael Halliday

Michael Halliday
Famous As: Linguist
Birthdate: April 13, 1925
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Leeds, Yorkshire, 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.

 22 Roman Jakobson

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

 23 L. L. Zamenhof

L. L. Zamenhof
Famous As: Linguist, Ophthalmologist, Inventor, Poet, Translator, Esperantist, Physician, Writer, Bible translator
Birthdate: December 15, 1859
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Białystok
Died: April 14, 1917

 24 Luce Irigaray

Luce Irigaray
Famous As: Philosopher, Linguist, University teacher, Psychologist, Feminist
Birthdate: May 3, 1930
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Bernissart

 25 Jon Elia

Jon Elia
Famous As: Linguist, Philosopher, Poet, Literary critic
Birthdate: December 14, 1931
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Amroha
Died: November 8, 2002

 26 Anne Carson

Anne Carson
Famous As: Linguist, Poet, Translator, Writer, University teacher, Literary critic
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.

 27 Edward Sapir

Edward Sapir
Famous As: Anthropologist, Linguist, Sociolinguist, University teacher, Ethnologist
Birthdate: January 26, 1884
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lębork
Died: February 4, 1939

 28 Samuel Ajayi Crowther

Samuel Ajayi Crowther
Famous As: Linguist
Birthdate: 1809 AD
Birthplace: Nigeria
Died: December 31, 1891

 29 Shah Waliullah Dehlawi

Shah Waliullah Dehlawi
Famous As: Muslim Scholar
Birthdate: February 21, 1703
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Delhi, India
Died: August 20, 1762

 30 Robert Bly

Robert Bly
Famous As: Linguist, Poet, Translator, Writer
Birthdate: December 23, 1926
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Madison

 31 William Labov

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

 32 Wilhelm Grimm

Wilhelm Grimm
Famous As: Lexicographer, Anthropologist, Librarian, Writer, Law librarian, Children's writer, Educationist, Linguist, Specialist in literature, Germanist, Jurist, University teacher, Poet lawyer, Mythographer
Birthdate: February 24, 1786
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hanau
Died: December 16, 1859

 33 Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri

Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri
Famous As: Linguist, Politician, Translator, Writer
Birthdate: February 19, 1951
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Punjab

 34 S.I. Hayakawa

S.I. Hayakawa
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: July 18, 1906
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Died: February 27, 1992

 35 Benjamin Lee Whorf

Benjamin Lee Whorf
Famous As: Anthropologist, Linguist
Birthdate: April 24, 1897
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Winthrop, Massachusetts
Died: July 26, 1941

 36 Mesrop Mashtots

Mesrop Mashtots
Famous As: Linguist
Birthdate: 0362 AD
Birthplace: Hatzikk, Armenia
Died: February 17, 0440

 37 Leonard Bloomfield

Leonard Bloomfield
Famous As: linguist
Birthdate: April 1, 1887
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
Died: April 18, 1949

 38 Michel Thomas

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

 39 Dell Hymes

Dell Hymes
Famous As: Anthropologist, Linguist, University teacher, Sociologist
Birthdate: June 7, 1927
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Portland
Died: November 13, 2009

 40 Max Brod

Max Brod
Famous As: Linguist, Composer, Pianist, Novelist, Translator, Journalist, Writer, Poet lawyer
Birthdate: May 27, 1884
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Prague
Died: December 20, 1968

Max Brod was a Czech German-speaking Jewish author, composer, and journalist. He studied law at the German Charles-Ferdinand University and proceeded to pursue a career as a journalist and composer. He worked as an editor and literary adviser for the Israeli national theatre for three decades. He was a close friend and biographer of writer Franz Kafka. 

 41 Valentin Inzko

Valentin Inzko
Famous As: Linguist, Diplomat
Birthdate: May 22, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Klagenfurt

 42 Maithili Sharan Gupt

Maithili Sharan Gupt
Famous As: Linguist, Poet, Politician, Translator
Birthdate: August 3, 1886
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chirgaon
Died: December 12, 1964

Maithili Sharan Gupt was a Hindi poet considered one of the most important modern poets in the language. He was a pioneer of  Khari Boli (plain dialect) poetry. Most of his works were on patriotic themes, and he was widely quoted during India’s independence struggle. Indian nationalist Mahatma Gandhi gave Gupt the title of Rashtra Kavi. 

 43 Vuk Stefanović Karadžić

Vuk Stefanović Karadžić
Famous As: Linguist
Birthdate: November 6, 1787
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tršić
Died: February 7, 1864

 44 Saadia Gaon

Saadia Gaon
Famous As: Rabbi
Birthdate: June 30, 0882
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Arab Caliphate
Died: May 21, 0942

 45 Isabelo de los Reyes

Isabelo de los Reyes
Famous As: Linguist, Journalist, Trade unionist
Birthdate: July 7, 1864
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Vigan
Died: October 10, 1938

 46 Sol Plaatje

Sol Plaatje
Famous As: Journalist
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.

 47 Conrad Gessner

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

 48 Niki Karimi

Niki Karimi
Famous As: Actor, Linguist, Film director, Translator, Screenwriter
Birthdate: November 10, 1971
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Tehran

 49 Dimitrie Cantemir

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

 50 Rahul Sankrityayan

Rahul Sankrityayan
Famous As: Linguist, Author, Autobiographer, Biographer
Birthdate: April 9, 1893
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Pandaha
Died: April 14, 1963
See Also