Roundup: Classics in Linguistics

Language is a beautiful thing and something that many likely take for granted. Language allows us to not only communicate with one another, but to express ideas, craft tales that will captivate audiences, and pass along histories. As many readers are sure to know, linguistics is the study of language – how a language was formed, the culture and history behind it, and how it works in particular historical contexts. It’s no surprise that people choose to study this field, and that Boston College educator Margaret Thomas and her class chose to cover the Classics in Linguistics. Her students greatly expanded eight articles on linguists that were previously short stubs and created two new articles – all while editing and improving multiple other articles.

Students expanded the articles on George Cardona and Huang Kan, both of whom made major contributions to the study of linguistics. Huang was born in China during 1886. As he grew, his reputation as a prodigy grew, leading to his attending a highly prestigious school. Huang was expelled from this school for speaking out against the Chinese imperial state, after which he left for Japan to study under the Chinese scholar and philologist Zhang Taiyan. As a linguist Huang researched ancient Chinese phonology and was unafraid to challenge established theories of rhyme schemes in ancient literature, proposing that there were twenty-eight variations. Huang was also an innovative teacher and well admired by his students.

George Cardona is a name that people familiar with Indo-European, Indo-Aryan, and Pāṇinian linguistics would likely know. He’s credited as the leading Western scholar of the Indian grammatical tradition and of the great Indian grammarian Pāṇini. Like Huang, Cardona is also an educator and currently serves as a Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania. His publications are widely studied and he has received wide praise, both from the students who love him and from the vice president of India, who credited Cardona and his colleagues for making the University of Pennsylvania a “center of Sanskrit learning in North America.”

As mentioned, these intrepid students created two new articles for Wikipedia. Thanks to them, Wikipedia now has articles on Manuel Alvar and Olga T. Yokoyama, who studied Spanish and Russian, respectively. During his lifetime Alvar served as the Director of the Real Academia Española, worked as an educator at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and performed fieldwork – along with writing several majorly influential works. His career wasn’t without controversy, as critics of his work felt that he held an overly nationalistic and colonialist viewpoint of the Spanish language. Yokoyama is a Distinguished Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of California in Los Angeles who has worked with Slavic philology and the Russian language. And prior to earning two Masters from University of Illinois and Harvard University, Yokoyama earned a doctoral degree in dental science from the Tokyo Medical and Dental University in Japan! Her work has helped expand knowledge on the Russian language, especially that of Russian peasants.

For some, Wikipedia is the easiest way to learn about a new concept or topic, which is why contributions by teachers using the site as an educational tool can make such a big difference in the world. If you would you like to include Wikipedia editing as a learning tool with your class, contact Wiki Education at to find out how you can gain access to tools, online trainings, and printed materials.

ImageFile:Fulton Hall, Boston College, Chestnut Hill MA.jpg, by John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


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