the origin of bilinguist

Discussion in 'English Only' started by flyingheart, May 20, 2012.

  1. flyingheart Senior Member

    Urumqi, Xinjiang
    Chinese - Mandarin
    Hi everyone,

    One of my friends let me know the other day that there exists bilingualist, a synonym for bilingual used as a noun. But MS Word doesn't recognize it. I am wondering if it came from the word linguist and how popular it is now in English-speaking countries as compared with its sister bilingual.

    Thanks in advance for clearing things up for me.
    Last edited: May 20, 2012
  2. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    MS Word is not the best reference point - helpful but not authoritative. OED:
    So the word has been around for at least 128 years.

    And 'Yes', the obvious derivation is,
    bi- two + lingua tongue, language.

    The word is rarely used:

    The British National Corpus, between 1800 and 2000, records one instance in 1991.
  3. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    "Bilinguist" is rejected by my spell checker, too. But the digital OED accepts it. I don't consider it a "popular" term. It is composed of the Greek prefix "bi" (meaning "two'), the Latin root "lingua" (tongue) and the suffix "-ist" (agent, doer).
  4. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    It sounds really weird around here. I would consign it to that huge bin of English words that might lurk in dictionaries, but people just don't use.
  5. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    British English
    I can't imagine saying 'They're all bilinguists' instead of 'They're all bilingual'. I've never heard it used. 'Linguists' doesn't have the adjective 'lingual'. We can say 'He's a linguist' but not 'He's lingual'.

  6. flyingheart Senior Member

    Urumqi, Xinjiang
    Chinese - Mandarin
    Thanks, guys (and lady:)), but how am I going to do if I want to find two nouns that describe a person who speaks two languages? I checked all the "huge bins" of English words in my hard drive and found that "bilingual" can be used as a noun. Then I turned to Google, and it gave me about 11,000 results that contained the word bilingualist. Last I used Google Ngram Viewer to compare three pairs: bilingualist vs bilinguist, bilinguist vs bilingual, and bilingualist vs bilingual. And bilingual is the most popular word of the three. But how popular is it as a noun? Does it have a synonym that sounds normal?
  7. ribran

    ribran Senior Member

    Austin, Texas
    English - American
    Hi, flyingheart. :)

    "Bilingual" is in common use as a noun. Neither "bilinguist" nor "bilingualist" is.
    Last edited: May 21, 2012
  8. flyingheart Senior Member

    Urumqi, Xinjiang
    Chinese - Mandarin
    I see. Thanks for your confirmation, Ribran. So I think I'll have to use two "Bilingual"s in one paragraph.
  9. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    I agree. In fact, it is possible that switching the term in the middle of a paragraph ~ or paper, even ~ will cause confusion. People will wonder what the difference between them is, and why you changed your terminology.
    Last edited: May 22, 2012
  10. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    I agree with everybody else who said it did not sound right. I have never seen this term in any kind of linguistic texts, nor did I hear it said in everyday speech.

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