I've been studying linguistics for over a decade now. I've never taken a class, because there are no local colleges that offer a degree in linguistics. I didn't really care though, because I was able to find all I wanted online anyway. I could even talk to other people interested in linguistics.

However, the internet as of late has become increasingly useless. Boards are overrun with trolls which prevents any kind of sensible discussion, the web is filled with fake news and false information, and the number of sites seems to be decreasing. I keep coming up with things I want to research, but have no way to find the answer. If I ask anywhere, my thread just gets overrun with trolls that completely derail the discussion (and that includes this site, I regularly delete my profiles shortly after making them because I simply lose faith that I can ever get anything on having an account on this site).

I've tried to look up actual books, but linguistic books are quite expensive it turns out. And despite having over a dozen libraries in my home town, there's hardly any books in them that talk about linguistics.

I also had a problem doing any kind of research in a research class I just took. I only had a handful of websites I could really find reliable information on (one of them being pew research, which ended up being the one I went to 90% of the time). Its just impossible it seems to find anything that isn't overloaded with fake information, especially when it comes to anything even remotely political.

What I hate about this, is that I liked that I could be a linguist without spending thousands of dollars on a degree. Now it seems, that doing that simply isn't possible. And worse yet, I have no other way to learn about linguistics. I can't afford the books (and I'm not even 100% sure what I should be looking for, the only linguistic book I've ever really heard about was 'The World's Writing Systems by Peter T. Daniels and William Bright'), and there's no college anywhere near me that teaches it. If I can't find information on linguistics online, I just can't go anywhere else. And yes, I've looked on Project Gutenberg, but it only has two books, one of which was published in the 1880s, and the other in the 30s, by a guy that I know isn't 100% reliable (Edward Sapir, if you care).

It feels like I can't be an intellectual anymore. Without the internet, I would just be yet another back-woods hick that didn't know anything about anything. Its solely thanks to the internet that I know anything at all. Without out, I'm lost. I don't know where else I can turn to continue my studies. It seems that I'm destined to become what I would've been without the internet, just another uneducated local living in a pathetic back-water where there really isn't anything of significance. I don't know what I can do to avoid this...

edit: Just because I seem to having people telling me about European Universities: I don't live in Europe, I live in the US.

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    I suggest you better focus your question on a specific academic topic, otherwise it'll get closed by peers as either "too broad" or "opinion-based". – Scientist Jul 24 '19 at 16:22
  • I also want to suggest you narrow the title & scope to just refer to studying linguistics without the internet (in point of fact I'm about 40/60 on internet vs. groups & books for research in this area due to my location and the type of linguistic research I do, its a sub-section of my research so no degree but definitely something I have to study, versus computer science research which is about 80/20 in internet vs. non-internet) – LinkBerest Jul 24 '19 at 17:43
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    If you are taking courses at a university, you should have access to its library resources and those should include appropriate references for the courses that you're taking. Did you try using your institution's library to gain access to relevant resources? – Brian Borchers Jul 24 '19 at 18:16
  • Also, if you want to know where to start learning something, download some syllabi and then obtain the materials on them through the library. Even a very tiny library can access items through journal databases and interlibrary loan. – Dawn Jul 24 '19 at 19:32
  • Try looking at the web pages of linguistics departments at respected universities, and of faculty there, to get an idea of plausibly-reliable names for sources. As in other comments, the syllabi may often be publicly available, and give you an idea about more-or-less-established/standard sources. Knowing how to filter internet content is an important skill to acquire. General forums may not be what you want! Certainly for math the general chat-forums are not very useful at a serious level, for example, as objective as some might think math should be. – paul garrett Jul 24 '19 at 20:38

You aren't taking proper advantage of your local libraries. Most have access to interlibrary loan through which you can obtain just about any book that exists. Talk to your librarian about your needs.

Academic libraries are best for this, of course, as the librarians are trained in the needs of academics. But even my local town library can get just about anything I require. At the town library you may need to know the actual titles you want to read. At an academic library, a research librarian can actually guide you fairly deeply into topics of interest. Perhaps not to the research edge of the known universe, but part way there, at least.

But if you have internet access, then I've found that wikipedia is a pretty good source for academic subjects, though not for popular culture, perhaps. In particular, most academic articles will have a references/bibliography section at the bottom that can point you to books and articles that might be worth exploring.

Be a bit cautious, though, even with wikipedia. I've occasionally found weird statements about mathematics there. But if it seems weird, it may actually be trolls at work. Normally, however, such things get cleaned up quickly (hours).

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    Wikipedia makes its edit history available. A statement that has survived a few rounds of editing, without being reverted, is likely to be quite reliable. A new statement, or one that alternates with its contradiction, should be treated as tentative. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 24 '19 at 15:41
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    Also if you have internet access - ebooks & online journals may be available through your library organization. In case your in a more rural or out of the way location or the journal/book is not available or checked out but can be accessed online through some partnership (I have used this, specifically with linguistics, a number of times with my local & academic libraries) – LinkBerest Jul 24 '19 at 17:50
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    +1. Interlibrary loan is invaluable for accessing books and articles beyond your own library. – TaliesinMerlin Jul 24 '19 at 18:45

Graduate student here.

First of all, the internet became widely available to the public in the mid-90s. Intellectualism was not born at that time. There were polymaths and geniuses and people who made prolific contributions to human knowledge for thousands of years before electricity was harnessed. Eratosthenes determined the circumference of the earth and its distance from the sun using a stick and a well. In 300 BC Euclid invented geometry and wrote a series of books on it that became the basis of mathematics for something like 22 centuries. Newton basically invented modern physics out of nothing, and then invented calculus as a means to increase its explanatory power.

You can be smart without the internet. But you have the internet, so I don't know why you are asking that question.

Conversely, people who do not have access to the internet are not "backwater hicks." There are a billion people in the world without internet access and literal geniuses emerge from them all the time.

I recommend you not obsess over the qualifications of being an "intellectual" because it's an abstract concept with no actual criteria for judging. I know doctoral students who can't write a coherent thesis statement and I know people who didn't go to college but are senior software engineers. Concerning yourself over whether people regard you as intelligent is a path to the dark side, which in this case is pseudo-intellectualism.

As far as securing reading resources, I recommend you do the following things:

-Determine who the major players are in the field of Linguistics. A simple email to any Linguistics professor at any university will yield this information.

-Go on Amazon and purchase the older editions of the works of those linguists (they are usually dirt cheap and have almost the same information in them as the new, expensive editions). Do this only after searching your local libraries and their ILL systems.

-Read the bibliographies of each of these books and write down the names that keep popping up over and over. Buy or rent the books of those authors.

-Read the footnotes of the books in your possession and repeat the above step.

And no, unfortunately you cannot become a professional linguist without professional credentials. That is to say, you will not land a professorship or become a speech therapist at any respectable institution. But you can get scholarships and do college for free or cheap. I was able to do an 80% ride to a UC school based on academic merit and financial situation. That left me with about $13,000 in federal loans, which were easy to pay off after entering the job market. The PhD program is fully funded, meaning you don't have to take out any loans to pay for it, as long as you agree to be a Teaching Assistant. This applies if you live in the US and are applying to an accredited PhD program. There are also PhD programs in European countries that will literally pay you to attend; most recently I read about one in Sweden or Norway.

As a side note I would also recommend you not ponder upon your own intelligence or refer to people as "backwater hicks" in a post where you're asking for help learning a subject. This is very likely why trolls tank your threads.

Edit: I should clarify that I entered the job market after graduate school, not before, and I strongly recommend taking time off between undergrad and grad school.


In an arts and humanities field, the short answer is yes, although you would be missing out on web resources not published in hard copy, and, given how long academic publishing takes, you may be a couple of years behind the times (because new research tends to be disseminated through conference talks and on the www first, pending the lengthy writing-up, peer-review and publication delays).

The big publishers and the big libraries have entered an unholy alliance to make it difficult and expensive to access material in hard copy, despite the fact that most people find it easier to do focussed study from a book rather than an e-book. Major libraries are moving towards acquiring many titles in electronic format only, and some have gone as far as to destroy physical stock on spurious grounds such as the "double-fold" test (WorldCat record for a book about this) (which overlooks the fact that you should not be folding the pages of a library book in any case). Publishers such as Routledge are making physical books extraordinarily expensive, whilst the equivalent e-book remains at a halfway sensible price. Pearson is going further, and trying to discourage ownership of physical books and e-books by promoting a rental model, which totally undermines the notion of learning being a lifetime pursuit (I often re-read books I bought over a decade ago), not a short-term cramming exercise.

Ultimately, this gives publishers and big tech unprecedented power to censor and make things disappear down the "memory-hole", especially where people and institutions rely on cloud storage platforms.

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    Why the downvote? My observations about the how physical books are being marginalised by publishers and libraries are essential context for the question and my answer. The capacity of individuals to do research without the internet is being eroded by these trends, which are responsible for the lack of relevant books in the poster's library. Since many people just fail to appreciate the problem until they realise that their cloud-based library has been vandalised by unaccountable censorship and retractions, I considered it necessary to elucidate the issues and provide external links. – anon Jul 24 '19 at 23:34
  • -1 because answer is incorrect on many levels. To my knowledge libraries are destroying physical stock because people aren't using it. The link you gave mostly covers newspapers, which use different paper-types compared to books. Digital publishing has many advantages over print publishing, such as the possibility of constantly updating the text, and of delivering a copy to the consumer within a few minutes of purchase. And you can still buy an e-book (of course, it still falls to you and only you to read the fine print). – Allure Jul 25 '19 at 0:50