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What do linguists do? Alec Marantz Silver Professor of Linguistics and Psychology, New York University Co-PI Neuroscience of Language Laboratory, NYU Abu Dhabi February, 2019 What do linguists do?1 Or, rather, what do linguists do that draws such luminaries as the late Tom Wolfe2 to complain so publicly about our enterprise?3 I’ll confine my discussion here to what we call “syntax,” which is at the core of so-called “Generative Grammar,” the way of doing linguistics that has dominated linguistics departments in the US for the past 50 years or so. Linguists deeply engaged in the enterprise of syntax feel that it’s obvious what they are doing is not only fascinating, but that it also has led to a set of interesting and important results. However, outsiders can be skeptical, and my own view is that this skepticism can leads to hostility–and bad press –for two reasons. As I will briefly illustrate with some examples from my own research, the actual work of linguists is esoteric and specifi...