What is a polyglot?

In recent years, some people have sought to redefine what a polyglot is. My opinion of this is that a new definition is not needed. Let’s go to the Webster dictionary:

Polyglot: one who speaks several languages.

Several: more than two but fewer than many.

Many: The definition of ‘many’ in the dictionary is rather hazy.

So in English anyway, a polyglot is a person who speaks more than two languages. Period. The manner in which these languages were acquired in not an issue. Nor are the language families these languages come from. More than two languages is all that is needed to be a polyglot. I think that the people seeking a new definition want more credit; they want to be more than just a polyglot.
Terms like Hyperpolyglot are now being used out there, to define a person who speaks more than several (see definition above) languages. I have no problem with hyperpolyglot. I have a huge problem with a  group of people wanting to hijack a word. One of the metrics that these people want to use to redefine polyglot is the manner by which the languages are acquired. Mainly, these people want to disqualify people who learn their languages in a natural way, i.e. native speakers. Say you are born in India and by living there you learn Hindi, Gujarati, and say, Kanada because India has a boatload of languages spoken all over the place. By the existing definition of polyglot, you are in fact, a polyglot. Not so, say these people. Their new definition of polyglot disqualifies you because you didn’t make an effort nor did you learn the third language as an adult and through sloshing your way around with a language learning method. I say leave the word polyglot alone. Invent a new term do describe you I say. I submit ‘plastiglot’ as a person who acquired a third language as an adult and/or via a language method. The term Multilingual is in the same boat.

This all rather reminds me of all the phoneys out there claiming that they speak a ‘purer’ Spanish than you, saying they speak ‘Castilian’ Ay Chihuahua! Rest assured. By the definition of polyglot in the English dictionary, if you speak more than two languages, regardless of how you acquired these languages, you are a polyglot.


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