In between receiving a 1982 bachelor’s degree and a 1987 Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard, I received a 1984 Master’s degree in Linguistics from Brigham Young University (completed in the Summer after I had already done a year towards an Economics Ph.D.) Here is a download of my Master’s thesis (advised by John Robertson), which has a title longer than some of my posts:
With the emphasis in my thesis on the Later Wittgenstein and Charles Saunders Peirce, I felt I had earned by junior philosopher’s wings when I finished this thesis.
More generally, my Linguistics degree made me feel I could make my own decisions about English usage with an eye toward effective communication. And it has given me an interest in carefully delineating terminology to describe new ideas in Economics.
I had already been accepted to the Economics Ph.D. program at Harvard when I started the Linguistics Master’s program and had no intention of pursuing Linguistics professionally. Among other personal motivations, my much-less-expensive Linguistics degree was my answer to Harvard’s attempt to get me to forgo the benefits of Advanced Placement and pay for a fourth year as an undergraduate at Harvard. My interest in Linguistics in the first place is due to the influence of my Biblical Hebrew and Historical Linguistics professor Thomas Lambdin, author of a widely used Biblical Hebrew textbook.
Update: I found out that my favorite teacher from my K-12 years, Joyce Nelson (photo below), died on July 3, 2012. When I asked her advice about whether it made sense to do a Master’s degree in Linguistics, she encouraged me, saying that knowledge always becomes valuable in one way or another.