In linguistics, the term 'informant' is specifically used to refer to the native speaker of the language being studied. In other words, the informant is the poor sap who is asked, generally, to sit for hours on end answering boring and seemingly repetitious questions asked by someone who does not speak the language under study and probably never will but will nonetheless get all the credit for having brilliantly analyzed it. Lately, some revisionist types have been researching the informants used by linguists such as Franz Boas and bringing the contributions of these people to light. Incidentally, Boas was one linguist who was fairly candid about how indispensable his informants were. Most other linguists at the time treated their informants as primitives or worse.

In*form"ant (?), n. [L. informans, -antis, p.pr. of informare. See Inform, v. t.]

1.

One who, or that which, informs, animates, or vivifies.

[Obs.]

Glanvill.

2.

One who imparts information or instruction.

3.

One who offers an accusation; an informer. See Informer.

[Obs. or R.]

It was the last evidence of the kind; the informant was hanged. Burke.

 

© Webster 1913.

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