I was at the ALS/ILC ‘hypothetical’ last night, and there was a fair airing of the idea that ‘linguists steal our languages when they write them down’.
Consider the following analogy: when your drains are blocked up and Draino doesn’t work, you call a plumber. They come and diagnose the problem, fix it, charge you a heap for it, and perhaps even undertake some preventive measures to make sure the same problem doesn’t recurr. Now, you don’t stop owning your drains because you’ve called in a plumber: you’ve called in someone with expertise in a particular area, a specialist, as it were.
Now, think of linguists like plumbers. The analogy isn’t exact. Linguists usually earn less, for example, but just as plumbers don’t acquire ownership of the pipes they work on, linguists don’t acquire ownership of the languages they work on either. If we are going to adopt the ‘language as ownership’ model, the parallels should be examined.