What is Linguistics?

What is Linguistics? Linguistics is the study of language, and helps us understand language structure, how language is used, variations in language and the influence of language on the way people think. Linguistics has helped us understand that languages around the world show commonalities in structure, use, acquisition by children and adults, and the way they change over time. Linguistics research allows us to understand commonalities and where they originated, as well as determine structural differences and their limits.

A linguist learns how to model this knowledge about language computationally. They study language structure (such as sounds or meanings), linguistic patterns, the way components of language interact with one another, how people acquire their knowledge of language, the way this interacts with other cognitive processes and how language varies. Linguistics may collect empirical evidence while working in the field to gain insight into language. They work with those who speak different languages to discover patterns, search databases, and run experiments with children and adults in the field, classroom, or in the lab.

Linguistics is very broad, with many different fields.  While studying linguistics you will learn about aspects of the human Language including:

  • phonetics and phonology: studying sounds
  • Morphology: words
  • Syntax: sentence structure
  • Semantics: meaning

Other fields of Linguistics include:

  • Historical Linguistics: Looking at how language changes over time.
  • Sociolinguistics:  The study of language based on social factors, like region, class, occupation, gender.
  • Dialectology: The study of language variation based on geographic distribution.
  • Pragmatics: How context contributes to meaning.
  • Discourse analysis: How language is used.
  • Computational linguistics: Learning to model aspects of language.
  • Language acquisition: The study of how people acquire or learn a language.
  • Psycholinguistics: The study of how people process language.
  • Experimental linguistics: The study of theories of linguistics representation (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, or semantics) based on evidence.
  • Neurolinguistics: The study of how language affects structure and function of the brain.
  • Lexicography: Compiling dictionaries with context, history, grammar and pronunciation in mind.
  • Corpus linguistics: The study of language as expressed in corpora (samples) of “real world” text.