What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the study of language. It helps us understand language structure, how language is used, variations in language and the influence of language on the way people think. Linguistics helps 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.

Linguists study language structure (such as sounds or meanings), linguistic patterns, how components of language interact with one another, how people gain knowledge of language, the way knowledge of language 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 may also learn how to model knowledge about language computationally. Linguists 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

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 through a collection of naturally occurring texts.