Linguistics is the scientific study of language, and involves an
analysis of language form, language meaning, and language in
context. The earliest activities in the documentation and
description of language have been attributed to the 4th century BC
Indian grammarian Pāṇini, who wrote a formal description of
Sanskrit language in his Aṣṭādhyāyī.
Linguists traditionally analyse human language by observing an
interplay between sound and meaning.
Phonetics is the study of
speech and non-speech sounds, and delves into their acoustic and
articulatory properties. The study of language meaning, on the other
hand, deals with how languages encode relations between entities,
properties, and other aspects of the world to convey, process, and
assign meaning, as well as manage and resolve ambiguity. While the
study of semantics typically concerns itself with truth conditions,
pragmatics deals with how situational context influences the
production of meaning.
Grammar is a system of rules which governs the production and use of
utterances in a given language. These rules apply to sound as well
as meaning, and include componential subsets of rules, such as those
pertaining to phonology (the organisation of phonetic sound systems),
morphology (the formation and composition of words), and syntax (the
formation and composition of phrases and sentences). Modern
theories that deal with the principles of grammar are largely based
within Noam Chomsky's framework of generative linguistics.
In the early 20th century,
Ferdinand de Saussure
Ferdinand de Saussure distinguished between
the notions of langue and parole in his formulation of structural
linguistics. According to him, parole is the specific utterance of
speech, whereas langue refers to an abstract phenomenon that
theoretically defines the principles and system of rules that govern a
language. This distinction resembles the one made by Noam Chomsky
between competence and performance in his theory of transformative or
generative grammar. According to Chomsky, competence is an
individual's innate capacity and potential for language (like in
Saussure's langue), while performance is the specific way in which it
is used by individuals, groups, and communities (i.e., parole, in
The study of parole (which manifests through cultural discourses and
dialects) is the domain of sociolinguistics, the sub-discipline that
comprises the study of a complex system of linguistic facets within a
certain speech community (governed by its own set of grammatical rules
Discourse analysis further examines the structure of texts
and conversations emerging out of a speech community's usage of
language. This is done through the collection of linguistic data,
or through the formal discipline of corpus linguistics, which takes
naturally occurring texts and studies the variation of grammatical and
other features based on such corpora (or corpus data).
Stylistics also involves the study of written, signed, or spoken
discourse through varying speech communities, genres, and editorial or
narrative formats in the mass media. In the 1960s, Jacques
Derrida, for instance, further distinguished between speech and
writing, by proposing that written language be studied as a linguistic
medium of communication in itself.
Palaeography is therefore the
discipline that studies the evolution of written scripts (as signs and
symbols) in language. The formal study of language also led to the
growth of fields like psycholinguistics, which explores the
representation and function of language in the mind; neurolinguistics,
which studies language processing in the brain; biolinguistics, which
studies the biology and evolution of language; and language
acquisition, which investigates how children and adults acquire the
knowledge of one or more languages.
Linguistics also deals with the social, cultural, historical and
political factors that influence language, through which linguistic
and language-based context is often determined. Research on
language through the sub-branches of historical and evolutionary
linguistics also focus on how languages change and grow, particularly
over an extended period of time.
Language documentation combines anthropological inquiry (into the
history and culture of language) with linguistic inquiry, in order to
describe languages and their grammars.
Lexicography involves the
documentation of words that form a vocabulary. Such a documentation of
a linguistic vocabulary from a particular language is usually compiled
in a dictionary.
Computational linguistics is concerned with the
statistical or rule-based modeling of natural language from a
computational perspective. Specific knowledge of language is applied
by speakers during the act of translation and interpretation, as well
as in language education – the teaching of a second or foreign
language. Policy makers work with governments to implement new plans
in education and teaching which are based on linguistic research.
Related areas of study also includes the disciplines of semiotics (the
study of direct and indirect language through signs and symbols),
literary criticism (the historical and ideological analysis of
literature, cinema, art, or published material), translation (the
conversion and documentation of meaning in written/spoken text from
one language or dialect onto another), and speech-language pathology
(a corrective method to cure phonetic disabilities and dis-functions
at the cognitive level).
2 Variation and universality
2.5 Standard language
6.1 Early grammarians
6.2 Comparative philology
6.6 Cognitive linguistics
7 Areas of research
7.1 Historical linguistics
7.4 Developmental linguistics
8 Applied linguistics
9 Interdisciplinary fields
9.5 Clinical linguistics
9.6 Computational linguistics
9.7 Evolutionary linguistics
9.8 Forensic linguistics
10 See also
13 External links
Before the 20th century, the term philology, first attested in
1716, was commonly used to refer to the science of language, which
was then predominantly historical in focus. Since Ferdinand de
Saussure's insistence on the importance of synchronic analysis,
however, this focus has shifted and the term "philology" is now
generally used for the "study of a language's grammar, history, and
literary tradition", especially in the United States (where
philology has never been very popularly considered as the "science of
Although the term "linguist" in the sense of "a student of language"
dates from 1641, the term "linguistics" is first attested in
1847. It is now the usual term in English for the scientific study
of language, though "linguistic science" is sometimes used.
Today, the term linguist applies to someone who studies language or is
a researcher within the field, or to someone who uses the tools of the
discipline to describe and analyse specific languages.
Variation and universality
While some theories on linguistics focus on the different varieties
that language produces, among different sections of society, others
focus on the universal properties that are common to all human
languages. The theory of variation therefore would elaborate on the
different usages of popular languages like French and English across
the globe, as well as its smaller dialects and regional permutations
within their national boundaries. The theory of variation looks at the
cultural stages that a particular language undergoes, and these
include the following.
The pidgin stage in a language is a stage when communication occurs
through a grammatically simplified means, developing between two or
more groups that do not have a language in common. Typically, it is a
mixture of languages at the stage when there occurs a mixing between a
primary language with other language elements.
A creole stage in language occurs when there is a stable natural
language developed from a mixture of different languages. It is a
stage that occurs after a language undergoes its pidgin stage. At the
creole stage, a language is a complete language, used in a community
and acquired by children as their native language.
A dialect is a variety of language that is characteristic of a
particular group among the language speakers. The group of people
who are the speakers of a dialect are usually bound to each other by
social identity. This is what differentiates a dialect from a register
or a discourse, where in the latter case, cultural identity does not
always play a role.
Dialects are speech varieties that have their own
grammatical and phonological rules, linguistic features, and stylistic
aspects, but have not been given an official status as a language.
Dialects often move on to gain the status of a language due to
political and social reasons. Differentiation amongst dialects (and
subsequently, languages too) is based upon the use of grammatical
rules, syntactic rules, and stylistic features, though not always on
lexical use or vocabulary. The popular saying that "a language is a
dialect with an army and navy" is attributed as a definition
formulated by Max Weinreich.
Universal grammar takes into account general formal structures and
features that are common to all dialects and languages, and the
template of which pre-exists in the mind of an infant child. This idea
is based on the theory of generative grammar and the formal school of
linguistics, whose proponents include
Noam Chomsky and those who
follow his theory and work.
"We may as individuals be rather fond of our own dialect. This should
not make us think, though, that it is actually any better than any
Dialects are not good or bad, nice or nasty, right or
wrong – they are just different from one another, and it is the
mark of a civilised society that it tolerates different dialects just
as it tolerates different races, religions and sexes."
Discourse is language as social practice (Baynham, 1995) and is a
multilayered concept. As a social practice, discourse embodies
different ideologies through written and spoken texts. Discourse
analysis can examine or expose these ideologies.
genre, which is chosen in response to different situations and
finally, at micro level, discourse influences language as text (spoken
or written) at the phonological or lexico-grammatical level. Grammar
and discourse is often like and together it is a sort of system. A
particular discourse becomes a language variety when it is used in
this way for a particular purpose, and is referred to as a
register. There may be certain lexical additions (new words) that
are brought into play because of the expertise of the community of
people within a certain domain of specialization. Registers and
discourses therefore differentiate themselves through the use of
vocabulary, and at times through the use of style too. People in the
medical fraternity, for example, may use some medical terminology in
their communication that is specialized to the field of medicine. This
is often referred to as being part of the "medical discourse", and so
When a dialect is documented sufficiently through the linguistic
description of its grammar, which has emerged through the consensual
laws from within its community, it gains political and national
recognition through a country or region's policies. That is the stage
when a language is considered a standard variety, one whose
grammatical laws have now stabilised from within the consent of speech
community participants, after sufficient evolution, improvisation,
correction, and growth. The English language, besides perhaps the
French language, may be examples of languages that have arrived at a
stage where they are said to have become standard varieties.
The study of a language's universal properties, on the other hand,
include some of the following concepts.
The lexicon is a catalogue of words and terms that are stored in a
speaker's mind. The lexicon consists of words and bound morphemes,
which are parts of words that can't stand alone, like affixes. In some
analyses, compound words and certain classes of idiomatic expressions
and other collocations are also considered to be part of the lexicon.
Dictionaries represent attempts at listing, in alphabetical order, the
lexicon of a given language; usually, however, bound morphemes are not
included. Lexicography, closely linked with the domain of semantics,
is the science of mapping the words into an encyclopedia or a
dictionary. The creation and addition of new words (into the lexicon)
is called coining or neologization, and the new words are called
It is often believed that a speaker's capacity for language lies in
the quantity of words stored in the lexicon. However, this is often
considered a myth by linguists. The capacity for the use of language
is considered by many linguists to lie primarily in the domain of
grammar, and to be linked with competence, rather than with the growth
of vocabulary. Even a very small lexicon is theoretically capable of
producing an infinite number of sentences.
As constructed popularly through the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis,
relativists believe that the structure of a particular language is
capable of influencing the cognitive patterns through which a person
shapes his or her world view. Universalists believe that there are
commonalities between human perception as there is in the human
capacity for language, while relativists believe that this varies from
language to language and person to person. While the Sapir–Whorf
hypothesis is an elaboration of this idea expressed through the
writings of American linguists
Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, it
was Sapir's student
Harry Hoijer who termed it thus. The 20th century
Leo Weisgerber also wrote extensively about the theory
of relativity. Relativists argue for the case of differentiation at
the level of cognition and in semantic domains. The emergence of
cognitive linguistics in the 1980s also revived an interest in
linguistic relativity. Thinkers like
George Lakoff have argued that
language reflects different cultural metaphors, while the French
philosopher of language Jacques Derrida's writings have been seen to
be closely associated with the relativist movement in linguistics,
especially through deconstruction and was even heavily criticized
in the media at the time of his death for his theory of
Linguistic structures are pairings of meaning and form. Any particular
pairing of meaning and form is a Saussurean sign. For instance, the
meaning "cat" is represented worldwide with a wide variety of
different sound patterns (in oral languages), movements of the hands
and face (in sign languages), and written symbols (in written
Linguists focusing on structure attempt to understand the rules
regarding language use that native speakers know (not always
consciously). All linguistic structures can be broken down into
component parts that are combined according to (sub)conscious rules,
over multiple levels of analysis. For instance, consider the structure
of the word "tenth" on two different levels of analysis. On the level
of internal word structure (known as morphology), the word "tenth" is
made up of one linguistic form indicating a number and another form
indicating ordinality. The rule governing the combination of these
forms ensures that the ordinality marker "th" follows the number
"ten." On the level of sound structure (known as phonology),
structural analysis shows that the "n" sound in "tenth" is made
differently from the "n" sound in "ten" spoken alone. Although most
speakers of English are consciously aware of the rules governing
internal structure of the word pieces of "tenth", they are less often
aware of the rule governing its sound structure. Linguists focused on
structure find and analyse rules such as these, which govern how
native speakers use language.
Linguistics has many sub-fields concerned with particular aspects of
linguistic structure. The theory that elucidates on these, as
propounded by Noam Chomsky, is known as generative theory or universal
grammar. These sub-fields range from those focused primarily on form
to those focused primarily on meaning. They also run the gamut of
level of analysis of language, from individual sounds, to words, to
phrases, up to cultural discourse.
Sub-fields that focus on a grammatical study of language include the
Phonetics, the study of the physical properties of speech sound
production and perception
Phonology, the study of sounds as abstract elements in the speaker's
mind that distinguish meaning (phonemes)
Morphology, the study of morphemes, or the internal structures of
words and how they can be modified
Syntax, the study of how words combine to form grammatical phrases and
Semantics, the study of the meaning of words (lexical semantics) and
fixed word combinations (phraseology), and how these combine to form
the meanings of sentences
Pragmatics, the study of how utterances are used in communicative
acts, and the role played by context and non-linguistic knowledge in
the transmission of meaning
Discourse analysis, the analysis of language use in texts (spoken,
written, or signed)
Stylistics, the study of linguistic factors (rhetoric, diction,
stress) that place a discourse in context
Semiotics, the study of signs and sign processes (semiosis),
indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism,
signification, and communication.
Stylistics is the study and interpretation of texts for aspects of
their linguistic and tonal style. Stylistic analysis entails the
analysis of description of particular dialects and registers used by
speech communities. Stylistic features include rhetoric, diction,
stress, satire, irony, dialogue, and other forms of phonetic
variations. Stylistic analysis can also include the study of language
in canonical works of literature, popular fiction, news,
advertisements, and other forms of communication in popular culture as
well. It is usually seen as a variation in communication that changes
from speaker to speaker and community to community. In short,
Stylistics is the interpretation of text.
One major debate in linguistics concerns how language should be
defined and understood. Some linguists use the term "language"
primarily to refer to a hypothesized, innate module in the human brain
that allows people to undertake linguistic behaviour, which is part of
the formalist approach. This "universal grammar" is considered to
guide children when they learn languages and to constrain what
sentences are considered grammatical in any language. Proponents of
this view, which is predominant in those schools of linguistics that
are based on the generative theory of Noam Chomsky, do not necessarily
consider that language evolved for communication in particular. They
consider instead that it has more to do with the process of
structuring human thought (see also formal grammar).
Another group of linguists, by contrast, use the term "language" to
refer to a communication system that developed to support cooperative
activity and extend cooperative networks. Such theories of grammar,
called "functional", view language as a tool that emerged and is
adapted to the communicative needs of its users, and the role of
cultural evolutionary processes are often emphasized over that of
Linguistics is primarily descriptive. Linguists describe and explain
features of language without making subjective judgments on whether a
particular feature or usage is "good" or "bad". This is analogous to
practice in other sciences: a zoologist studies the animal kingdom
without making subjective judgments on whether a particular species is
"better" or "worse" than another.
Prescription, on the other hand, is an attempt to promote particular
linguistic usages over others, often favouring a particular dialect or
"acrolect". This may have the aim of establishing a linguistic
standard, which can aid communication over large geographical areas.
It may also, however, be an attempt by speakers of one language or
dialect to exert influence over speakers of other languages or
dialects (see Linguistic imperialism). An extreme version of
prescriptivism can be found among censors, who attempt to eradicate
words and structures that they consider to be destructive to society.
Prescription, however, may be practised appropriately in the teaching
of language, like in ELT, where certain fundamental grammatical rules
and lexical terms need to be introduced to a second-language speaker
who is attempting to acquire the language.
The objective of describing languages is often to uncover cultural
knowledge about communities. The use of anthropological methods of
investigation on linguistic sources leads to the discovery of certain
cultural traits among a speech community through its linguistic
features. It is also widely used as a tool in language documentation,
with an endeavour to curate endangered languages. However, now,
linguistic inquiry uses the anthropological method to understand
cognitive, historical, sociolinguistic and historical processes that
languages undergo as they change and evolve, as well as general
anthropological inquiry uses the linguistic method to excavate into
culture. In all aspects, anthropological inquiry usually uncovers the
different variations and relativities that underlie the usage of
Most contemporary linguists work under the assumption that spoken data
and signed data are more fundamental than written data. This is
Speech appears to be universal to all human beings capable of
producing and perceiving it, while there have been many cultures and
speech communities that lack written communication;
Features appear in speech which aren't always recorded in writing,
including phonological rules, sound changes, and speech errors;
All natural writing systems reflect a spoken language (or potentially
a signed one), even with pictographic scripts like
Dongba writing Naxi
homophones with the same pictogram, and text in writing systems used
for two languages changing to fit the spoken language being recorded;
Speech evolved before human beings invented writing;
People learnt to speak and process spoken language more easily and
earlier than they did with writing.
Nonetheless, linguists agree that the study of written language can be
worthwhile and valuable. For research that relies on corpus
linguistics and computational linguistics, written language is often
much more convenient for processing large amounts of linguistic data.
Large corpora of spoken language are difficult to create and hard to
find, and are typically transcribed and written. In addition,
linguists have turned to text-based discourse occurring in various
formats of computer-mediated communication as a viable site for
The study of writing systems themselves, graphemics, is, in any case,
considered a branch of linguistics.
Before the 20th century, linguists analysed language on a diachronic
plane, which was historical in focus. This meant that they would
compare linguistic features and try to analyse language from the point
of view of how it had changed between then and later. However, with
Saussurean linguistics in the 20th century, the focus shifted to a
more synchronic approach, where the study was more geared towards
analysis and comparison between different language variations, which
existed at the same given point of time.
At another level, the syntagmatic plane of linguistic analysis entails
the comparison between the way words are sequenced, within the syntax
of a sentence. For example, the article "the" is followed by a noun,
because of the syntagmatic relation between the words. The
paradigmatic plane on the other hand, focuses on an analysis that is
based on the paradigms or concepts that are embedded in a given text.
In this case, words of the same type or class may be replaced in the
text with each other to achieve the same conceptual understanding.
History of linguistics
History of English grammars
The formal study of language began in
India with Pāṇini, the 5th
century BC grammarian who formulated 3,959 rules of Sanskrit
morphology. Pāṇini's systematic classification of the sounds of
Sanskrit into consonants and vowels, and word classes, such as nouns
and verbs, was the first known instance of its kind. In the Middle
East, Sibawayh, a non-Arab, made a detailed description of Arabic in
AD 760 in his monumental work, Al-kitab fi al-nahw (الكتاب في
النحو, The Book on Grammar), the first known author to
distinguish between sounds and phonemes (sounds as units of a
linguistic system). Western interest in the study of languages began
somewhat later than in the East, but the grammarians of the
classical languages did not use the same methods or reach the same
conclusions as their contemporaries in the Indic world. Early interest
in language in the West was a part of philosophy, not of grammatical
description. The first insights into semantic theory were made by
Plato in his Cratylus dialogue, where he argues that words denote
concepts that are eternal and exist in the world of ideas. This work
is the first to use the word etymology to describe the history of a
word's meaning. Around 280 BC, one of Alexander the Great's successors
founded a university (see Musaeum) in Alexandria, where a school of
philologists studied the ancient texts in and taught Greek to speakers
of other languages. While this school was the first to use the word
"grammar" in its modern sense,
Plato had used the word in its original
meaning as "téchnē grammatikḗ" (Τέχνη Γραμματική),
the "art of writing", which is also the title of one of the most
important works of the Alexandrine school by Dionysius Thrax.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the study of language was subsumed under
the topic of philology, the study of ancient languages and texts,
practised by such educators as Roger Ascham, Wolfgang Ratke, and John
In the 18th century, the first use of the comparative method by
William Jones sparked the rise of comparative linguistics.
Bloomfield attributes "the first great scientific linguistic work of
the world" to Jacob Grimm, who wrote Deutsche Grammatik. It was
soon followed by other authors writing similar comparative studies on
other language groups of Europe. The scientific study of language was
broadened from Indo-European to language in general by Wilhelm von
Humboldt, of whom Bloomfield asserts:
This study received its foundation at the hands of the Prussian
statesman and scholar
Wilhelm von Humboldt
Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835), especially
in the first volume of his work on Kavi, the literary language of
Java, entitled Über die Verschiedenheit des menschlichen Sprachbaues
und ihren Einfluß auf die geistige Entwickelung des
Menschengeschlechts (On the Variety of the Structure of Human Language
and its Influence upon the Mental Development of the Human Race).
Early in the 20th century, Saussure introduced the idea of language as
a static system of interconnected units, defined through the
oppositions between them. By introducing a distinction between
diachronic and synchronic analyses of language, he laid the foundation
of the modern discipline of linguistics. Saussure also introduced
several basic dimensions of linguistic analysis that are still
foundational in many contemporary linguistic theories, such as the
distinctions between syntagm and paradigm, and the langue- parole
distinction, distinguishing language as an abstract system (langue)
from language as a concrete manifestation of this system (parole).
Substantial additional contributions following Saussure's definition
of a structural approach to language came from The Prague school,
Leonard Bloomfield, Charles F. Hockett, Louis Hjelmslev, Émile
Benveniste and Roman Jakobson.
Main article: Generative linguistics
During the last half of the 20th century, following the work of Noam
Chomsky, linguistics was dominated by the generativist school. While
Chomsky in part as a way to explain how human beings
acquire language and the biological constraints on this acquisition,
in practice it has largely been concerned with giving formal accounts
of specific phenomena in natural languages. Generative theory is
modularist and formalist in character.
Chomsky built on earlier work
Zellig Harris to formulate the generative theory of language.
According to this theory the most basic form of language is a set of
syntactic rules universal for all humans and underlying the grammars
of all human languages. This set of rules is called Universal Grammar,
Chomsky describing it is the primary objective of the
discipline of linguistics. For this reason the grammars of individual
languages are of importance to linguistics only in so far as they
allow us to discern the universal underlying rules from which the
observable linguistic variability is generated.
In the classic formalization of generative grammars first proposed by
Noam Chomsky in the 1950s, a grammar G consists of the
A finite set N of nonterminal symbols, none of which appear in strings
formed from G.
A finite set
of terminal symbols that is disjoint from N.
A finite set P of production rules, that map from one string of
symbols to another.
A formal description of language attempts to replicate a speaker's
knowledge of the rules of their language, and the aim is to produce a
set of rules that is minimally sufficient to successfully model valid
Main article: Functional theories of grammar
Functional theories of language propose that since language is
fundamentally a tool, it is reasonable to assume that its structures
are best analysed and understood with reference to the functions they
Functional theories of grammar differ from formal theories
of grammar, in that the latter seek to define the different elements
of language and describe the way they relate to each other as systems
of formal rules or operations, whereas the former defines the
functions performed by language and then relates these functions to
the linguistic elements that carry them out. This means that
functional theories of grammar tend to pay attention to the way
language is actually used, and not just to the formal relations
between linguistic elements.
Functional theories describe language in term of the functions
existing at all levels of language.
Phonological function: the function of the phoneme is to distinguish
between different lexical material.
Semantic function: (Agent, Patient, Recipient, etc.), describing the
role of participants in states of affairs or actions expressed.
Syntactic functions: (e.g. Subject and Object), defining different
perspectives in the presentation of a linguistic expression
Pragmatic functions: (Theme and Rheme, Topic and Focus, Predicate),
defining the informational status of constituents, determined by the
pragmatic context of the verbal interaction. Functional descriptions
of grammar strive to explain how linguistic functions are performed in
communication through the use of linguistic forms.
Main article: Cognitive linguistics
Cognitive linguistics emerged as a reaction to generativist theory in
the 1970s and 1980s. Led by theorists like
Ronald Langacker and George
Lakoff, cognitive linguists propose that language is an emergent
property of basic, general-purpose cognitive processes. In contrast to
the generativist school of linguistics, cognitive linguistics is
non-modularist and functionalist in character. Important developments
in cognitive linguistics include cognitive grammar, frame semantics,
and conceptual metaphor, all of which are based on the idea that
form–function correspondences based on representations derived from
embodied experience constitute the basic units of language.
Cognitive linguistics interprets language in terms of concepts
(sometimes universal, sometimes specific to a particular tongue) that
underlie its form. It is thus closely associated with semantics but is
distinct from psycholinguistics, which draws upon empirical findings
from cognitive psychology in order to explain the mental processes
that underlie the acquisition, storage, production and understanding
of speech and writing. Unlike generative theory, cognitive linguistics
denies that there is an autonomous linguistic faculty in the mind; it
understands grammar in terms of conceptualization; and claims that
knowledge of language arises out of language use. Because of its
conviction that knowledge of language is learned through use,
cognitive linguistics is sometimes considered to be a functional
approach, but it differs from other functional approaches in that it
is primarily concerned with how the mind creates meaning through
language, and not with the use of language as a tool of communication.
Areas of research
Historical linguists study the history of specific languages as well
as general characteristics of language change. The study of language
change is also referred to as "diachronic linguistics" (the study of
how one particular language has changed over time), which can be
distinguished from "synchronic linguistics" (the comparative study of
more than one language at a given moment in time without regard to
Historical linguistics was among the first
sub-disciplines to emerge in linguistics, and was the most widely
practised form of linguistics in the late 19th century. However, there
was a shift to the synchronic approach in the early twentieth century
with Saussure, and became more predominant in western linguistics with
the work of Noam Chomsky.
Ecolinguistics explores the role of language in the life-sustaining
interactions of humans, other species and the physical environment.
The first aim is to develop linguistic theories which see humans not
only as part of society, but also as part of the larger ecosystems
that life depends on. The second aim is to show how linguistics can be
used to address key ecological issues, from climate change and
biodiversity loss to environmental justice.
Sociolinguistics is the study of how language is shaped by social
factors. This sub-discipline focuses on the synchronic approach of
linguistics, and looks at how a language in general, or a set of
languages, display variation and varieties at a given point in time.
The study of language variation and the different varieties of
language through dialects, registers, and ideolects can be tackled
through a study of style, as well as through analysis of discourse.
Sociolinguists research on both style and discourse in language, and
also study the theoretical factors that are at play between language
Developmental linguistics is the study of the development of
linguistic ability in individuals, particularly the acquisition of
language in childhood. Some of the questions that developmental
linguistics looks into is how children acquire different languages,
how adults can acquire a second language, and what the process of
language acquisition is.
Neurolinguistics is the study of the structures in the human brain
that underlie grammar and communication. Researchers are drawn to the
field from a variety of backgrounds, bringing along a variety of
experimental techniques as well as widely varying theoretical
perspectives. Much work in neurolinguistics is informed by models in
psycholinguistics and theoretical linguistics, and is focused on
investigating how the brain can implement the processes that
theoretical and psycholinguistics propose are necessary in producing
and comprehending language. Neurolinguists study the physiological
mechanisms by which the brain processes information related to
language, and evaluate linguistic and psycholinguistic theories, using
aphasiology, brain imaging, electrophysiology, and computer modelling.
Amongst the structures of the brain involved in the mechanisms of
neurolinguistics, the cerebellum which contains the highest numbers of
neurons has a major role in terms of predictions required to produce
Main article: Applied linguistics
Linguists are largely concerned with finding and describing the
generalities and varieties both within particular languages and among
Applied linguistics takes the results of those findings
and "applies" them to other areas. Linguistic research is commonly
applied to areas such as language education, lexicography,
translation, language planning, which involves governmental policy
implementation related to language use, and natural language
processing. "Applied linguistics" has been argued to be something of a
misnomer. Applied linguists actually focus on making sense of and
engineering solutions for real-world linguistic problems, and not
literally "applying" existing technical knowledge from linguistics.
Moreover, they commonly apply technical knowledge from multiple
sources, such as sociology (e.g., conversation analysis) and
Constructed language fits under Applied linguistics.)
Today, computers are widely used in many areas of applied linguistics.
Speech synthesis and speech recognition use phonetic and phonemic
knowledge to provide voice interfaces to computers. Applications of
computational linguistics in machine translation, computer-assisted
translation, and natural language processing are areas of applied
linguistics that have come to the forefront. Their influence has had
an effect on theories of syntax and semantics, as modelling syntactic
and semantic theories on computers constraints.
Linguistic analysis is a sub-discipline of applied linguistics used by
many governments to verify the claimed nationality of people seeking
asylum who do not hold the necessary documentation to prove their
claim. This often takes the form of an interview by personnel in
an immigration department. Depending on the country, this interview is
conducted either in the asylum seeker's native language through an
interpreter or in an international lingua franca like English.
Australia uses the former method, while Germany employs the latter;
the Netherlands uses either method depending on the languages
involved. Tape recordings of the interview then undergo language
analysis, which can be done either by private contractors or within a
department of the government. In this analysis, linguistic features of
the asylum seeker are used by analysts to make a determination about
the speaker's nationality. The reported findings of the linguistic
analysis can play a critical role in the government's decision on the
refugee status of the asylum seeker.
Within the broad discipline of linguistics, various emerging
sub-disciplines focus on a more detailed description and analysis of
language, and are often organized on the basis of the school of
thought and theoretical approach that they pre-suppose, or the
external factors that influence them.
Semiotics is the study of sign processes (semiosis), or signification
and communication, signs, and symbols, both individually and grouped
into sign systems, including the study of how meaning is constructed
and understood. Semioticians often do not restrict themselves to
linguistic communication when studying the use of signs but extend the
meaning of "sign" to cover all kinds of cultural symbols. Nonetheless,
semiotic disciplines closely related to linguistics are literary
studies, discourse analysis, text linguistics, and philosophy of
language. Semiotics, within the linguistics paradigm, is the study of
the relationship between language and culture. Historically, Edward
Sapir and Ferdinand De Saussure's structuralist theories influenced
the study of signs extensively until the late part of the 20th
century, but later, post-modern and post-structural thought, through
language philosophers including Jacques Derrida, Mikhail Bakhtin,
Michel Foucault, and others, have also been a considerable influence
on the discipline in the late part of the 20th century and early 21st
century. These theories emphasize the role of language variation,
and the idea of subjective usage, depending on external elements like
social and cultural factors, rather than merely on the interplay of
Since the inception of the discipline of linguistics, linguists have
been concerned with describing and analysing previously undocumented
languages. Starting with
Franz Boas in the early 1900s, this became
the main focus of American linguistics until the rise of formal
structural linguistics in the mid-20th century. This focus on language
documentation was partly motivated by a concern to document the
rapidly disappearing languages of indigenous peoples. The ethnographic
dimension of the Boasian approach to language description played a
role in the development of disciplines such as sociolinguistics,
anthropological linguistics, and linguistic anthropology, which
investigate the relations between language, culture, and society.
The emphasis on linguistic description and documentation has also
gained prominence outside North America, with the documentation of
rapidly dying indigenous languages becoming a primary focus in many
university programmes in linguistics.
Language description is a
work-intensive endeavour, usually requiring years of field work in the
language concerned, so as to equip the linguist to write a
sufficiently accurate reference grammar. Further, the task of
documentation requires the linguist to collect a substantial corpus in
the language in question, consisting of texts and recordings, both
sound and video, which can be stored in an accessible format within
open repositories, and used for further research.
The sub-field of translation includes the translation of written and
spoken texts across mediums, from digital to print and spoken. To
translate literally means to transmute the meaning from one language
into another. Translators are often employed by organizations, such as
travel agencies as well as governmental embassies to facilitate
communication between two speakers who do not know each other's
language. Translators are also employed to work within computational
linguistics setups like
Google Translate for example, which is an
automated, programmed facility to translate words and phrases between
any two or more given languages.
Translation is also conducted by
publishing houses, which convert works of writing from one language to
another in order to reach varied audiences. Academic Translators,
specialize and semi specialize on various other disciplines such as;
Technology, Science, Law,
Biolinguistics is the study of the biology and evolution of language.
It is a highly interdisciplinary field, including linguists,
biologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, mathematicians, and
others. By shifting the focus of investigation in linguistics to a
comprehensive scheme that embraces natural sciences, it seeks to yield
a framework by which we can understand the fundamentals of the faculty
Clinical linguistics is the application of linguistic theory to the
fields of Speech-
Speech language pathologists work
on corrective measures to cure communication disorders and swallowing
Chaika (1990) showed that schizophrenics with speech disorders, like
rhyming inappropriately have attentional dysfunction, as when a
patient, shown a colour chip and, then asked to identify it, responded
"Looks like clay. Sounds like gray. Take you for a roll in the hay.
Heyday, May Day." The color chip was actually clay-colored, so his
first response was correct.'
However, normals suppress or ignore words which rhyme with what
they've said unless they are deliberately producing a pun, poem or
rap. Even then, the speaker shows connection between words chosen for
rhyme and an overall meaning in discourse. schizophrenics with speech
dysfunction show no such relation between rhyme and reason. Some even
produce stretches of gibberish combined with recognizable words.
 copyright Elaine Ostrach Chaika>
Computational linguistics is the study of linguistic issues in a way
that is "computationally responsible", i.e., taking careful note of
computational consideration of algorithmic specification and
computational complexity, so that the linguistic theories devised can
be shown to exhibit certain desirable computational properties and
their implementations. Computational linguists also work on computer
language and software development.
Evolutionary linguistics is the interdisciplinary study of the
emergence of the language faculty through human evolution, and also
the application of evolutionary theory to the study of cultural
evolution among different languages. It is also a study of the
dispersal of various languages across the globe, through movements
among ancient communities.
Forensic linguistics is the application of linguistic analysis to
forensics. Forensic analysis investigates on the style, language,
lexical use, and other linguistic and grammatical features used in the
legal context to provide evidence in courts of law. Forensic linguists
have also contributed expertise in criminal cases.
Outline of linguistics and Index of linguistics
This "see also" section may contain an excessive number of
suggestions. Please ensure that only the most relevant links are
given, that they are not red links, and that any links are not already
in this article. (August 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this
Axiom of categoricity
Critical discourse analysis
Global language system
Grammarian (Greco-Roman world)
International Congress of Linguists
List of departments of linguistics
List of summer schools of linguistics
Rhythm § Linguistics
^ Crystal, David (1990). Linguistics. Penguin Books.
^ Halliday, Michael A.K.; Jonathan Webster (2006). On
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^ Martinet, André (1960). Elements of General Linguistics. Studies in
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London: Faber. p. 15.
^ Rens Bod (2014). A New
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Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. ISBN 0262600102.
^ Sharada Narayanan (2010). Vakyapadiya: Sphota, Jati, and
^ Chierchia, Gennaro & Sally McConnell-Ginet (2000). Meaning and
Grammar: An Introduction to Semantics. MIT Press, Cambridge,
Massachusetts. ISBN 9780262531641.
^ All references in this article to the study of sound should be taken
to include the manual and non-manual signs used in sign languages.
^ Adrian Akmajian; Richard A. Demers; Ann K. Farmer; Robert M. Harnish
Linguistics (6th ed.). The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-51370-6.
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^ Syntax: A Generative Introduction (Second Edition), 2013. Andrew
Carnie. Blackwell Publishing.
^ de Saussure, F. (1986). Course in general linguistics (3rd ed.). (R.
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^ Raymond Mougeon & Terry Nadasdi (1998). Sociolinguistic
Discontinuity in Minority
Language Communities. Linguistic Society of
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^ "Stylistics" by Joybrato Mukherjee. Chapter 49.
Writing and Difference by Jacques Derrida, 1967, and Of Grammatology
^ Chapter 1, section 1.1 in Elmer H. Antonsen (2002). Trends in
Linguistics: Runes and Germanic
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^ Journal of
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^ McMahon, A. M. S. (1994). Understanding
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^ McMahon, A. M. S. (1994). Understanding
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^ A. Morpurgo Davies Hist.
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^ Oxford English dictionary.
^ Trudgill, P. (1994). Dialects. Ebooks Online Routledge. Florence,
^ Ariel, Mira (2009). "Discourse, grammar, discourse". Discourse
Studies. 11 (1): 5–36. JSTOR 24049745.
^ Helen Leckie-Tarry,
Language and Context: a Functional Linguistic
Theory of Register, Continuum International Publishing Group, 1995,
p. 6. ISBN 1-85567-272-3
^ Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2003).
Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment
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Jacques Derrida (1978).
Writing and Difference. Translated by Alan
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^ Lea, Richard (18 November 2004). "Relative Thinking". The
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^ Isac, Daniela; Charles Reiss (2013). I-language: An Introduction to
Linguistics as Cognitive Science, 2nd edition. Oxford University
Press. ISBN 978-0199660179.
^ Bloomfield 1983, p. 307.
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grammatical structure, as do formal and structural grammar; but it
also analyses the entire communicative situation: the purpose of the
speech event, its participants, its discourse context. Functionalists
maintain that the communicative situation motivates, constrains,
explains, or otherwise determines grammatical structure, and that a
structural or formal approach is not merely limited to an artificially
restricted data base, but is inadequate as a structural account.
Functional grammar, then, differs from formulae and structural grammar
in that it purports not to model but to explain; and the explanation
is grounded in the communicative situation.
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Language Instinct. William Morrow and
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Hall, Christopher (2005). An Introduction to
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Language Spell. Routledge. ISBN 9780826487346.
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