Fields of Linguistics


Linguistics is the scientific study of language

The main questions addressed in linguistics are:

What is language?

How is it represented in the mind?

Linguists focus on describing and explaining language and are not concerned with the prescriptive rules of the language, neither are they required to know many languages nor are they interpreters

The underlying goal of the linguist is to try to discover the universals concerning language (i.e. what are the common elements of all languages), and try and place these elements in a theoretical framework that will describe all languages and also predict what cannot occur in a language

The major fields within Linguistics are:







Language acquisition

Phonetics is the study of the production and perception of speech sounds

Phones are the smallest units used in phonetics. A Phone is the smallest distinguishable sound in human language

Phonetics is concerned with the sounds used in speech, how the sounds are articulated and how the sounds are perceived by the listener

Sub-disciplines of phonetics are:

Articulatory Phonetics – production of speech sounds

Acoustics Phonetics – physical production and transmission of speech sounds

Auditory Phonetics – perception of speech sounds

Phonology is the study of the sounds patterns of particular languages

Phonemes are the smallest units used in phonetics. A phoneme is the smallest meaningful sound in a particular language

Phonology is concerned with how sounds are combined to create meaning and how speech sounds interact with each other

Phonology attempts to explain phonological processes in terms of formal rules

Phonetics and Phonology are often studied together because of the inter-relation between the two fields

Morphology is the study of the sounds patterns of particular languages

Morphemes are the smallest units used in morphology. A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in a language

Morphemes combine to form words

Morphology is concerned with how words are put together from their smaller parts and rules governing such processes

Syntax is the study of sentence structure in languages

Syntax attempts to describe what is grammatical in a particular language, in terms of how words are arranged to form phrases, clauses and sentences and to explain the underlying structure and the transformational process

Semantics is the study of meaning in languages

Semantics is concerned with describing how we represent the meaning of a word in a our minds, how these representations are used in constructing meaningful sentences and how sentences are related and larger pieces of discourse are held together by relations of meaning

Pragmatics is the study of the aspects of meaning and language use that are dependent on the speaker and the addressee and other features of the context of utterance

Pragmatics is concerned with context of utterance, generally observed principles of communication and the goals of the speaker

Language Acquisition is the field of linguistics that provides insight into the underlying processes of language learning

Some other disciplines within linguistics are:

Sociolinguistics  – the study of inter-relationships of language and social structure, linguistic variation and attitudes towards language

Neurolinguistics – the study of the brain and how it functions in the production, perception and acquisition of language

Historical Linguistics – the study of language change and the relationship of languages with each other

Anthropological Linguistics – the study of language and culture and how they interact

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