What is Language & Linguistics?

Language and LinguisticsIt has been said that language is the very essence of what makes us human. If we are to understand fully what it means to be human, then, we must understand what language is, how it works, and how we use it.

Linguistics, often defined as 'the scientific study of language', is a broad term covering a wide range of different disciplines. The traditional 'core' areas of the subject deal with the structure of human languages in terms of how speech sounds combine to form syllables and words (phonetics and phonology), how words combine into meaningful utterances such as sentences and phrases (syntax and morphology), and how we extract meaning from utterances we read or hear used by other people (semantics and pragmatics). But beyond this, linguists are also interested in matters such as how languages evolve and change over time, how they are learned by children and by adults, how languages are used in social settings, the historical and contemporary relationships between languages, the roles of language in nation-building and identity marking, the development of writing systems, how the brain processes speech and language, how communication is possible when speech and language are impaired, and documenting endangered languages before they disappear.

Linguistics therefore has close links to many other fields of enquiry in the social, physical and medical sciences, philosophy, and the arts and humanities. Our understanding of language origins, structure and use changes constantly with new discoveries in neuroscience, animal behaviour, archaeology and palaeontology, sociology, and psychology, and new industrial, medical and forensic applications of linguistic theory and methods are emerging year on year. 

What can Language & Linguistics be used for?

You will find that Language & Linguistics is not only fascinating but useful as well. A knowledge of how language works and inter-relates with the individual and other factors such as society and history will undoubtedly help those taking courses in literary studies, sociology, anthropology, history and modern languages, for example, while a sound knowledge of phonological and grammatical principles will make learning foreign languages easier and more rewarding.

When you leave University, you will find that a documented knowledge of language and linguistics will also stand you in good stead with prospective employers. This is especially true if you choose a career in the media, advertising and marketing, information and communication technology, publishing, language teaching and health-related professions such as speech and language therapy or work with blind or deaf people.

It is also worth remembering that there is now a compulsory linguistic element in the new Higher English and a dedicated English Language A Level, so your chances for employment as a teacher of English can only be enhanced by studying language and linguistics.