What is Linguistics?

Many people think that a linguist is someone who speaks many languages and works as a language teacher or as an interpreter at the United Nations. In fact, these people are more accurately called "Polyglots". While many linguists are polyglots, the focus of linguistics is about the structure, use and psychology of language in general.

Linguistics is concerned with the nature of language and communication. It deals both with the study of languages, and the search for general properties common to all languages or large groups of languages. It includes the following subareas:

  • phonetics, the study of the production, acoustics and hearing of speech sounds
  • phonology, the patterning of sounds
  • morphology, the structure of words
  • syntax, the structure of sentences
  • semantics, meaning
  • pragmatics, language in context

It also includes explorations into the nature of language variation (i.e., dialects), language change over time, how language is processed and stored in the brain, and how it is acquired by young children. All these topics are examined in the coursework offered by the University of Arizona's Department of Linguistics.

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