What is Linguistics?

Are you considering whether to study a linguistics degree or just wondering what a career in linguistics entails? We've listed our top questions around linguistics including what the term means, how the field developed and what skills are to be gained from studying a linguistics degree.

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Usually, when you think of linguistics the word “languages” comes to mind, but Linguistics is the scientific study of language*. Linguistics aims to define how languages are developed in the human mind and describes how human languages are formed and how they work. This includes language structure, sociolinguistics, grammar, syntax, semantics and, phonetics.

What is linguistics all about?

Linguistics is a very descriptive field and the research tends to be observation-based and reflects on the analysis of human languages by dismantling their form, evolution, development and studying how they function. It is very much comparable to breaking up languages and figuring out how they work. Linguistics research tries to find answers to how our brains put together sentences (structure), how we are able to learn new languages (language acquisition) and why languages change. The study of linguistics looks into the analysis of factors that influence language such as; social, cultural, philosophical and political causes.

What are the branches of linguistics?

The main branches of linguistics are:

  • Applied linguistics - the study of applying linguistics to real-life situations
  • Phonetics - the study of acoustics and sounds of languages
  • Phonology - the study of sounds in speech
  • Syntax - the study of sentence structure and formation
  • Semantics - the study of meanings

When did linguistics emerge?

The earliest account introducing modern linguistics was found in the nineteenth-century whose development is credited to Noam Chomsky: American linguist and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. The shift to modern linguistics came from historical changes in languages over time. Linguistics is regarded as a science in some areas as it uses scientific methods to determine language quality.

Why is linguistics important?

Linguists are in demand because their knowledge of linguistics helps us to better understand our place in the world. By choosing to study linguistics, your knowledge of language structure can be applied to improving verbal and written communications through translation and treating speech impediments.

What can I do with a linguistics degree?

Through our BA (Hons) Applied Linguistics course you will gain the ability to analyse linguistic patterns through language study and develop an ability to use language effectively through enhancing your communication skills, such as persuasion by gaining an understanding of the complexities of meaning and appropriate social uses of language terms. These will contribute to your transferable skills and boost your performance in the workplace which will enable you to prove yourself as a valuable contributor to professionals working in the health, communications, and media sectors, to name a few. You will also have an opportunity to secure a work placement where you are encouraged to develop your industry-standard practices.

With our MA Applied Linguistics degree, you will also develop your communication and analytical skills by learning how to solve and apply solutions to problems of the real world through linguistic theories. Linguists’ analytical skills continue to remain in high demand as they are able to conduct valuable research with reference to their cross-cultural skills and understanding. Because of this, they are able to contribute important insight with multiple perspectives on contemporary issues and controversial topics.

What careers do linguistic graduates have?

Linguistic graduates have a vast and ever-growing range of career options. With this degree, you can become a Lexicographer, Speech and Language Therapist, Copy Editor, Language Translator, Primary and Nursery Education Teacher, Secondary Education Teacher, Proof-reader, Publisher, or a role in communications.

Our graduates have gone on to pursue careers such as TEFL instructors, teachers in primary and secondary schools as well as academics and lecturers within higher education, editors, and researchers in the social sciences with respected organisations.

*Linguistics is the scientific study of language

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