What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the study of language.
Not just learning a specific language, but the principles behind all languages.
A language is a system of connections between forms (sounds or shapes) and meanings (ideas and expressions).
Understanding linguistics can help you to learn any language, improve communication, and investigate human nature.

Linguistics includes:

  • Phonetics
    The study of human language sounds. How to produce any sound in any language.
  • Phonology
    The study of sound patterns, how sounds combine and influence each other. How a native speaker thinks about a language’s sounds.
  • Morphology
    The study of word patterns, how words are created and changed. How to form words like a native speaker, and even invent new words.
  • Syntax
    The study of sentence patterns, how words are combined and ordered. The principles behind the grammar of any language.
  • Semantics
    The study of meaning patterns. How languages build meaning through words and sentences.
  • Pragmatics
    The study of how languages are used in the real world. The principles behind concepts like “reading between the lines” and “you had to be there to understand”.
  • Sociolinguistics
    The study of the social patterns of language. How different people use language differently, and how our use of language connects to our sense of identity.
  • Field Linguistics
    The study of unknown languages through conversation with native speakers. How to decipher and make sense of any language.
  • Writing Systems
    The study of how languages are visually recorded. The structure and principles behind all writing systems, from Chinese characters to Egyptian hieroglyphs to the English alphabet.
  • Historical Linguistics
    The study of how languages change over time. The patterns and principles behind how, for example, Latin evolved into the modern Romance languages, and how Old English evolved into modern English.
  • Linguistic Typology / Language Variation / Linguistic Diversity
    The study of similarity and variation between the world’s languages. What is universal across all languages, and in what ways languages differ.
  • Cognitive Linguistics
    The study of language from the perspective of cognitive science, the study of thought. How language fits into the overall world of human thought.
  • Psycholinguistics
    The study of how the human mind shapes language. The psychological factors influencing how we understand and use language.
  • Philosophy of Language
    The study of language’s connection with philosophy. How language fits in to issues of philosophy, such as nature vs nurture and the meaning of meaning.
  • Speech-Language Pathology
    The study of language disorders. How medical factors can affect our ability to use language.
  • First Language Acquisition
    The study of how a baby becomes a native speaker. How a babbling 1-year-old becomes a complex-story-telling 5-year-old, with remarkable similarities across all languages.
  • Second Language Acquisition
    The study of how anyone older than a baby learns a language. The principles and best practices for learning any language.
  • Constructed Languages (“Conlang”)
    The creation of artificial languages, such as Esperanto, Elvish, Klingon, and Dothraki. How to create your own language for philosophy, fiction, or fun.