About Linguistics

Linguistics is a discipline that studies the structure, functions and use of human languages. In Linguistics, we study properties of specific languages as well as seek to search for the properties which are common to all human languages.

While examining the structure of languages, a linguist addresses the questions such as:

 What are the units of a language? How do these units come together to build larger units in a systematic manner? e.g sounds combine to form words, words combine into larger words and phrases, phrases into sentences.

How are various languages different from each other and how are they similar?

How do children acquire any language, without being taught and in a very short period of time?

The part of Linguistics that studies the structure of languages is divided into the following subfields:

            Phonetics: Study of the physical properties of speech sounds (articulation and acoustics)

            Phonology: Study of the patterns of speech sounds in languages

            Morphology: Study of processes of word formation

            Syntax: Study of the structure of sentences

            Semantics: Study of linguistic meaning

Linguistics also studies how linguistic structures exhibit variation across space and time. A subfield of Linguistics called Historical Linguistics also studies how languages change over the period of time, and in contact with each other.

Linguistics also concerns itself with the study of functions and use of human language. Languages are used for expression: for communication as well as for thinking. A subfield of Linguistics called Pragmatics studies the use of language in society and its use in communication.

Various functions of languages, such as establishing identities, organizing the relations between individuals, groups and communities etc. are studied in a subfield called Sociolinguistics. Here, the complex relationship of language and society is investigated.

Linguistics is an interdisciplinary field of knowledge. It not only interacts closely with literature, culture studies, sociology, politics, philosophy, media studies, anthropology, psychology but also with education, health science, computer science and neuroscience.

Application of Linguistics extends to research in linguistics and language studies, language teaching, translation, media and journalism, special education, speech pathology etc. Many IT companies also need linguistics in the domains such as machine translations, speech-to-text conversions etc.

Studying Linguistics sensitizes one to this extremely complex knowledge system called language and to its intricate patterns. It also sensitizes one to the strengths and challenges of the multilingual situations such as India. It further makes one realize the role of languages in building a strong participatory democracy. There are around 6000-7000 languages in the World today, and many of them are on the brink of extinction. In India alone, there are 750+ languages, a majority of which are being spoken by marginalized groups and are in a grave danger of being forced out of use. It is not only important to document these languages, but also to save them from extinction. Linguistics would help one to the understanding of the forces and conditions responsible for the plight of languages and of the societies speaking them, thereby opening up possibilities of bringing about positive social change.