What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the study of the nature of language. Linguists study the languages of the world in order to answer questions like:

What are the building blocks of languages?

The building blocks of language include the sounds which combine to make words; then words which combine into phrases and sentences; and the sentences which combine into discourses.

What are the rules and principles that govern the combination of the building blocks of language?

Different rules and principles govern the combination of the different building blocks of language, and different branches of linguistic research have developed different kinds of models to explain this. Linguists explore the basic principles that govern all languages as well as the way languages vary in how they build up words, phrases and sentences.

How do languages change over time?

Languages are constantly changing, each generation of speakers alter their language in some way. Languages can change because of contact between speakers of different languages or varieties of the same language. Social barriers such as social segregation, different cultural or ideological backgrounds or the construction of political borders may also lead speakers to actively differentiate their language use in order to assert separate identities.

How is language acquired and how are languages learned?

Language is acquired by children in all societies and only humans can acquire language. Linguists explore the way in which children acquire their language(s) and the way that the interaction between the child and the environment lead to complete mastery of language a short period of time.

What are language disabilities?

Although language can be acquired with ease it can also be impaired later in life. One of the most common causes of language impairment is stroke. Damage to those parts of the brain that deal with language can result in language impairment of different types and severity. This is known as Aphasia. Study of such damage to language can tell us a lot about the way the brain encodes and
processes language.

What determines how we use language?

We regularly adapt the way we use language to suit the setting. We speak differently in formal and informal situations, we do not speak in the same way to our boss or teacher as we do to our friends. And we adapt our way of speaking based on how we want to present ourseleves to others.

For further information, please go to: http://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/why-major-linguistics