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Linguistics - The Science and Study of Language

"An informal introduction to Linguistics, the art and the discipline."
BY Shirsho Dasgupta |   13-01-2015
Linguistics, (or Comparative Philology, as it is known in some parts of the world), is the study of 'language'.

The study of language, or Linguistics, can broadly be divided into three major approaches: form, meaning and context. To make it simple, it deals with speech sounds, words, phrases, sentences, texts and the aspects of their use.

A study of language does not necessarily mean learning more languages. Sure, if someone learns three or more languages, other than the native tongue, he or she would be called a linguist.  Not because of the three languages, but because of the methods and the process the person used to learn them.

Every language on earth, which can be spoken or written in any form, has a grammar. To speak or write one must learn the grammar of the language; and to learn the grammar, one must know the rules. Learning the rules that structure language is what Linguistics is all about. The subject deals with the basic rules and regulations that construct any language on earth.

For example, a language must have a speech sound. Phonetics, a branch of Linguistics comprises the study of speech sounds. Morphology, another branch of Linguistics, comprises the study of words. Likewise, syntax is the study of sentences. Therefore, it can be said that Linguistics is the study of any language, or as has been stated many times, Linguistics is the science of language.

The brilliant thing about studying Linguistics is that one can branch out into any subject after learning Linguistics. Combining one subject with another is known as interdisciplinary learning. In Linguistics, there are a number of interdisciplinary subjects that are acknowledged throughout the world.

One of the known interdisciplinary approaches is Sociolinguistics, which deals with language in a particular social behavior. It is actually the most common and best known study in this area. For anyone who does not know what Sociolinguistics is, a consultation of the works of Professor William Labov, the father of Modern Sociolinguistics, will be of help. His lucidity on the subject is as brilliant as his unsurpassed knowledge. There are other areas also, like Psycholinguistics, which deals with psychology and language; Neurolinguistics, which deals with neurology and language; Discourse Analysis, etc.

The radical aspect of Linguistics is that it can be used as the cornerstone for any study. Greatly respected by the world, it is known as a fundamental but also specialized study, which can be centered around particular aspects of language, but can be broadened to almost any other study as well.

The subject is language itself and what is human society without language!

Without language one cannot shape the world practically as he/she sees it. Even for someone without language, his/her world relies upon language to make his way through. A blind person feels a particular object and names it with language, a mute person thinks about a name in his mind, which is actually the same as reading aloud.

The most important aspect of language is imagination, which can be shaped through language itself. To be more honest, one can even lie through language.

Studying Linguistics obviously does not mean learning the fundamentals of human society, but it means learning the way the fundamentals of human society were built.

Finally; studying Linguistics, as mentioned earlier, is a specialized approach to language. But nowadays, almost all the recognized universities in the world offer a number of courses on Linguistics, from diplomas to doctorates. It does not require any specific previous training on a particular subject. Anyone from any discipline can apply to learn Linguistics, but one must learn it with all his heart. As Edward Sapir, the famous Linguist, said in his book Language: an Introduction to the Study of Speech:

“Language is the most massive and inclusive art we know, a mountainous and anonymous work of unconscious generations.”



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