What Is Linguistics?
Linguistics is the study of speech sounds, gestures, grammatical structures and meaning across all languages. It is at the crossroads of the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.
Linguists don’t rank grammars the way ichthyologists rate fish or astronomers rank galaxies, and they certainly don’t tell you how to pronounce ‘ain’t’ or ‘singular they’ correctly.
What is Linguistics?
Linguistics is the study of language: how it sounds, how it’s organized in our minds and in our world, how it changes over time. It’s a puzzle that linguists love to solve, and it touches on just about every aspect of human life.
Linguists compare the phonology, syntax and word lists of different languages to see how similar or dissimilar they are to each other. They also look at how languages have changed over time, either due to slow (maybe incremental) change within a language or because of contact with other languages.
Because of its inherently cross-disciplinary nature, linguistics shares intellectual connections with other fields like anthropology, philosophy, sociology and psychology. It also has close ties to education, foreign languages, literature and communication sciences.
What is a Linguist?
A linguist is a person who studies languages and language use. Linguists research how language works, including its sounds and grammar. They also study how language is acquired and used.
Some linguists are polyglots, people who speak many languages. Others study living languages, often in far-flung places such as the Amazon rainforest or New Guinea. These linguists combine language description with ethnography, studying the culture of the people who speak the language.
Linguists may focus on theoretical linguistics, which deals with the general principles that apply to all languages. They may focus on describing the structure of particular languages, such as how words are combined according to rules that speakers know (though not always consciously). They may also study historical linguistics, investigating the origins of languages and the way they have changed over time.
What is a Linguist’s Job?
A linguist’s work involves researching, interpreting and translating languages. They may work in various industries including education, government and private businesses.
Linguists typically spend thirty-five to forty hours a week working on research and teaching. They also often work on language-related projects outside of the classroom such as developing machine languages or researching etymology.
Those who choose the academic path often publish their research in journals or at conferences. They also teach linguistics and foreign languages, such as English as a Second Language (ESL).
Some linguists become dialect coaches for film actors and help them to develop the right accent for the part. Others develop careers in forensic linguistics, analyzing speech patterns as evidence in law cases and other investigations. Forensic linguists may also be involved in the development of new artificial languages for use in movies and games, such as Klingon from Star Trek.
What is a Linguist’s Education?
Professionals who choose to become linguists can work in numerous fields, depending on their specific training and areas of expertise. Many choose to work in the computer industry as computational linguists, helping with issues such as speech recognition and synthesis. Others may work for law enforcement or government agencies such as the FBI, Department of Defense and the CIA.
Other linguists go into education, working in schools or consulting with clients on language-related issues. They can also do fieldwork to document and analyze languages (many of which are endangered), or help revitalize them by establishing literacy programs.
Linguists can also teach at the university level, in departments such as linguistics, speech science, philosophy, English, psychology and foreign languages. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is needed to get started as a professor, while a master’s or PhD is preferred.
What is a Linguist’s Work?
Linguists study all aspects of language. This multidisciplinary field of study includes connections to neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, sociology and computer science.
A linguist’s work may involve traveling, either to connect with native speakers as they document and revitalize languages or to conduct research. Linguistics graduates can find jobs in a variety of industries.
A linguist’s work can also involve education, helping develop educational materials for students or developing effective teaching methods. The verbal skills linguists acquire make them ideal candidates for jobs in the publishing industry, as copy editors or proofreaders or even with media outlets. Linguists can also work in the civil service or in fields like law or IT. Noam Chomsky is a well-known linguist who has written extensively on linguistic theory and other topics, including philosophy and politics.