What is linguistics?

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It deals with all aspects of how people use language and what they must know in order to do so. The major subfields of linguistics are:

  • Phonetics – the description and classification of speech sounds
  • Phonology - the organisation and variation of the sounds of language
  • Morphology - the structure of words and the ways in which words are formed out of smaller units
  • Syntax - the structure of sentences and how sentences are related to each other
  • Semantics - the study of word and sentence meaning
  • Pragmatics - language use in interaction and context

In addition, there are numerous other branches of linguistics, e.g.

  • Sociolinguistics - the study of how societal norms affect language use (e.g. language and gender, dialectology etc.)
  • First and second language acquisition – the study of how first and second languages are aquired/learned
  • Applied linguistics - applying linguistics in the areas of language-related problems in society (e.g. language education)
  • Historical linguistics - the history of the English language from the 6th to the 21st centuries

Reading suggestions

Kortmann, Bernd (2005), English Linguistics: Essentials. Berlin: Cornelsen.

Mair, Christian (2008), English Linguistics. An Introduction. Tübingen: Narr.

Plag, Ingo et al. (2009), Introduction to English Linguistics. 2nd ed. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.