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What is Linguistics and Its Types


To acquire knowledge about the origin, structure, nature and development of language historically and relatively, a factual and scientific analysis of language is required and this scientific study of language is defined as Linguistics. It covers the vast concepts from the sounds and gestures of speech up to arrangement of words, sentences and meanings. It is also concerned with the relationship between language and cognition, society and history. But it is the study not of specific language but the human language in general. Simply its objective is to recognize how mental capability related to the language works and to explain how language itself works.

Linguists are thoroughly interested in all human languages, both spoken and signed, and they analyze their different aspects, including:

  • Descriptive linguistics: This realm of linguistics gives the description of individual languages, their sound systems, grammar, and vocabulary.
  • Theoretical linguistics: : This niche of linguistics develops and tests theories about the nature of language and how it works.
  • Applied linguistics: This subfield uses linguistic knowledge to solve practical problems, such as teaching languages and developing language methodologies and technologies.


Linguistics is the scientific or systematic study of all human languages and their structures and principles in general. The word ‘Linguistics’ has come from Latin Word lingua (tongue) and istics (knowledge or science). Some definitions of Linguistics are stated below

  • Linguistics is the scientific study of human language and languages.

    _Victoria A.Fromkin

  • Linguistics tries to answer two basic questions: what is language and how does language work

    _Jean Aitchison

Why We Study Linguistics

Nowadays, Linguistics has become a popular and dynamic field of study and research and is expanding day by day as it gives us variety of prospectives of how human languages evolved and the factors that are affecting them in social, geographical, psychological way. It helps us to understand the fundamental features and nature of human language. Language is one of the most important features of our species, and it allows us to communicate with each other, express our thoughts and feelings, and share our culture. By studying language, linguists can help us to better understand ourselves and the world around us.

Linguistics has practical applications in a number of fields. For example, linguists are chieftains in the development of language teaching materials, methodologies and technologies, they also participate in the creation of speech recognition and machine translation systems and finally embed them into speech recognition software, and the linguist-cum-doctors diagnose and treat language disorders. Finally, linguistics can help us understand the diversity of human languages and cultures. There are more than 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, we can learn more about the different ways that people communicate and express themselves.

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Branches of Linguistics

From the above-mentioned definitions, it is vivid that linguistics deals with language as human activity. It is considered as multi-dimension subject on which many researches are still going on as it includes various fields of knowledge. To make it easier to understand, linguistics has been categorized into two groups:

  • Intradisciplinary Areas
  • Interdisciplinary Areas

Intradisciplinary Areas

Intradisciplinary areas of linguistics exclusively discuss about language and do not deal with other subjects or fields of knowledge. These areas have following branches of Linguistics.

General Linguistics

It is the study of language and languages in general. It is not concerned with a particular language like English, Urdu, Chinese, Arabic, Persian etc. It focuses on principles which are found in many languages or even in all.

Theoretical Linguistics

It is the study of language and languages for putting up a theory of their structures and functions. It aims to set up general rules and trendy principles for the look at of all languages and to determine the features of human languages. It is subdivided into a number of following branches.

  • Phonetics and Phonology (all sounds, sound system)
  • Morphology (formation and internal structure of words)
  • Syntax (formation of clauses and sentences)
  • Semantics and Pragmatics (meanings and language use)

Descriptive Linguistics

It establishes facts about a particular language. In descriptive linguistics, language is described in particular. It provides data which confirms or refutes the theory which is set by theoretical linguistics.

Comparative Linguistics

It studies two or more languages in order to compare their structures and show whether they are similar or different. It is used in Applied Linguistics for setting differences between the learner’s native language and the target language in areas of syntax, vocabulary and sound systems.

Comparative Historical Linguistics

It is the study of the history of the modifications in language and the relationship of language by comparing earlier and later forms of language and by comparing different languages. Over the time many sort of changes occur in a language like changing in the pronunciation, spelling or meaning of a word. Its purpose is to show that certain languages are related to one another e.g French, Latin, Greek and so on. There are two types of the historical study of language. `

  • Diachronic (Historical- language history thoroughly A to Z)
  • Synchronic (Non-Historical- language history at some particular time)

Applied Linguistics

It is the study of applying linguistics in real-life problems as well as the study of second and foreign language learning and teaching. It is the theoretical exploration of practical problems related to language such as translation, vocabulary and grammar in which the language is the central issue. It also presents solutions, in fact it makes its own theoretical models of languages and implements them in practical areas. There are various sub-fields of Applied Linguistics which are stated below.

  • Bilingualism (learning or having command on more than one language)
  • Multilingualism (communication in three or more languages)
  • Computer-meditated Communication (CMC) (interaction through computer)
  • Contrastive Linguistics (synchronic systematic comparison of two languages)
  • Interlinguistics (created system for learning a second language)
  • Forensic Linguistics (application of linguistic knowledge in legal matters)
  • Conversation Analysis (focus on meanings and context)
  • Discourse Analysis (differences of languages based on genre)
  • Language Assessment (evolution of language skills to develop a particular language)
  • Language Acquisition (process of learning a native or a second language)
  • Language Pedagogy (techniques of teaching language)
  • Language Planning and policy (imposed official policies to change linguistic behavior)
  • Lexicography (the principles of making a dictionary)
  • Semiotics (structure of signs and symbols w.r.t social and cultural context)
  • Stylistics (formulization of meaning into a logical form)
  • Translation (conversion of text from one language to another)
  • Grammar (set of rules in language structure)
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Interdisciplinary Areas

Interdisciplinary areas of linguistics deals with other subjects or fields of knowledge. It is inter-linked with world. These areas have following branches of Linguistics.


It studies a relationship between language and society and highlights the manners of the use of language in multilingual speech communities. The focus of attention in this branch is to elaborate the effects of social elements along with (social distance, social status, social class, age gender) on language varieties (dialects, registers, genres etc) and to point out the factors of speaking differently in different social conditions. It additionally identifies the social features of language and their approach for conveying social meanings.


It is the study of language and the human mind that is a human’s capacity to speak and understand language. Its goal is to discover approximately the mental structures and processes which are concerned with the acquisition, comprehension and production of language. It consists of the areas like behaviourism, mentalism and language acquisition of L1 (first language i.e native/local language or parent tongue) and L2 (second language i.e the language that is learnt).


It studies the physiological mechanism of the process and representation of information associated with language inside the brain, genuinely, it attempts to figure out the way in which the brain recognizes and produces language. It elicits concepts and theories from fields such as neuroscience, cognitive science, communication disorders and many others. It is complicated to determine wherein the language faculty is placed but at least two main regions have been mentioned in the brain.

  • Broca’s area which is involved in the production of speech.
  • Wernicke’s area which is involved in speech processing and understanding language.

Anthropological Linguistics

It focuses on the study of language variation in relation to the cultural patterns and beliefs of man across space and time and investigates by using the theories and strategies of anthropology. It encompasses every aspect of human society and culture in the present and traces human evolution and development stretching back into prehistory. There are two further sub-branches of this branch.

  • Cultural or social Anthropological Linguistics is related to living human societies and their cultures)
  • Physical or biological Anthropological linguistics is related to human evolution in past


It is the study of the biology and development of language. It moves the point of interest of investigation in linguistics to an extensive system which is converted into natural sciences. This branch includes linguists, biologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, mathematicians and others to capitulate a framework by means of which the basics of the faculty of language are observed.

Computational Linguistics

It is related to the study of applying computer science to linguistics. It uses programming to model linguistic structure or for practical applications such as Natural Language Processing which has indications both for identifying and modelling how language acquisition works as well as for translation software. In other words, many computational models of various kinds of linguistic phenomena are presented in order to give a computational clarification.

Cognitive Linguistics

It is about the approach to the analysis of natural language and interprets language in termsof the concepts, sometimes universal, sometimes specific to a particular tongue, which adds up to its forms. It pays attention to formal structures of the language with respect to general conceptual organization, categorization principles, processing mechanisms and experiential and environmental influences.


This branch studies the variation in language with reference to geographical changes. It is all about the political, economic processes that affect the status and distribution of language.

Philosophical Linguistics

This branch studies the ancient and new concepts and theories of language under the roof of Philosophy, especially in the light of philosophers like Plato and Aristotle.

Some Famous Linguists

Here are some famous linguists and their contributions to the field:

  • Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) a Swiss linguist, semiotician and philosopher is considered to be one of the founders of modern linguistics. He introduced the concept of the linguistic sign. Saussure also made important contributions to the study of phonology, morphology, and syntax.
  • Noam Chomsky (born 1928) a living legend, an American professor and a social critic is one of the most influential linguists of all time. He is best known for his work on generative grammar. Chomsky has also made important contributions to the study of phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics.
  • Roman Osipovich Jakobson (1896-1982) was a Russian linguist and literary theorist who made significant contributions to the study of phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. He is best known for his work on the Jakobson's features.
  • Edward Sapir (1884-1939) was an American linguist and anthropologist who made important contributions in the development of discipline of linguistics in United State. He is also known for his work on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.
  • Leonard Bloomfield (1887-1949) was an American linguist who is best known for his work on structural linguistics. Bloomfield made significant contributions to the study of phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics.