Language schools » Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language and its relationships to cognition, society, and history.
The discipline is concerned with such matters as providing systematic descriptions of languages, investigating the properties of language structures as communicative systems, exploring the possibility that there are universals of language structure, and accounting for the historical development of linguistic systems. Applied linguistics is the application of linguistics to the study of such language-based fields as foreign language teaching and learning, speech pathology, translation, and dictionary writing.
Cognitive linguisticsIn linguistics and cognitive science, cognitive linguistics (CL) refers to the school of linguistics that views the important essence of language as innately based in evolutionarily-developed and speciated faculties, and seeks explanations that advance or fit well into the current understandings of the human mind.
The guiding principle behind this area of linguistics is that language creation, learning, and usage must be explained by reference to human cognition in general —the basic underlying mental processes that apply not only to language, but to all other areas of human intelligence.
It assumes that language is both situated in a specific bioregion and that it is embodied. This can be considered a more developed form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, in that not only are language and cognition mutually influential, but also embodied experience and environmental factors of the bioregion.
Computational linguisticsComputational linguistics is an interdisciplinary field dealing with the statistical and logical modeling of natural language from a computational perspective. This modeling is not limited to any particular field of linguistics. Computational linguistics was formerly usually done by computer scientists who had specialized in the application of computers to the processing of a natural language. Recent research has shown that language is much more complex than previously thought, so computational linguistics work teams are now sometimes interdisciplinary, including linguists (specifically trained in linguistics). Computational linguistics draws upon the involvement of linguists, computer scientists, experts in artificial intelligence, cognitive psychologists and logicians, amongst others.
Generative linguisticsGenerative linguistics is a school of thought within linguistics that makes use of the concept of a generative grammar. The term "generative grammar" is used in different ways by different people, and the term "generative linguistics" therefore has a range of different, though overlapping, meanings.
Formally, a generative grammar is defined as one that is fully explicit. It is a finite set of rules that can be applied to generate exactly those sentences (often, but not necessarily, infinite in number) that are grammatical in a given language (or, of course, particular dialect or otherwise sociolinguistically defined way of using a language), and no others. This is the definition that is offered by Noam Chomsky, who popularised the term, and by most dictionaries of linguistics.
Applied linguisticsApplied linguistics is the branch of linguistics concerned with using linguistic theory to address real-world problems. It has been traditionally dominated by the fields of language education and second language acquisition. There is a recurrent tension between those who regard the field as limited to the study of language learning, and those who see it as encompassing all applications of linguistic theory. Both definitions are widely used.
The field of applied linguistics first concerned itself with second language acquisition, in particular errors and contrastive analysis, in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1970s, with the failure of contrastive analysis as a theory to predict errors, applied linguists began to adopt Noam Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar to explain second language learning phenomena. In the 1990s, more and more researchers began to employ research methods from cognitive psychology. Today, the field is a cross-disciplinary mix of departments primarily from linguistics, anthropology, psychology, and education.
Historical linguisticsHistorical linguistics (also diachronic linguistics) is the study of language change. It has four main concerns:
The findings of historical linguistics are often used as a basis for hypotheses about the groupings and movements of peoples, particularly in the prehistoric period. However, it is now recognized that relating language to ethnic identity is problematic, as is relating language history to archaeological or genetic evidence.
PsycholinguisticsWhich in the early 1960s was developing rapidly as part of the general movement towards cognitive psychology, found this anti-behaviorist emphasis congenial, and rapidly absorbed many Chomskian ideas including the notion of generative grammar. However, as both cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics have matured, they have found less and less use for generative linguistics, not least because Chomsky has repeatedly emphasised that he never intended to specify the mental processes by which people actually generate sentences, or parse sentences that they hear or read.
SociolinguisticsSociolinguistics is the study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations, and context, on the way language is used. It also studies how lects differ between groups separated by certain social variables, e.g., ethnicity, religion, status, gender, level of education, etc., and how creation and adherence to these rules is used to categorize individuals in social class or socio-economic classes. As the usage of a language varies from place to place (dialect), language usage varies among social classes, and it is these sociolects that sociolinguistics studies.