We explain what linguistics is, its objective, fields of study and the work areas of a linguist. In addition, historical linguistics.
What is linguistics?
Linguistics is the science that studies language . This implies studying its origins, its evolution, its foundations and its structure with the aim of understanding the dynamics of living (contemporary) and dead languages (the old ones from which they come).
Of all the systems created by the human being , none is as complex, vast and powerful as language. Among the many sciences that study language, the following stand out:
- Philology . It focuses on the historical study of language and its manifestation in written texts, mainly philosophical and literary, and since its appearance in the nineteenth century.
- Linguistics . It is more oriented to spoken language and the ways in which it operates at a certain point in history (although it also studies written texts).
Both philology (older) and linguistic (more modern) are daughters of ancient grammar , cultivated by classical cultures, such as Greco-Roman.
However, linguistics was born at the beginning of the 19th century , when linguistic change and the possibility of studying it in a scientific way became evident. Even so, the greatest foundational milestone of linguistics appeared at the beginning of the 20th century, and it was the publication of the famous General Linguistics Course of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) in 1916.
Linguistics is both a scientific-social discipline and a branch of psychology . This is because its object of study, language, involves two types of processes: a series of mental processes (the acquisition of language, its implementation, its link with thought ) and other social processes (the evolution of language, pragmatics, their role in identity formation).
Therefore, the main objective of linguistics involves the formulation of a general theory of natural languages and the cognitive system that makes them possible . Of course, each branch of linguistics has its own objective, framed in this general goal of the discipline .
The linguistic study can be divided into a set of fields or levels, depending on what specific aspect of the language is of your exclusive interest:
- Phonetics and phonology . He is interested in the sounds of verbal language, that is, both the physical emissions of each articulated sound (such as the configuration of the sounding apparatus of the human body), even the acoustic images that these sounds form in our mind and that we associate with a reference specific.
- Morfosintaxis . Union of morphology and syntax , this field is concerned with understanding the dynamics of word formation (how the significant pieces that compose them are combined, how they are modified to obtain new senses) and the dynamics of sentence formation (how to organize the words and how they are associated depending on their prayer role).
- Semantics and pragmatics . This field focuses on the meaning of words and their ways of association, lending of senses and other dynamics that involve the lexicon , together with the extra-linguistic elements that affect this meaning, accompanying it to modulate it, suggest another meaning, etc.
Areas of work of a linguist
Linguistics offers its professionals numerous approaches to language study, among which the following stand out:
- Theoretical language . Reflect on the nature of language from a philosophical, abstract and general point of view, often close to the philosophy of language, to try to formulate a valid theoretical approach.
- Applied Linguistics . It focuses on more tangible aspects of language, such as its acquisition dynamics (language therapy), language teaching, or its role within societies (sociolinguistics).
- Comparative linguistics . It consists in the comparison of the forms of use of language between two regions, communities or human traditions , to find the similarities and differences that exist.
- Synchronic linguistics . Study the functioning of language at any given time in history, without being interested in its provenance or its future. It is generally the most descriptive approach and is often limited to a specific community of language users.
- Diachronic linguistics . Study the functioning of language understood as a historical becoming, that is, maintaining the perspective of the past, present and future to understand the changes suffered and those that could suffer.
- Computational Linguistics . It deals with aspects of language that could be inherited through computer systems to artificial intelligence, that is, it deals with cyber languages.
Applied linguistics is an area of linguistics that draws on other scientific disciplines, that is, it is essentially interdisciplinary, since it is interested in social aspects that concern the functioning of language .
Its development as a linguistic discipline occurred during the twentieth century, especially in Anglo-Saxon-speaking countries and in Europe. It revolved around the teaching of English; but from the 50s he assumed a more linked approach with education , psychology , anthropology , pedagogy and sociology .
It has a true multitude of approaches, which can be organized in the following main fields of action:
- The acquisition of language . Study how individuals acquire their mother tongue and how much of it is natural to our species and how much influence of culture .
- The teaching of languages . Study the processes of understanding and adoption of new languages by individuals already endowed with a linguistic identity.
- The problems of communication . Study the way in which language operates within a given social field: economic, legal, political, etc.
Historical or diachronic linguistics is one that understands language as the fruit of a historical process of change, incessant, still underway .
It requires an understanding of the past of the language in order to shed light on the present and the future. Its main thematic axis is the linguistic change and for this it is common to also go to other areas of knowledge, such as history, archeology or genetics.