Linguistics

                Linguistics is the study of the nature of something essential to all
humans and to human culture – language. Linguists examine and model
not only the various layers of structure in language, but also linguistic
history, the acquisition of language by children and adults, the use of
language in discourse, situational, and social contexts, the role of
language in human cognition, and the way language works in the
human brain.  Linguists search for universals of human languages,
as well as for characteristics of particular languages families and
language types. They carefully analyze as well the rich details of
individual languages, including individual languages’ core rules and
structures, their words, their constructions and other, bigger patterns,
their metaphors and idioms, and much more.  Linguists also study
sources and types of variation in dialects and in individual “idiolects.”
They reconstruct how languages have changed over time and historical
connections between languages.  They consider too the implications of
new knowledge and theories about language for, among other things,
literary analysis, social policies, language education, human interactions
with computers, and the study and treatment of language disorders. 
Linguistics is, relatively speaking, not an old discipline, but it has developed
many subfields, and it has deep roots in and connections to other disciplines
such as philology, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and literary criticism. 
Linguistic research is also a central component of contemporary studies in cognitive
science.

          Linguists often specialize in the study of particular languages and/or language families, and there is a particularly rich body of linguistic research on the English language.  In fact, English is one of the most studied languages, not only with respect to its structure (its grammar), but also with respect to its variations (regional and social dialects, registers, etc.), its history, and so on.  Nonetheless, as with all languages, much remains to be explained. There is no final answer to all the questions about English, and because all living languages are moving targets, constantly evolving and changing, there is always something brand new in English to research.           

          As areas of study, linguistics and English language courses can be intriguing for English majors and for other students interested in understanding the rich medium in which literature has been created historically and is created today, in consciously recognizing the linguistic tools available to all users of language, and in recognizing how great authors not only use those tools but fashion new ones. These studies also provide valuable foundational knowledge for students hoping to one day educate a new generation of young students about their own native
language or about a second language.  Of course, for anyone who just loves English and/or language in general, these are the courses that focus on what you love!       


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