The study of Linguistics and English Language
The study of Linguistics and English Language covers everything from the ways in which dialects differ, how Old English developed into Modern English, the ways in which children acquire their first language, differences between the speech of men and women, and how the sound systems and grammars of different types of language are organised, to what happens when speakers of different languages come into contact, plus much else besides. Different aspects of these subjects border on fields such as computer science, psychology, sociology, anthropology, education, literary studies and many more.
When we study English Language we are looking at arguably the world's most important language. More than 500 million people around the world speak English as a first or second language, and it is the world's leading language in domains such as business and science. English is also the world s most studied language, and there is an enormous wealth of information to be explored when you study it at university. As well as the history of the language (where the availability on-line of enormous databases (or 'corpora') of English texts has had an enormous impact) and its different varieties (not just British versus American English, but also the varieties spoken in Australia, South Africa, Singapore, etc.), we can study the grammatical structure of English and the many ways in which the language reflects the social structure of the societies and cultures in which it is spoken.
Linguistics has the vitality and excitement of a young science; new discoveries are continually being made, frontiers are constantly being moved. In the course of an undergraduate or a postgraduate degree, you could reach those frontiers and be involved in original research: investigating something about the human language faculty or about one of the world's languages that has not previously been described. Linguistics provides models of rigorous investigation of a particular aspect of human behaviour, namely language; this means that the field encompasses formal description of language structure, sociological and psychological studies of language behaviour and many things in between.
If you want to find out more, there are many web sites to visit - for instance, ilovelanguages which can take you to a great many other sites dealing with language and languages, or the website of the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies.
There are also many books which can tell you more about linguistics:
- R.A. Hudson's Invitation to Linguistics, published by Blackwell, gives a good picture of the kinds of issues that linguistics can deal with.
- R.L Trask's Language: the Basics, published by Routledge, is another good place to start.
It is also well worth dipping into the Encyclopedia of Language by David Crystal, published by Cambridge University Press.