What Are the Different Types of Linguistics Studies?

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  • Written By: Judith Smith Sullivan
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  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2019
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Linguistics studies explore how language develops and affects humans throughout the world. It can involve physiology, focusing on the mechanics of sounds, such as how the mouth and vocal chords are shaped to produced specific sounds. It also includes the study of how sounds are put together to form words and sentences. Linguistics delves into the study of how languages interact with each other, influencing and begetting new languages. Since language is constantly changing, adding new words and phrases and picking up words from other languages, the study of linguistics studies is a dynamic field.

Applied linguistics studies how humans learn and teach second languages. Students take courses in one or more foreign languages as well as pedagogy classes. Higher level students, such as masters and doctoral candidates, may also teach lower level foreign language classes. The program is designed to prepare students to become foreign language instructors.

Sociolinguistics is similar to applied linguistics but takes the study further. The culture, traditions, and history of a foreign language are studied in depth. How language effects parts of culture — a culture with an oral tradition versus one with written history, for instance — and how a culture interacts with other cultures are parts of sociolinguistics studies. Students also study endangered and dead languages as well as dialects.


Computational linguistics is the study of language and computer science. It focuses on the exploration of language as part of artificial intelligence, integrating computer programming and, to a lesser extent, philosophy. Students are required to take both linguistics and computer science classes.

Programs that involve the mechanism of sound, speech, and language are sometimes called theoretical linguistic studies. Students research how the body actually produces sound, from the vibration of the vocal chords to the location of the sound in the mouth to how the lips are shaped to form it. They also study how sounds are used to form words and how sentences are structured to create meaning.

Typically, linguistics studies are only introduced at the bachelor's degree level. A student usually gets a degree in English or a foreign language and then undertakes linguistic studies in graduate school. Students may take one or two linguistic classes at the undergraduate level, but most focused linguistic studies are offered in master's and doctorate level programs. In many cases, linguistic studies do not include obtaining fluency in multiple languages. An individual can become a linguist without knowing more than one language.


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Post 9

@amysamp - I have not tried any of the programs. But I have heard two different interesting things that are related.

The first thing I have heard, is that in school districts with a high population of children who are learning English as their second language (just meaning their family's language, which is their first language, is different from English) are using computer programs to help the students learn English faster. I do not know if it is working or not. Oh and they have the students take the computer work home with them so they can get even more practice!

The second thing I have heard is from a friend who is a high school Spanish teacher. She said the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in the language. For example, traveling to a new country, and trying to only speak their language.

Post 8

Many of the cultural aspects that you learn in a linguistics are just the reason why I think it would be difficult to learn English online or any language for that matter. How could the program teach you the cultural nuances? However, I would love to learn a new language, and the online and software that you can buy to help you learn a new language seems so promising!

Has anyone tried any of these programs?

Post 7

I took a linguistics course to apply towards my English minor, and I thought it wouldn't hurt to learn more linguistics information for my major, Communicative Disorders.

As it turns out, linguistics and its application to different cultures fascinated me. While diagramming sentences, made me want to pull my hair out!

However, I would definitely suggest taking a linguistics course if someone is studying English. It really breaks down the structure of the language for writing proper English and when you get to learn the cultural part of the English language, it makes for some interesting discussions.

Post 6

I spent four years teaching English in Asia. It wasn’t ESL per se, as it was EFL (English as a Foreign Language). The distinction is not that subtle.

At least as I understood it, EFL is for students who are somewhat fluent in English already and just need more exposure to writing and reading. We used a literature based program and the students eagerly devoured the story books.

When it came to oral instruction, however, I noticed that the kids had problems with certain English pronunciations. They had trouble pronouncing “th,” choosing instead to pronounce it as “t.”

I think the difficulty stems from the fact that the sound doesn’t exist in their language, much as Americans find it difficult to pronounce the rolling “rr” sounds that are common in Arabic language. Anyway, this is really part of what linguistics is about, in my opinion.

Post 5

@starrynight - That sounds like fun! I think learning about the culture too is probably a more effective way of learning language.

I think it's interesting how the study of linguistics in general affects how language is taught. For example, I think Rosetta Stone is very effective language learning software. Instead of having the student memorize long lists of words, they show a picture and you learn the word in the other language. I'm sure people the people who designed this probably had a background in applied linguistics.

Post 4

@simrin - When I was in high school my Spanish class was taught with a sociolinguistic focus. In addition to actually learning the language we learned about Spanish and South/Central American history. We also got a chance to learn about the culture which was very enjoyable. We were able to sample traditional dishes and watch Spanish language TV shows too.

I've always been grateful that I had the opportunity to learn about the culture as well as the language. I agree with you simrin: I think language and culture are very closely related.

Post 3

I don't really want to concentrate on the history of a language. I want to learn a second language in the form that it is used today. I want to be able to travel to that country and understand everything that someone in the street says to me and to be able to respond in the same way.

I don't like how some language programs teach "classical" or formal forms of language rather than "colloquial" or what everyday speakers would speak. I feel like I can't really use that in real life or would sound really awkward if I did.

Which linguistic study would be the best for me?

And can you recommend any good linguistics schools in the Midwest?

Post 2

At my university, there are different language departments like the Chinese Department and French Department. Each of these departments also have a center for Linguistic Studies.

The Chinese Linguistic Studies, for example, doesn't teach how to speak Chinese, there are Chinese language courses for that in the Department. Linguistic Studies looks more at the culture of the language, use of Chinese terms, its applications and knowledge about the alphabet and grammar. So it's different than language courses. It tries to teach the context behind the language, where it came from and why it developed the way it did.

I think linguistic studies is as important as language courses but it helps me attach more meaning to the language I'm learning and that makes it more interesting for me.

Post 1

If I were to take up linguistics studies, I would definitely choose sociolinguistics because I cannot see language and culture as two different things. For me, they are deeply imbedded together and impact each other.

I have witnessed this personally through my friends from different countries and who speak different languages. Some languages are very similar to one another and share many similar words even if they are not immediately located next to each other geographically. But when I look at their history, their culture and religion, I can find connections that explain these similarities.

This is so fascinating to me. It gives me great satisfaction to discover how people, their culture and languages are related to one another. Sociolinguistics would definitely be a very exciting and fun area to study.

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