Language use is an essential human ability: Whether it's telling a joke, naming a baby, using voice recognition software, or helping a relative who's had a stroke, you'll find the study of language reflected in almost everything you do. Linguists spend their days seeking answers to questions like the following and so many more, because language and linguistics play such a fundamental role in every human's life.


Commonly Asked Questions

  • How do you speak differently when you're talking to your friends, your parents, or your boss? (LSA article: Discourse analysis)
  • Would you write an essay and a text message the same way? (LSA article: Linguistics and literature)
  • Why do people who speak the same language as you still sound different from you? (LSA pamphlet: Accents)
  • Where do words come from? (LSA pamphlet: Origins of language)
  • How do words change over time? (LSA YouTube: Language change)
  • Does our knowledge of language differ from how we produce it? (LSA article: Language and thought)
  • What about when we know more than one language? (LSA pamphlet: Bilingual children)
  • How do services like Google Translate work? (Blog post: Machine translation)
  • How can someone's language abilities change when they suffer a stroke? (LSA pamphlet: Strokes and aphasia)
  • What are sign languages, and how do they work? (LSA pamphlet: Sign languages)
  • Why do languages die, and how can one on the brink of death be preserved? (LSA article: Endangered languages)

These questions are just a taste of the diverse issues that linguists seek to answer about some of the little things we don't often notice in our everyday lives. 

The LSA offers a selection of FAQ pamphlets which provide information on the relevance and importance of linguistics in everyday life.

"The Domain of Linguistics" is a series of over 20 articles first published by the Linguistic Society of America in 1982. It was written to explain the discipline to the general public, facilitated by a Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. A selection of topics on linguistics in everyday life that may be of interest can be found here:

  • Discourse Analysis - This field examines the natural use of everyday language, including gender differences, gestures, language and politics, among many others.
  • Languages in Contact - What happens when cultures are exposed to different languages? In some cases, they may borrow words (ketchup was originally Malaysian for 'fish sauce'), and sometimes new languages emerge. 
  • Meaning - How do people understand the actual meaning behind the things you say?
  • Multilingualism - The majority of the world's population speaks more than one language, and linguists are working to define what it means to truly be multilingual.
  • Slips of the Tongue - While slips of the tongue may not provide a lot of evidence about how language changes, they do tell linguists a great deal about how speakers use language to convey what they mean, and the problems that may arise from miscommunication.  
  • Sociolinguistics - How we use language in a social context tells us a lot about who we are and what we know about a language and its importance in society.

The LSA has also prepared a list of Podcasts on Linguistics and Language by a variety of linguistics and covering different topics.


The LSA welcomes suggestions for additional resources to include on this page. Please reply using the comment feature or contact the Secretariat: [email protected]