Studying linguisticsTo study linguistics is to gain a greater understanding of a fundamental part of what it means to be human. Linguistics is a scientific field and an academic discipline that has both theoretical and practical applications. Linguists study language structure at several theoretical levels that range in size from tiny units of speech sounds to the context of an entire conversation. Students of linguistics often begin with a basic understanding of each level of language, then specialize in one or more levels or in a practical application of linguistics.

The smallest units of language are studied in the field of phonetics, which concerns itself with the individual sounds produced while speaking. Phonology takes a look at those small units of sound together in the context of whole utterances, and searches for patterns in sound across a language or a whole group of languages.

Morphology is the study of the internal structure of words, how stems come together with prefixes and suffixes to make whole words. Syntax explores the structure of complete sentences exactly as people really produce them, not how your seventh grade English teacher told you to produce them. Linguists also seek to understand the meaning behind words and combinations of words in the field of semantics. The meanings of these combinations when they interact with contextual information, and how they are produced and perceived, are the focus of a subfield known as pragmatics

These fields seek to advance a complete picture of how language works and how its many levels work together. In doing so, linguists work to help us understand an indispensable part of human life. If you are interested in more information about studying linguistics, please explore the links below:

"Why Major in Linguistics?" (PDF) - a pamphlet outlining the field, expected coursework, and potential professional opportunities with a degree in linguistics.

Directory of Linguistics Departments and Programs - a collection of universities, colleges and other institutions with notable linguistics programs, including those granting graduate degrees in linguistics. 

"The Domain of Linguistics"  - a series first published by the Linguistic Society of America in 1982. It was written to explain the discipline to the general public, and was facilitated by a Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.