Linguistics: branches, professional programs, career opportunities

What is linguistics?

Linguistics is the systematic study of language. It is concerned with communication and nature of language. It deals with three aspects: language form, language in context and meaning. Linguistics can be study of a particular language or common properties of various languages.

Levels of study

Linguistics is basically concerned with nature of language. That is, sounds combine in a sequence in form a word, words combine in a fixed pattern to form a sentence and sentences are organized to create a text. Each of these is studied independently by linguists. Based on this, there are different levels of analysis:

  • Phonetics – it is the study of speech sound. It deals with understanding how sounds are produced. It also involved figuring out which sound you have heard.
  • Phonology – it is the study of organization of speech sounds in a language. It also deals with syllables, tones, phrases and rhythm.
  • Morphology – it is concerned with structure of words. It looks at how words are formed using smaller identifiable grammatical units called morphemes. It is an interaction between phonology and syntax.
  • Syntax – it deals with the way words are organized into higher units like phrases, clauses and sentences. It is also a set of rules and principles that govern the structure of sentences.
  • Discourse – discourse is any connected piece of speech or writing. It is any stretch of language that is unified and meaningful to its users such as text, conversation, stories, speeches etc.
  • Semantics – it is the study of meaning. It focuses on relationship between words, phrases, symbols and other bits of languages. It is also interested in how words are put together to create meaning.
  • Pragmatics – it deals with use of language in a context and how language is used to communicate. It also studies how people comprehend and produce a communicative act in a conversation.
  • Stylistics – it is the study of linguistic factors and interpretation of texts. It links literary criticism to linguistics. It studies linguistic devices such as rhetorical figures and syntactical patterns.
  • Semiotics – it deals with study of signs and sign processes like metaphor, signification, analogy, designation, symbolism, indication etc.

Specialized branches of linguistics:

  • Historical linguistics – it studies how language has changed over the time
  • Sociolinguistics – it studies how language varies in the society
  • Psycholinguistics – it studies the psychological factors that enable people to acquire, use, comprehend and produce language.
  • Ethno linguistics – it studies the relationship between language and culture.
  • Dialectology – it is the study of linguistic dialect and language variation based on geographical distribution
  • Computational linguistics – it is a statistical study of rule based modeling of language from a computational perspective
  • Neurolinguistics – it is the study of neural mechanisms in the brain that control the production, acquisition and comprehension of language.
  • Applied linguistics – Applied linguistics is concerned with acquisitions of language, role in communication, Study of structure, Language development, Interaction of social and cultural environment with language etc.

Who is a linguist?

Linguist is a specialist is linguistics. Linguist is a person who studies languages, speaks multiple languages, is skilled in translation and has an interest in understanding how a language works.

Reasons to master in linguistics:

To be Used in everyday life
Language is reflected in almost everything that we do be it about understanding something that is written or spoken or communicating with our family at home or colleagues at office front.

To know more about the language
Linguistics helps us to know more about the structure and functions of a language and this can be very fascinating.

To have an inclination towards language
Linguistics is basically for people who are passionate about languages and who love languages. This passion towards languages will also help you to impart the language.

To acquire skills
People who major in linguistics acquire skills such as critical thinking, analytical reasoning, clarity over expression, argumentation etc.

To make observations
People who major in linguistics can make insightful observations, generate predictions, draw conclusions, make arguments, hypothesize etc.

Professional programs:

  • MA in fields such as anthropology, philosophy, communication sciences, English education and study of a particular language.
  • PhD programs in the above subjects.
  • Applied linguistic programs on teaching English to non native speakers.
  • Professional programs in communication sciences, information sciences and speech pathology.

Job requirements to become a linguist:

  • Degree level – bachelor’s degree is a standard qualification. A master’s degree and PhD is a must for advanced research career.
  • Degree fields – linguistics is closely related to fields such as computer science, anthropology and cognitive neuroscience. For interpreters and translators working in technical fields, law and health may be valuable.
  • Experience – work experience Is important for some roles in computational linguistics

Skills required to be a linguist:

  • Excellent English language skills
  • Fluency in native language
  • Sharp listening skills
  • Speaking skills
  • Computer skills such as data mining, machine leaning, programming language etc

Career opportunities:

  • In computer industry – you can work on computer mediated language learning, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, text to speech intelligence, speech recognition etc
  • In education – you can train teachers, develop materials, design assessments, teach language related topics etc
  • Teach at university level – you can teach in departments such as anthropology, communication sciences, psychology, philosophy, departments focused on foreign languages, English etc
  • Work as interpreter or translator – interpreters or translators are required everywhere from hospitals to courts to government offices.
  • Work on documentation – you can work as language consultant in order to preserve, document or analyze languages.
  • Conduct fieldwork – you can engage in language related fieldwork like establishing literacy program, conducting language surveys, translating documents etc.
  • In publishing industry – you can work as technical writer, journalist, editor, publisher etc.
    You can also work with dictionaries, advertising company, work for government, work as language consultant etc.

Success tips to become a linguist:

  • Take English and foreign language classes in high school
  • Specialize in computational linguistics
  • Combine linguistics with a related field in a double major
  • Volunteer, work or teach abroad
  • Read widely
  • Know about current events to have a career as translator or interpreter
  • Complete a professionals master’s program

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