Structure of linguisitcs

Branches_indo-européen-IImage credit: Aucasin, “Branches indo-européen” September 13, 2015, via Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Dear All:
This post continues exploring what linguistics (L.) is. This post is going to focus on the branches of of L. which do study language, but are not directly focused on a particular structural level of language.

Depending on what in particular we are interested in, L. can be divided into different areas or branches. Two points are worth mentioning prior to any further discussion: 1) the branches of L. are conditional – a lot of studies cross the boundaries (again boundaries are conditional) to penetrate into the subject matter deeper and therefore to study it better and 2) the branches of L. are not a finite list of sciences, but rather a constantly growing body of research which grows as the application of language and our knowledge about it also grow. Therefore, the objective of this and the following posts is not to provide the most complete list of linguistic branches, but rather to show the diversity of L.

To begin with, L. can study some general features that are characteristic of all language systems (general L.) or it can focus on a particular language/s (descriptive L.). The former aims at finding generalities which can help us to study languages better or to understand better the very nature of language and communication. The latter (descriptive L.) aims at studying particular features of a language and possibly to apply this knowledge in order to make generalizations about languages or communication. Thus, general L. can be said to rely more on the deductive (from general to particular) method, whereas descriptive L. can be said to rely more on the inductive (from particular to general) method.

Depending on whether L. looks at language at a given moment or at its development over a certain period of time, L. can be synchronic or diachronic [=historical]. Synchronic L. studies language at a particular point of time (horizontal perspective) – either right now or at a certain moment in the past. Historical L., in turn, focuses on the development of language over a certain period – either in the past or from the past to present. The chart above, for instance, is the work of historical linguists. It shows that all the Indo-European languages are derived from one language – Indo-Europeen (Proto-language). This conclusion is based on a large body of research comparing words from multiple languages over a large geographical area extending from territory of modern India to western Europe*. It may be interesting to compare these findings with Genesis 11:9.

Depending on the general scope of L., it can be either micro L. or macro L. Micro L. is interested in the structure of language and includes phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics (see post “What is linguistics?” for more detail on these). Macro L. includes such branches as applied L., psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, neurolinguistics, and computational L.

Depending on use of the statistical methods L. can be either quantitative (uses statistical methods) or qualitative (does not use statistical methods).

Depending on the orientation of L. to either (1) find solutions to certain linguistic or everyday questions related to language or (2) to expand linguistic knowledge, L. can be applied (the former) or theoretical (the latter).

The following post is going to discuss applied L. in more detail.

* Did you know that brothers Grimm, the people who popularized such fairy tales as “Cinderella”, “The Frog Prince, “The Goose-Girl”, “Hansel and Gretel”, “Rapunzel”, “Rumpelstiltskin”, and “Sleeping Beauty” are famous historical linguists?

See similar posts:
What is language
What is linguistics?
Theoretical linguistics
Descriptive linguistics
Comparative linguistics




    1. What is linguistics? | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    2. Applied linguistics | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    3. Why linguistics matters | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    4. What is language | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    5. Comparative linguistics | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    6. Descriptive linguistics | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
    7. Theoretical linguistics | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS

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