Linguistics Definition,10 True Facts You Must Know

Linguistics Definition which is most common nowadays  Is, “The Scientific Study Of Human Language“.Most linguists, when asked to define their field, say that linguistics is “the science of language”. This is not an adequate definition for a number of reasons. First of all, it is not clear what linguists mean when they use the term “science”. Secondly, the term “language” can be used in a number of different ways and again it is not clear in what way linguists are using the term. Finally, it is quite evident that linguistics is in fact not the only science of language, since fields such as sociology, psychology, or anthropology, not to mention speech communication, as well as other disciplines, also deal with language.

It is thus necessary to define the term “science of language” a little more precisely in order to show in what way it relates to the field of linguistics. First, then, the term “science”. Linguists have given a great deal of attention, both in the published literature and more informally, to the question of what a science should be like, and more specifically, to the question of how linguistics can become a science.

This is a question raised in all the social sciences, and as in the other social sciences, there is a good deal of difference of opinion among linguists as to what the answer should be. Two major conceptions of the nature of science and of linguistics as a science can be singled out; these correspond to two major trends in American linguistic thinking.

The first of these trends dominated the American linguistic scene until the late fifties. Most linguists refer to it under the label of American structuralism.  Its conception of science is largely based upon that of behaviorist psychology. Its originator and most important representative is the late Leonard Bloomfield; a number of his followers, sometimes called the neo-Bloomfieldians, have elaborated his thinking.

The following points characterize the American structuralism conception of linguistics as a science.

  • Science is based on the scientific method

The scientific method consists in the manipulation of the observable data pertinent to the particular field of science, by experiment or otherwise, with the purpose of deriving valid generalizations from the application of method.

  • For linguistics, the science of language, the observable data are instances of speech behavior, often referred to as speech events
  • The major purpose of linguistics is therefore the development of a precise methodology for the collection and manipulation of speech data and for deriving meaningful generalizations from them. This application of the scientific method to language data is called linguistic analysis; the major aim of American structuralism can thus be summed up as the development of methods of linguistic analysis.

Being A Language Student, You Must Know what is Actual Linguistics Definition

The second major trend has dominated the American linguistic scene since the late fifties. Unlike the first mentioned trend, its popularity has not been limited to American linguistics but has been world-wide. Most American linguists refer to it under the label of generative grammar; its followers are often called generativists. The originator and most important representative of the generativist approach is Noam Chomsky; at present, his is not the only approach to generative grammar, but his name is still the best known among those who are interested in this view of linguistics. The generativist conception of linguistics as a science is characterized by the following points.

  • Science is based on theory construction.

(2) A theory is a deductive system, that is, a system in which all conceivable consequences are deduced logically from a set of primitive notions.

(3) In the case of linguistics, the primitive notions of the theory are a set of rules of grammar, and its consequences are the infinite set of the sentences of a language that can be accounted for by means of these rules. In the terminology of generative grammar, it is said that the sentences of a language are generated by the rules.

Both the American structuralism and the generativist conceptions of linguistics as a science are one-sided: the former overemphasizes the role of method in science, the latter the role of theory. The one constant running through these two conceptions of linguistics, as well as through other conceptions that have been proposed in the field, is that the linguistic study of language is an organized scholarly activity in which insights and results are obtained by means of logical reasoning based on a previously agreed upon conceptual scheme.

Ideally, this conceptual scheme should provide a balance of method and theory, but as was stated earlier, this has not been the case with the major trends in American linguistics. The purpose of the material presented here is not to provide a critique of other approaches to linguistics, but rather to set forth what is considered to be a balanced view of the linguistic study of language. At the same time, let it be stressed again that this is not the only possible view of linguistics, nor is it the one most widely held among American linguists.

General linguistics is concerned with the study of the attributes of language in general. It is based on a number of generally accepted observations about language. The most important of these are the following: (1) Language is patterned. This means that it exhibits regularities which transcend the idiosyncratic aspects of particular speech events. (2) Language has functions. This means that it is used as a tool bra group- – a speech community. The primary functions of language are those of communication and expression. Note that, while the study of functions cannot ignore psychological, sociological and related considerations, language remains the primary object of study. Hence the consideration of functions remains within the scope of linguistics.

3 Language changes through time.

(4) Language is diversified.

There are many languages in the world with many different patterns. Within a particular language, there may also be diversification. Most conspicuous is that due to regional and social factors, namely, regional and social dialect differences.

These four attributes of language–patterning, function, change, and diversification–are of basic significance for linguistic study. Any one of them may be chosen for special consideration, giving rise to different approaches to linguistics. The decision not to give equal weight to all the attributes of language does not imply that any of them can be ignored completely. It does mean, however, that one of these attributes is chosen as the object of detailed study. The remaining attributes are considered to the extent to which they have bearing on the object of study.

The branch of linguistics in which the major emphasis is on change, namely historical linguistics, will thus not fall within the scope of these materials. The discussion will be limited to synchronic linguistics, that is, the study of language at a given point in time, without specific concern with its development. The branches of linguistics dealing with diversification will likewise not be of primary concern. Linguistic typology, the classificatory study of the diversity of linguistic structures, will be considered only as part of a general discussion of structure.

The major emphasis will be on the relation of structure to function, that is, to the way in which language is used as a means of human communication and expression. The Czech linguist Methodius has proposed the term “functional linguistics” for this dynamic conception of linguistic structure

by Abdullah Sam
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