Great Article About The Difference Between Language And Linguistics

Many students are asking question about the Difference Between Language And Linguistics.In This article we will highlight the major relationship and difference between linguistics and language.

Linguistics, or the science of language, deals with the history and scientific investigation of language whether one studies a phenomenon common to all mankind, or examines the resemblances and differences between languages belonging to a given linguistic family or to sub-groups of such a family, nr investigates an individual language or one or more of its dialects.We may, for example, seek to know how language has affected man’s mentality, and how his mentality has affected his language; or how the meaning of words has changed as his civilisation has changed; or how language has influenced his consciousness of belonging to a given social group; or wherein the Indo-European and Semitic languages resemble or differ from each other ; or what are the relations of the Indo-European or of the Semitic languages among themselves; or what are the history and characteristics of English, or of any of its dialects (e.g., Kentish, whether in itself or in comparison with Suffolk or some other English dialect).

So far as the data accessible permit, linguistic method must be essentially historical in its assemblage of material, which it must gather with the utmost fullness possible, and without preconceived theories. Only after such unprejudiced collection of data may it safely seek to compare and to contrast the phenomena which have been found; and only then may it endeavour to draw deductions or to make generalisations.

Each resemblance and each contrast must carefully be considered from at least two points of view: (1) as an individual phenomenon; and (2) as a part of a complex whether of the language immediately concerned, or of a group of kindred languages, or of language as a whole. In very many instances, particularly in case of languages whose history is known only in scanty measure (e.g., the great majority of the American Indian languages), this can be only a counsel of perfection, since the data arc too meagre to afford a basis for more than the most tentative of interpretations; but it should invariably be followed so far as circumstances permit.

The science thus outlined is conventionally termed, for the most part, ‘ comparative philology ’ in English-speaking countries, but this designation is open to grave objections. In the first place, it lays undue emphasis on comparison of linguistic phenomena, whereas differentiation is equally important. By comparison, the zoologist determines that the lion and the tiger belong to the cat-family; by differentiation, through knowledge of the historical processes of evolution and through actual observation, he determines what peculiar characteristics demarcate the one species from the other. A more serious objection to the term lies in the fact that ‘ philology strictly speaking, denotes not only the study of language, but also of literature and of all the civilisational phenomena of a people or of a group of peoples as given in written records.

What Does Linguistics Do

The precise position of linguistics among the sciences is a matter of dispute, due. in great part, to its somewhat composite nature. It must be said at once that it is not an exact science in the sense that mathematics and chemistry are exact; the human factor in it is too strong to permit it to be merely mechanical in operation. Neither is it a purely empirical science, like modem psychology or philosophy, or like anthropology or the social sciences, since strict laws may be deduced for all the more important phenomena which language presents, so that it is possible to predict in great measure what will be the given form of a given word in a given language. It is. in fact, a combination of two main factors hard to reconcile and often in conflict: physical, or mechanical; and mental, or psychological. It seems, on the whole, to take a place among the historical sciences, especially as its method of procedure is essentially the same as in investigation of any problem of history, both in its collection and comparison of material, and in its prognostication of the future, so far as one may legitimately forecast the probable future from the known facts of the past.

Linguistics does not, however, stand in isolation from other sciences, but, as one of the most important developments of the human race, it is intimately connected with many of them, casting new light upon them, and receiving indispensable illumination from them. language is much more than a mere vehicle for communication of thought. Before » single sound can be uttered or heard, both physiology and physics are involved. The interaction of the highly complicated mechanism of the organs of speech (from the glottis to the oral and nasal cavities) and of hearing (the ear) demand a general acquaintance with the anatomy of these areas, although the linguist is not obliged to possess the exact knowledge of these areas which the surgical specialist in the throat, mouth, and ear must have; and physiological processes which, because of their constant use and repetition, become so familiar as to pass unnoticed are found to be almost incredibly complex when studied by the X-ray or the laryngo-periscopic. Physics is involved by the fact that the sounds of a living being’s voice, like all other sounds, produce vibrations which impinge on the ears of the auditor.

From the physical point of view, communication of thought by means of speech consists of phonation (the utterance of sounds by the speaker) and audition (the hearing of sounds by the listener). The part played by phonation is too obvious to need discussion; the role of audition is sometimes overlooked. Yet so important is audition that one will scarcely be far wrong in maintaining that, in the great majority of cases, slowness or rapidity of linguistic change throughout the history of language, both as a whole and in the various specific forms of speech, has been largely conditioned by accuracy or inaccuracy of audition.

It is a linguistic commonplace that any sound whatever which any normal human being is able to hear or to utter can, so far as the vocal apparatus is concerned, be reproduced with mechanical exactness by any other normal human being whomsoever; it is simply a matter of correct adjustment of the vocal apparatus. If one who says he cannot pronounce a given sound is intelligently taught by one who knows the correct position of the phonational organs for the utterance of that sound, and if he has the requisite patience and ability to adjust the organs concerned, he will be perfectly able to reproduce the sound in question On the other hand, it very frequently happens that a sound accurately heard and accurately reproduced in childhood or during a sufficiently long sojourn in the area of its vernacular utterance is so utterly forgotten when the speaker changes his residence to a region where the sound in question is never, or at best very seldom, heard that he honestly believes that he cannot reproduce it. As a matter of fact, physically he can do so, and return to the old area will very probably restore the supposedly lost ability, perhaps without his even noticing it.

The real cause of his fancied incapability is merely that he has forgotten, through long disuse, how to adjust his vocal apparatus to reproduce the sound; and, probably, the situation is complicated, through the same desuetude, by the fact that his audition no longer catches the sound exactly.


Just as certain principles are common to language as a whole, while individual language-groups and individual languages have their own linguistic characteristics, so the human race as a whole seems to possess certain psychological principles in common, even though each race (using this term in its common, non-scientific sense) apparently has certain individual psychological characteristics. If this be true, to know a language intimately is to know at least something of the mentality of those who speak it, always remembering that thought and word constantly affect each other, whether by broadening and extending or by narrowing and constricting. Language and psychology are inherently connected, and some knowledge of psychology must be presupposed in any real study of the principles of language.

The psychology of language presents two aspects: that of the speaker and that of his audience; and these psychologies must be so nearly alike that the speaker’s thought, when expressed in words, shall be intelligible to his hearer or hearers in the sense which he seeks to convey, or misunderstanding and confusion will result. If, from the psychological side, the speaker is presenting ideas of which the hearer has insufficient elementary knowledge, or if these ideas arc such that his hearer’s mentality is so repelled by them that he refuses even to discuss them or to consider them, there is no real understanding between speaker and hearer, even though the former may utter his words perfectly, and the latter may hear them perfectly. Turning to the physiological side, we’find an analogous situation. If the hearer’s audition fails to convey to his brain the meaning intended by the speaker’s words, or if the speaker’s vocal organs fail to produce sounds intelligible to the auditor, communication of thought is impaired or even rendered impossible.

Again, the speaker may enunciate perfectly, the auditor may earnestly desire to comprehend, and the vocal apparatus of the one, like the auditory apparatus of the other, may be physiologically flawless; but if the part of the hearer’s brain concerned with audition is impaired, his understanding of the words spoken will be imperfect in proportion to his mental defect. In the speaker, lack of co-ordination between his brain and his vocal apparatus may make his words meaningless, or even contrary to what he intends and endeavours to say. Severe cases of mental disturbance in the functions of speech and hearing call for the attention of the alienist, whether in themselves or as symptoms and concomitants of other forms of mental disease.

Language is much more than merely physical, physiological, mental, and psychological. It is, for example, a vchicic of literature; and in this aspect of it, it would appear that one can neither have a truly profound appreciation of literature without deep knowledge of the possibilities, nicetics, and inherent qualities of the language in which the literature in question may be written, nor can one create literature of the highest type without such knowledge. It is equally impossible truly to translate from any one language into any other lungunge without such knowledge of both the languages concerncd; otherwise, either the content or the style of the original will not be faithfully represented in the translation; and in the majority of such renderings, both content and style suffer alike.

It is impossible, furthermore, to have a complete understanding of any individual language without knowledge of its history. Only in this way can one perceive the reasons for its grammatical structure, for the shadings of meanings of its words, for its modes of expression (and particularly its idioms), for its possession of certain elements and its lack of others, or for its virtues and its faults as compared with other languages. Such knowledge, to be at all adequate, involves scientific acquaintance (and, if possible, practical acquaintance) with other modes of speech. The wider such knowledge, the better, since not merely languages immediately cognate, but even those totally unrelated, help in the understanding of any individual language through their similarities and (very often even more) through their dissimilarities.

What Does Language Do

Language may also be an important political factor, particularly in the creation and maintenance of national consciousness;and while it has no inherent connexion with racc (even using this term in its general and quite non-scientific sense;

Perhaps the most valuable service rendered by the study of language, at least from the point of view of general culture, is the light which such study casts on the history of a people and on their spiritual, mental, and material civilisation. Through scientific investigation of the etymology of terms for various religious, ethical, and intellectual ideas, or for many words denoting concrete objects or the non-human beings which surround man, it is very frequently possible to determine the views associated with ideas, objects, and beings in the times before history began to be recorded. Study of the change* of meaning found in many such terms, whether by generalisation or by restriction, and sometimes by radical change of content, is an indispensable tool in tracing the evolution of human thought and of human civilisation. Not infrequently, linguistic investigation is the sole means of determining the earlier history of a people, who, otherwise vanished from an area, arc known once to have inhabited it, or at least to have impressed themselves upon it, because of words in their language which still survive there, even if only in place-names.

We must, wherever possible, examine the entire vocabulary of a language from this same point of view. What of its words arc an inheritance from the forefathers? What words has it borrowed? From whom did it borrow them? Why did it borrow them, and into what categories do such borrowings fall? The answers to such questions often enable us to reconstruct history when all other sources are lacking. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the study of language, from this point of view, is to a knowledge of the spiritual and mental development of man what archaeology is to that of his material evolution or embryology to that of his physical evolution.

by Abdullah Sam
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