Given these dichotomies, scholars who call themselves simply linguists or theoretical linguists, with nofurther qualification, tend to be concerned with independent, theoretical synchronic linguistics, which is acknowledged as thecore of the discipline.
Linguistic inquiry is pursued by a wide variety of specialists, who may not allbe in harmonious agreement; as RussRymer flamboyantly puts it:
Areas of theoretical linguistics
Theoretical linguistics is often divided into a number of separate areas, to be studied more or less independently. Thefollowing divisions are currently widely acknowledged:
The independent significance of each of these areas is not universally acknowledged, however, and nearly all linguists wouldagree that the divisions overlap considerably. Nevertheless, each subarea has core concepts that foster significant scholarlyinquiry and research.
Whereas the core of theoretical linguistics is concerned with studying languages at a particular point in time (usually thepresent), diachronic linguistics examines how language changes through time, sometimes over centuries. Historical linguisticsenjoys both a rich history (the study of linguistics grew out of historical linguistics) and a strong theoretical foundation forthe study of language change.
In American universities, the non-historic perspective seems to have the upper hand. Many introductory linguistics classes,for example, cover historical linguistics only cursorily. The shift in focus to a non-historic perspective started with Saussure and became predominant with Noam Chomsky .
Whereas theoretical linguistics is concerned with finding and describing generalities both within languages and among alllanguages, as a group, applied linguistics takes the resultsof those findings and applies them to other areas. Usually applied linguistics refers to the use of linguisticresearch in language teaching, but linguistics is used in other areas, as well. Speech synthesis and Speech recognition ,for example, use linguistic knowledge to provide voice interfaces to computers.
Contextual linguistics is that realm where linguistics interacts with other academic disciplines. Whereas core theoreticallinguistics studies languages for their own sake, the interdisciplinary areas of linguistic consider how language interacts withthe rest of the world. But that rather depends upon their world-view.
Individual speakers, language communities, and linguistic universals
Linguists also differ in how broad a group of language users they study. Some analyze a given speaker's language or language development ingreat detail. Some study language pertaining to a whole speech community , such as the language of all those who speak Black English Vernacular . Others try to find linguistic universals that apply, at some abstract level, to allusers of human language everywhere. This latter project has been mostfamously advocated by Noam Chomsky , and it interests many people in psycholinguistics and cognitive science . It is thought that universals in human language may reveal important insight intouniversals about the human mind .
Description and prescription
Most work currently done under the name "linguistics" is purely descriptive; the linguists seek to clarify the nature oflanguage without passing value judgments or trying to chart future language directions. Nonetheless, there are many professionalsand amateurs who also prescribe rules of language, holding a particularstandard out for all to follow.
Whereas prescriptivists might want to stamp out what they perceive as "incorrect usage", descriptivists seek to find the rootof such usage; they might describe it simply as " idiosyncratic ", or they may discover a regularity that the prescriptivists don't like because it isperhaps too new or from a dialect they don't approve of.
Speech versus writing
Of course, linguists agree that that the study of written language can be worthwhile and valuable. For linguistic researchthat uses the methods of corpus linguistics and computational linguistics , written language is often muchmore convenient for processing large amounts of linguistic data. Large corpuses of spoken language are difficult to create andhard to find.
Furthermore, the study of writing systems themselves falls underthe aegis of linguistics.
Research areas of linguistics
phonetics , phonology , syntax , semantics , pragmatics , etymology , lexicology , lexicography , theoretical linguistics , historical-comparative linguistics and descriptive linguistics , linguistic typology , computational linguistics , corpuslinguistics , semiotics .
Interdisciplinary linguistic research
applied linguistics , historical linguistics , orthography , writing systems , comparative linguistics , cryptanalysis , decipherment , sociolinguistics , critical discourse analysis , psycholinguistics , languageacquisition , evolutionary linguistics , anthropological linguistics , stratificational linguistics , text linguistics , cognitive science , neurolinguistics , and in computational linguistics there is natural language understanding , speech recognition , speaker recognition (authentication), speechsynthesis , and more generally, speech processing
Important linguists and schools of thought
Early scholars of linguistics include Jakob Grimm , who devised the principle of consonantal shifts in pronunciation known as Grimm's Law in 1822, KarlVerner , who discovered Verner's Law , August Schleicher who created the "Stammbaumtheorie" and Johannes Schmidt who developed the"Wellentheorie" ("wave model") in 1872. Ferdinand deSaussure was the founder of modern structural linguistics. NoamChomsky's formal model of language, transformational-generative grammar , developed under the influence of his teacher Zellig Harris , who was in turn strongly influenced by Leonard Bloomfield , has been the dominant one from the 1960s .
Other important linguists and schools include Michael Halliday , whose systemic functional grammar is pursued widely in the U.K. , Canada , Australia , China , and Japan ; Dell Hymes , who developed a pragmatic approach called The Ethnography ofSpeaking; George Lakoff , Len Talmy , and Ronald Langacker , who werepioneers in cognitive linguistics ; Charles Fillmore and Adele Goldberg , who are associated with construction grammar ; andlinguists developing several varieties of what they call functionalgrammar , including Talmy Givon and Robert Van Valin, Jr. .
Representation of speech
Narrower conceptions of "linguistics"
"Linguistics" and " linguist " may not always be meant to apply as broadly asabove. In some contexts, the best definitions may be "what is studied in atypical university's department of linguistics", and "one who is a professor insuch a department." Linguistics in this narrow sense usually does not refer to learning to speak foreign languages (exceptinsofar as this helps to craft formal models of language.) It does not include literary analysis . Onlysometimes does it include study of things such as metaphor . It probably does notapply to those engaged in such prescriptive efforts as found in Strunk and White 's The Elements of Style ; "linguists" usually seek to studywhat people do, not what they should do. One could probably argue for a long while about who is and who is not a"linguist".
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