What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It can be useful for many things, such as - understanding how people learn language, developing a spelling system for an oral language, working out the sounds of a language that is not currently spoken, and understanding how languages change. It also has links with other areas of study. For example, it contributes to archaeology and history in piecing together the life of an ancient culture, to psychology in understanding how the brain works, sociology and anthropology in understanding the diversity of human cultures, and information technology in developing computer software for people with disabilities.

Because language is such a large subject, there are many small areas within linguistics that focus on one particular aspect of language.

The first section of the Explanations on this webpage explains briefly what some of these areas cover.

The most basic areas are phonetics and phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. Then there are broader areas such as sociolinguistics, language acquisition, orthography, or historical linguistics. Most linguists specialise in one or more areas of linguistics, or in a specific 'family group' of world languages, such as the Indigenous languages of Australia.

On this webpage you will find definitions of common technical terms used in linguistics, especially the ones found in linguistics writing about the Indigenous languages of Australia.

We will be putting in new words periodically, if you are looking for a term that you can't find here, please contact us.

To download and save the full list pdfclick here.