What is Linguistics?
You may have wondered, "What exactly is Linguistics, and what do linguists do?" You might assume that a linguist is multilingual, and a linguist may, in fact, be a polyglot, but that's not what linguistics is about, strictly speaking. Linguistics is, broadly, the scientific study of language, and many topics are studied under this umbrella. In its nature, linguistics is a multidisciplinary science that shares concerns and methods with all other social sciences.
We often start introductory courses in linguistics with what linguistics is NOT about: it is not about learning to speak languages, it is not about providing tools for the grammar police, it is not about proving which languages are harder than others, and it is not about maintaining the superiority of writing over speech. All those statements beg the question: What IS linguistics all about then? The short answer is that linguistics is a social study of how language in general works.
- Linguistics is a formal study of the sound system (phonology), word structure (morphology), sentence structure and meaning (syntax and semantics) of the world's languages.
- Linguistics is a study of the origins of language and of how language evolved (historical linguistics).
- Linguistics is a study of how languages are acquired in childhood or later in life (language acquisition).
- Linguistics is a study of how languages are used in different social, economic and geographical settings (sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology).
- Linguistics is a study of the manifestations of language in the brain (neurolinguistics).
The Linguistics Program at UofSC
Linguistics at South Carolina is comprehensive in its scope. Its mission is to train students to pursue research and teach in a wide range of linguistic subdisciplines. The program strives to develop students' analytical skills and to encourage creative, critical approaches to data, models, and theories.
The program administers three graduate degrees: a Ph.D. in Linguistics, an M.A. in Linguistics, and a Graduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. At the undergraduate level, students may take a cognate or a minor in Linguistics, or pursue a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Linguistics.
The Linguistics program benefits from the expertise of faculty and lecturers in our partner departments. The program's professors are experts in specific areas of concentration, such as psycholinguistics or historical linguistics, and mentor Linguistics graduate students with dissertation topics in their areas of expertise.