High School > Social Sciences > Linguistics

One common misconception about linguistics is that the people who study it are always fluent in many languages. This is not the case, as linguistics is not about becoming a polyglot. Rather, it is the study of how languages developed, their structures, and common themes that exist across different languages.

Linguistics has six subfields, which concern different areas of language. Two of which are phonetics and phonology, or the study of speech sounds. Phonetics deals with the physical aspect of speech sounds, while phonology studies the cognitive (or brain-related) aspect. Another is morphology, which is concerned with how words are formed. Then there is syntax, which examines how sentences are constructed. Also, there is semantics, which is the study of the meaning of words. Finally, there is pragmatics, which is about the usage and purpose of language.

Since language is such an important part of everyday life, studying linguistics has different applications. It is even connected to computer science, especially these days where voice recognition technology is developing more rapidly. Computers do not fully understand human language, so voice technology is a mountain of a challenge. It still needs a lot of improvement. Through the study of linguistics, computer scientists can better design voice recognition hardware and software.

Linguistics can, believe it or not, even be applied towards works of fiction. In the fictional Star Trek universe, there is a race of aliens known as Klingon, and they have their very own unique language. Most science fiction fans know the Klingon very well because of this language. The interesting thing is Klingon was developed by an actual linguist named Marc Okrand from the University of California Santa Cruz.

Another such example is the more recent movie Arrival. It tells the story of an alien race that visited Earth and communicated with humans through their own system of writing. A linguist was tasked with deciphering the alien writing system, and that is what most of the movie is about.

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