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Post by dah_men on Tue Dec 21, 2010 10:35 am


Phonetics/phonology, syntax and semantics/pragmatics
constitute the principal levels of

linguistics. Whatever branch of the subject we look at we
shall inevitably find ourselves talking

about them. We use the metaphor of a tree here because this
seems the best way to capture the

relationship between these core areas, collectively the
“trunk”; and the individual disciplines, or

“branches”, which sprout from them. Changing the metaphor, we
could think of the core as the

hub of a wheel with the various branches as the individual
spokes radiating out. There are the

main ones, followed by a brief definition of each:

Sociolinguistics - the study of language and society.

Stylistics - the study of language and literature.

Psycholinguistics – the study of language and mind.

Computational Linguistics – the simulation of language by
the use of computers.

Comparative Linguistics – the study of different languages
and their respective linguistic


Historical Linguistics - the study of language change over

Applied Linguistics – the study of language teaching. (You
will sometimes find that stylistics

and comparative linguistics are treated as sub-branches of
applied linguistics).

The branches have become more numerous over the years as the
subject has grown but,

arguably, the principal developments in linguistics in
recent years have been in stylistics,

sociolinguistics, and psycholinguistics. As a consequence, a
majority of the terms discussed in

this chapter are from these branches. The chapter begins
with a short introduction to each

branch, followed by detailed entries, alphabetically
arranged as usual, on key items.

Comprehension check

A. True / False exercise: Circle T (for true) or F (for
false) for each statement below.

1. When we study syntax, it means we’re studying one of the
principal levels of linguistics.

T - F

2. We won’t have to talk about linguistics if we choose
phonology as our major. T - F

3. The branches of linguistics can be described like the
metaphor of a tree. T - F

4. Another description of linguistics branches can be the
hub of a wheel with the individual

spokes radiating out. T - F

5. The number of branches of linguistics hasn’t increased in
recent years. T - F

B. Matching exercise

Match the definition of column A with the subject of

1. The study of language change over time.

a. Applied Linguistics

2. The study of language and mind

b. Psycholinguistics

3. The study of language teaching c. Sociolinguistics

4. The simulation of language by the use of


d. Comparative Linguistics

5. The study of language and literature e. Historical

6. The study of language and society

f. Stylistics

7. The study of different languages and their

respective linguistic system

g. Computational Linguistics

What do you think?

Work in groups.

The languages that a person uses can tell us what group of
society that person belongs to.

Do you agree with the idea? Support your opinion?


Listen to the following test and fill in the blanks with the
missing words.

Idiom is language where the words are not used with their _____
basic meanings.

If you go to the ____________ once in a blue moon, you go
very rarely. If you haven’t

seen someone for donkey’s years, you haven’t ____________ him
for a very long time.

A _________part of language is idiomatic. Here are some


She’s under the ____________I got cold feet.



Linguistics is the systematic study of language. Some people
refer to it as the “science of

language” but I have avoided this description because it can
be misleading. The popular view

of language is that it is regulated by precise laws which
prescribe the “correct” use of words, a

little in the manner that Newtonian physics does the
operation of the solar system. But the

merest acquaintance with language shows us it is not like
that. Language is notoriously

slippery; words change their meaning and pronunciation form
continually, they never stay still.

This fertile capacity of language for endless diversity
means that any attempt to reduce it to a

set of laws is fraught with danger.

None the less, it is true to say that linguists approach
language in a scientific manner. First of

all, they adopt an objective, or disinterested, stance. They
have no axe to grind: they are not

concerned, like some politicians and educators, in enforcing
or promoting any “standards” of

language use. Secondly, their method is empirical, that is
they proceed by observation,

description and explanation. These are the three stages of
linguistic enquiry distinguished by

the linguist Noam Chomsky. Linguists begin by observing the
way in which “people use

language, on the basis of which they provide a description
of language use, and finally, when

all the data has been analyzed, an explanation.

Explanations of language use are the stage at which
linguists endeavour to establish the

underlying rules which speakers are following. It is a basic
presupposition of modern

linguistics that language is rule-governed, i.e., those
speakers obey an internalized set of

instructions in the way the construct and use sentences. The
word “internalized” is important

here, because these rules are derived not from any kind of
external authority, like a dictionary

or grammar, but from the speaker’s own intuitive knowledge, or
competence. Once the rules for

particular languages have been mapped in this empirical
fashion the linguist hopes to provide a

model which will explain how all languages work.

The production of this model, or universal grammar, is the
pinnacle of linguistic enquiry.

English for Philology

Compiled by NGUYEN THI BICH THUY (2003)



Text rearranged by Dr. B.A. NEDDAR


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