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What Does a Linguistics Major Study?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A linguistics major typically studies various aspects of language, including everything from grammar and language development and acquisition to speech therapy methods and etymology. The exact nature of such study often depends on what aspect of linguistics a person wishes to specialize in or work in after graduation, though some topics are common among various disciplines. This study often begins with basic concepts such as grammar, language acquisition, and understanding how language is categorized through various phonetic classifications. A linguistics major might then move on to more complicated or applicable subjects, such as language coaching and therapy, social linguistics, and linguistic anthropology.

While a linguistics major often begins as an English or other language major, he or she then typically develops an interest and chooses to specialize in studying linguistics and language in general. Much of the undergraduate work done by someone interested in linguistics is in his or her country’s home language, such as English in the US. This work is then typically expanded into understanding other languages or better understanding the intricacies and various concepts inherent within linguistics. Once a linguistics major begins post-graduate work, however, then he or she typically chooses more specialized aspects of linguistics to begin focusing on and researching.

One of the most common subjects studied by a linguistics major is grammar. This is an understanding of the rules that people use to construct language and meaning, such as how words are put together in a particular language to create meaning, and how those rules can change or develop over time. A linguistics major is likely to study language acquisition and development of language over time. Language acquisition refers to the process by which young people, from infants into childhood, develop and understand spoken language through exposure to language and development of their own linguistic abilities.

More practical aspects of linguistics and language may also be studied by a linguistics major, such as applied linguistics or speech therapy methodologies. These subjects allow a linguist to work in fields such as speech coaching and therapy, or to provide assistance to psychological professionals working with those who may have problems expressing themselves through language. Other subjects likely to be studied by a linguistics major include social linguistics and linguistic approaches to subjects such as anthropology. These studies often allow a linguist to better understand how languages develop and evolve over time, by studying etymology and the sources of words, to understand how society changes language and how language changes society.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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