What is Linguistics?

Language is a system of patterns through which humans relate to one another. All languages require patterns of order, patterns of meaning, patterns of turn-taking, and patterns of sound. There is something inherently human about these patterns. They are products of cognition, culture, and survival. In linguistics, we identify and test patterns of language to answer questions about another inherently human feature: the mind. The mind is a vast thing and, consequently, so is the field of linguistics. There are many different angles from which we can ask the question “What can language tell us about the mind?” We can start by looking at patterns of use: how language is learnt, how language is spoken by certain groups or individuals, and how languages die out. We can also look at patterns of organization: how language is organized from sounds into syllables, how syllables are organized into words, and how words are organized into sentences. Finally, we can look at patterns of meaning and processing: how meaning is encoded, how it is understood, and how it can change. A linguist will become an expert in one of these subfields, dedicating their research to documentation or theoretical improvements of how language is understood.