What's Linguistics?

Linguistics. For the vast majority of people, it’s merely a hard-to-spell word that reminds one alternately of linguine pasta and ballistics. For others, it’s the reason behind crawling around a mosquito-infested rainforest holding a voice recorder. And for everyone, it’s a tool used every time we open our mouths.

But what is linguistics, actually?

According to the handy Dictionary.com, linguistics is “the science of language.” Linguistics is, perhaps, the most mathematical and logical of the humanities. It breaks down language into its parts and examines how we can possibly communicate with each other, much less write novels worthy of the Pulitzer prize.

Different areas of study include
  • Phonetics—the sounds of the world (you know the song by George and Ira Gershwin with the word,  “I say toe-may-toe, you say toe-mah-toe”)
  • Sociology—the social implications of language, such as why people in Wisconsin say “bubbler” while Minnesotans say “drinking fountain.”
  • Morphology—the grammatical formation of the words themselves (ever wonder why we have goose-geese but not moose-meese?)
  • Syntax—how the sentence fits together (that old rule of never ending a sentence in a preposition is explained here)
  • Semantics—the meaning of words (just think of all the meanings of the word like?)
  • Pragmatics—the extra markers of language, such how a child knows that when her mom says “did you take out the garbage?” the mother is not just asking for information…
  • Historical—watching the effects of time and change in language (or why, pray tell, thee doth not spake like Shakespeare did )

Bible translation is one of many applications for this fascinating field. Throughout my study of it, I have found it to be a beautiful reflection of our God.

After all, in the beginning was the Word. In the beginning, God spoke.

And linguistics was created.

See the original blog post here.