Linguistics is the science of language. It is the subject whose practitioners devote their energy to understanding why human language is the way it is. They study the history, acquisition, structure, and use of as many languages as possible.
Professor David Crystal
The work of linguists falls into two main areas: language structure and language use.
Linguists interested in language structure consider the formal properties of language, including word structure (morphology), sentence structure (syntax), speech sounds and the rules and patterns between them (phonetics and phonology), and meaning in language (semantics and pragmatics).
Linguists also study the way that language is used, and this can cover a very broad range of subjects, since language enters almost every area of human activity. Examples include: psycholinguistics (the psychology of language acquisition and use); historical linguistics and the history of languages; applied linguistics (using linguistic knowledge to help in real-world situations like language teaching); sociolinguistics, varieties of English, discourse analysis and conversation analysis (language use in social contexts) and stylistics (the use of diﬀerent styles in language).
Research in Linguistics
You will find examples of research that has been undertaken in each area of linguistics. Research is an important part of what linguists do in universities. All linguists engage in research alongside teaching, which means that they are pushing the boundaries of knowledge in the area. At Sheffield, we have specialists teaching and researching all areas of linguistics covered on this website, and students have the opportunity to learn about and be involved in the very latest research as part of studying for their degree programme.