Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and structure. As linguistics is concerned with both the cognitive and social aspects of language, it is considered a scientific field as well as an academic discipline; it has been classified as a social science, natural science, cognitive science, or part of the humanities.
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Traditional areas of linguistic analysis correspond to phenomena found in human linguistic systems, such as syntax (rules governing the structure of sentences); semantics (meaning); morphology (structure of words); phonetics (speech sounds and equivalent gestures in sign languages); phonology (the abstract sound system of a particular language); and pragmatics (how social context contributes to meaning). Subdisciplines such as biolinguistics (the study of the biological variables and evolution of language) and psycholinguistics (the study of psychological factors in human language) bridge many of these divisions.
Linguistics encompasses many branches and subfields that span both theoretical and practical applications. Theoretical linguistics (including traditional descriptive linguistics) is concerned with understanding the fundamental nature of language and developing a general theoretical framework for describing it. Applied linguistics seeks to utilise the scientific findings of the study of language for practical purposes, such as developing methods of improving language education and literacy.
Linguistic phenomena may be studied through a variety of perspectives: synchronically (describing a language at a specific point of time) or diachronically (through historical development); in monolinguals or multilinguals; children or adults; as they are learned or already acquired; as abstract objects or cognitive structures; through texts or oral elicitation; and through mechanical data collection versus fieldwork.
Linguistics is related to philosophy of language, stylistics and rhetorics, semiotics, lexicography, and translation; philology, from which linguistics emerged, is variably described as a related field, a subdiscipline, or to have been superseded altogether.