Department of Linguistics

Linguistics is the scientific study of language, aimed at finding out what language is like, and why. Each of the world’s 6000 languages is a rich and textured system, with its own sounds, its own grammar, and its own identity and style. From the Amazon to Africa, from Southeast Asia to Aboriginal Australia, we use language to think with, to persuade others, to gather information, to organize our activities, to gossip, and ultimately to structure our societies.

Here are some of the questions you can investigate in linguistics:

  • How many different sounds can be made with the human vocal tract?
  • Are Australian English and Singapore English two separate languages?
  • How do we learn language in childhood versus in adulthood?
  • Is spoken language better than written language?
  • In conversation, how do people decide who speaks and when?
  • Why do Australians often sing in an American accent?
  • Are we unknowingly manipulated by the words used in the media?
  • Can a computer speak Japanese?
  • How and why do languages change?
  • What is it about the human mind that makes language the way it is?

In linguistics, you will learn how to investigate questions like these, using methods ranging from computer analysis to text analysis to research expeditions on previously undocumented languages. You will become a language and communication expert. The skills you will acquire in linguistics can be applied to the scientific study of the human mind and the diversity of cultures, and are relevant to a range of professional settings such as language teaching, general education, journalism and publishing, marketing and public relations, development studies, and computer science.

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