Linguistics is a discipline which involves the scientific study of language. This includes the analysis of form, meaning, and context of language. Traditionally it was done by observing an interplay between sound and meaning. The social, cultural, historical, and political factors that influence language are also studied. Linguistics is primarily a descriptive study and it describe and explain features of language without making subjective judgments on it. The earliest documentation and description of language studies were done by 6th century BC grammarian Panini. He wrote Astadhyayi which was a formal description of Sanskrit language. Contemporary linguists assume that spoken data and signed data are more fundamental than written data. Languages can undergo many internal changes which results in the development of subvarieties such as linguistic registers, accents, and dialects.
Related areas of language study are the disciplines of semiotics – the study of direct and indirect language through signs and symbols, literary criticism – the historical and ideological analysis of literature, cinema, art, or published material, translation – the conversion and documentation of meaning in text from one language to another, and speech-language pathology – a corrective method to cure phonetic disabilities and disfunctions at the cognitive level.
Linguistics has several branches of study, namely,
Historical linguistics was one of the first sub disciplines and widely practiced form which was the study of language change over time with regards to a specific language or group of languages. Synchronic approach was focused on for some time which was the systemic study of the current stage in languages, and historical research was a field of linguistic inquiry. Language change and grammaticalization studies are other fields.
Eco linguistics explores the role of language in the interactions of humans, other species and the physical environment. It sees humans not only as a part of society, but also as a part of the larger ecosystems that life depends on. It aims to connect with ecological issues, climate change, biodiversity and environmental justice. Historical and evolutionary linguistics focuses on how languages change and grow, over an extended period of time.
Sociolinguistics is the study of how language is influenced by social factors. It focuses on the synchronic approach of linguistics, and shows the variation and varieties within it at a given point in time. Sociolinguist researches include studying both style and discourse in language, along with the theoretical factors that are at play between language and society.
Developmental linguistics is the study of the development of linguistic ability in individuals, like the acquisition of language in childhood. Developmental linguistics looks into how children acquire different languages, how adults can acquire a second language, and the process of language acquisition.
Neurolinguistics is the study of the structures in the human brain which help grammar and communication. It is the study of physiological mechanisms of the brain and how it processes information about language. It evaluates linguistic and psycholinguistic theories, by using aphasiology, brain imaging, electrophysiology, and computer modelling. The cerebellum contains the highest numbers of neurons and has a major role in terms of predictions required to produce language.
Evolutionary linguistics is the study of the emergence of language through human evolution, and the application of evolutionary theory to the study of cultural evolution among different languages. It is a highly interdisciplinary field which includes the working of linguists, biologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, mathematicians together.
Forensic linguistics is the application of linguistic studies to forensics. It is used to investigate the style, language, lexical use, linguistic and grammatical features used in the legal context to provide evidence in courts of law. Forensic linguists use their expertise in the framework of criminal cases.