You’d be surprised to discover that the languages we speak are more complex than you think. A lot of work goes into language structuring and formation, hence why linguists are necessary.
To study the linguistics of a language, total understanding of the language is paramount. To achieve this, source academic journals on the language and study them religiously. Also, do not underestimate the importance of online tutorials, teaching aids like the Teach Yourself Books series and classic literature materials.
Linguistics is a scientific study that entails a comprehensive analysis of the full structure of a language.
It involves research that makes language become what we know it to be.
3 Steps to Studying Linguistics on Your Own
To aid you as you proceed to study linguistics, we’ve curated a 3-step process that will help you in your journey to become a self-taught linguist.
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Step 1: Understand Linguistic Concepts
Rarely would you find a linguist who, at some point in their career, has not had to answer the infamous question ‘how many languages do you speak?’.
While we acknowledge that linguists’ understanding of a language assists them in learning several other languages faster than the average person would; this however does not mean that the study of linguistics is all about being multilingual.
The need for linguists to learn how a language functions is more crucial than learning the language itself.
It involves the systematic, thorough, objective and clear-cut analysis of the different aspects of a language, especially its structure and nature.
This study is considered a scientific study because it involves research just like other fields in the sciences and is classified under the social sciences, cognitive science and part of humanities.
To understand what linguistics teaches, there are five concepts we believe you should pay attention to as you study.
These concepts are the building blocks for studying linguistics, and they are:
This refers to the study of the meaning of the words used in a language.
Thorough understanding of the semantics of a language enables linguists to study the meaning of phrases and sentences because these phrases and sentences are what are morphed together to form a language.
Popular books on studying semantics of different languages include:
- A study on Chinese language semantic evolution – Chinese
- Semantics and function of quotation marks in modern Russian – Russian
- Syntax and semantics of French sentential complements – French
- Italian discourse: A cultural semantic analysis – Italian
- Introduction to English semantics and pragmatics – English language
Morphology explains the structure of words, how they are formed and combined to form a language we understand. It typically includes the study of prefixes, suffixes, roots and stems of words.
This concept also helps students of linguistics understand how stress, intonation, parts of speech and context can affect how we understand a word or sentence.
Some great books on morphology functions include;
- Cases morphology and function – Russian
- The morphology of Chinese – Chinese
- From Latin to Spanish – Spanish
- The morphology of Dutch – Dutch
- An introduction to English morphology – English Language
Syntax refers to the study of the shaping and the organization of different sentences. They refer to a set of rules that apply when combining the words that form sentences, phrases or clauses.
The order and arrangements in a language are formed due to syntax rules, which aid in giving meaning to the language.
Certain books that can help you understand how syntax operates in different languages include;
- Foundation of French syntax – French
- Fundamentos de sintaxis formal – Spanish
- English Grammar and syntax – English
- Das Lexikon ‘uber die syntax’ – German
- The syntax of Russian – Russian
When you think of how sounds are formed and the process of describing and understanding these sounds, think of phonetics.
Phonetics is described as the language sound system and explains how people produce and perceive sounds.
Popular books on phonetics include:
- American English phonetics and pronunciation practice – English language
- A handbook of French phonetics – French
- Afrikaans self-taught: By the natural method with phonetic pronunciation – Afrikaans
- The phonetics of Russian – Russian
- A phonetic guide to learning Chinese characters – Chinese
This term is often mistaken for phonetics, however while the two may be similar, they perform very different functions.
Phonology deals with how sound functions in a language. So, while phonetics describes how sound is made and understood, phonology explains how it functions.
This aspect of linguistics helps us understand how languages organize sounds and explains their functionality.
Some materials that can improve your understanding of phonology include:
- Applied English phonology – English language
- The phonology of Italian – Italian
- Aspects of Hindi phonology – Hindi
- The phonology of standard Chinese – Chinese
- Tonal accents in Norwegian – Norwegian
To understand how context contributes to the meaning of a word, we look at pragmatics. This aspect of linguistics helps us understand how language affects and influences human social interactions.
It helps us understand the link between the person speaking and the listener, helping us understand how language helps them pass their message across.
You will do well to check out some of the books on pragmatics of different languages below;
- Pragmatic markers in English – English Language
- The pragmatics of Irish English – Irish English
- L2 Spanish pragmatics – Spanish
- Politeness phenomena across Chinese genres (A pragmatic interface) – Chinese
- Pragmatics Apology – Russian
Now that you have familiarized yourself with the basic concepts of linguistics and how they will assist your learning, it is time to move to the next step of your self-learning linguistics journey.
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Step 2: Reading Academic Books on Linguistics
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with several linguistic concepts, the next step to making your linguistic self-learning journey become successful is relying on accurately written books.
Books that teach linguistic concepts and how to properly understand the linguistics of a language are recipes to successfully studying linguistics.
Many times, they’ll stand in place of a physical teacher, so we advise that you ensure that you conduct proper research on linguistic books that are not only good, but great sources of learning.
Below is a list of books for self-studying linguistics.
- Linguistics: An introduction to language and communication
- Introductory linguistics for speech and language therapy practice
- Foundation of language: brain, meaning, grammar and evolution
- The handbook of linguistics
- The study of language
- Teach yourself linguistics: a complete introduction
- Aitchison’s Linguistics: teach yourself
- Language: an introduction to the study of speech
When selecting materials to read, start with books that educate you on the history of language while carefully introducing you to the field without confusing you.
Step 3: Online Study
As you read relevant texts to understand linguistics better, having a go at online courses in the linguistic field will also be helpful.
One great thing about online courses is that several of them are curated professionals in the field, so you can be sure that whatever information you are being given is from a verified source.
Here are some online courses you can check out as you self-study linguistics
- Coursera – Miracles of human language: an introduction to linguistics
- Futurelearn – Introduction to intercultural studies: language and culture
- Classcentral – Introduction to modern linguistics
- Udemy – Introduction to linguistics
You can additionally take your time to check out the video below. It will help you gain more insight into how you can study linguistics independently.
Benefits of Studying Linguistics
Linguistics is broad, it touches several aspects of our lives, so here are some benefits you stand to gain from studying the subject.
1. Linguistics Helps Create Good Researchers
Since linguists do a lot of language analysis, it is a scientific study and creates good researchers.
Linguists do not only study how different people can better understand the language they speak and the varieties of these languages; they help them see how different factors like period, location, and even the type of language can influence communication.
You will be surprised to find out that just like several other scientific fields, linguists need to go out into the field to research a language.
Like every other scientist out there, they develop hypotheses, test these hypotheses and save findings that can be used in further research.
Here are some popular branches of linguistics you’d most likely be interested in as you embark on self-studying linguistics.
|Historical Linguistics||Historical linguistics deals with the study of the origin and the evolution of language.|
|Computational Linguistics||The study of both the noted and verbalized language in computing and programming.|
|Sociolinguistics||This branch of linguistics refers to the study of the influence of society on language and linguistics.|
|Psycholinguistics||Psycholinguistics studies the psychological aspect of language and linguistics.|
|Applied Linguistics||This branch studies the reality of employment of language in society.|
|Comparative Linguistics||This refers to the study of the related and contrasting aspects of common languages.|
|Stylistics||Stylistics refers to the study and review of styles and sounds in linguistics.|
Table Sourced from Wings
All these are the different branches you can choose to major in as you teach yourself to understand linguistics.
2. Linguistics Boosts Communication Skills
Another immense benefit of studying linguistics is the overall improvement in the learner’s communication skills.
You will be surprised to find that several people find it difficult to communicate or pass their message across to the listener(s) using the language they speak every day.
They have little to no knowledge of language structure and even how to properly pronounce words.
Communication in this sense varies from physical conversations you may have with friends, texting via various social media channels, a handwritten assignment submitted to your lecturer or speaking at a public gathering.
These diverse aspects of communication require language use in different manners, making the knowledge and application of linguistics quite relevant if we do say so ourselves.
Communication skill is a basic survival skill. In a society, you can hardly make any transaction without the need to communicate, so the knowledge of linguistics gives you a level up in communication.
3. The Study of linguistics Boosts Your Exposure
Due to the broadness of linguistics as a subject, while studying it, get ready to step out of your comfort zone, expand your mind and be introduced to areas you would otherwise not have thought existed.
The importance of language in society today cannot be overemphasized and as you self-study linguistics, especially if you intend on using it to obtain a degree, you get introduced to diverse other fields where your area of expertise may be needed, exposing you to additional possibilities.
4. Linguistics Can Help People Move Higher in their Chosen Field
Studying linguistics does not always mean the goal is to become a linguist. Many times, when people self-learn linguistics, it is because their knowledge on the linguistics of a language will help them move up in their chosen field.
So, it’s not surprising that the proper understanding of the structure and formation of words makes comprehension so much easier.
This translates to a promotion or upward movement in your organization or chosen field.
Here are some programs where your knowledge of linguistics will definitely be of immense benefit;
- Communication Sciences
- The TESOL (teaching English as a second language) program
- Information Science
- Speech Pathology
These are a few of the professional courses you can take if you have a good knowledge of how linguistics work and are guaranteed to help you do better as you learn.
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Career Opportunities in Linguistics
By choosing to study linguistics, you should know that your career options are not limited. You will find that you will be relevant in many fields, and in fact, you might be faced with the issue of deciding where to place your focus.
Here are diverse career opportunities available to linguists
A translator’s duty is to translate written or spoken words from one language to another. Their knowledge of linguistics enables them to translate words from one language to another without the risk of changing the meaning while translating.
People who work as translators earn an average of $47,932 annually.
A writer’s tool is the language used to communicate their big ideas. An in-depth grasp of how words are forged then structured will help a writer get better at writing.
Writers earn an average of $55,116 annually.
3. Lecturers and Teachers
As someone charged with the duty of imparting knowledge to learners, learning how to convey your ideas to your audience is very crucial. Educators should be well versed in their knowledge of linguistics.
On average, lecturers earn $51,434 annually.
4. Research Analyst
Who is a research analyst? A research analyst is one who is charged with carrying out research that involves the discovery and verification of data. This data goes on to be used in books and are usually cited in different studies.
A good researcher must know how to structure their findings so that the data won’t be misinterpreted.
As a research analyst you can earn as much as $58,246 annually.
A journalist is an individual involved in collecting data in the form of text, video, audio or pictures and converting them into complete information for the public. With your linguistic knowledge you’ll be able to become a better journalist.
A career in journalism can fetch you $42,022 annually.
The librarian is a person who is in charge of issuing, organizing and collecting library resources.
A librarian will be responsible for providing researchers and students access to relevant information, where this information might be located in the library or which library, they can locate the information.
To do this properly, knowledge of linguistics is often required.
Librarians can earn as much as $51,589 annually.
7. Speech Therapist
In the medical field, they are referred to as speech pathologists. Speech therapists specialize in accessing, diagnosing and treating speech issues and other problems involving conveying messages.
Proper understanding and knowledge of linguistics helps a speech pathologist understand word formation, especially when treating a speech disorder.
People who specialize in speech therapy can earn as much as $61,234 annually.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is Sign Language a Branch of Linguistics?
Linguistics involves studying the functionality of a language, of which sign language is one of them. Sign language is a type of language that only a select few understand and, as such, qualifies as a language linguists’ study.
Q: How Many Languages Does a Linguist Speak?
Some linguists speak as many as five languages, and some speak just one fluently. You should know that linguistics does not mean you have to speak multiple languages; it only means you should know how it functions.
Q: Can I Get a Job as a Linguist?
People with knowledge of how language works will always be in demand and have job offers because language helps form social interactions.
Recall that linguistics is not the study of a language but rather the study of language and its functionality.
With the information we’ve provided, you’d have no issues studying linguistics on your own.