What does linguistics

Institute for Linguistics

What is linguistics and what is it for?


The following podcast from the University of Zurich "What is linguistics useful for?" Is also interesting. Issue 18 | September 2015


Linguistics, as the name suggests, is the science of language. The term "linguistics" (lat. lingua "Tongue, language").

Language is at the center of our intellectual life. It is both the basis and the vehicle of our thinking that makes it communicable. It is thus the spiritual bond that connects us with other members of the social communities in which we live. Communication, through the means of expression of language, is the basis and prerequisite of all culture. The achievements of human civilization and culture, from their beginnings to their highest achievements, are inconceivable without the medium of language, which reflects and guides the development of the human mind.

Corresponding to the central importance of language, the Linguistics a central position in the system of science. It communicates with all other sciences, if only because science itself always moves in the medium of language and is therefore linguistically relevant.

For linguistics - largely humanities, but also historical and social science and, last but not least, cultural studies - the following three problem areas are of interest:

  • The relationship of language to reality and the effects of this relationship
  • The difference in language and (if the language is the same) in ways of speaking
  • The change in language in space, time and depending on external and internal factors

These problem areas, which are closely interwoven, are of great importance and of enormous social volatility, especially because they are a source of constant misunderstandings. Language belongs to the innermost being of people and we often meet those who speak a foreign language or use a different way of speaking with suspicion. Different language usage is coupled with social value judgments, almost always prejudices. This applies, for example, to the relationship between Hoschprach and colloquial language and dialect, the numerous jargons and special languages ​​and the "sociolects", the relationship between formal vs. informal and much more. Prejudices and the associated linguistic discrimination are based on ignorance and a lack of insight into the causes of linguistic differences and the functions that different modes of expression can assume. To have an educational effect here is one of the most important tasks of linguistics that it has to fulfill for society.


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