What is Linguistics?
Linguistics is the study of language in general, from a scientific point of view. It seeks to understand the nature of language as a universal human faculty and means of communication. It asks questions such as: How is language structured? What features are necessary parts of any language? In what ways can languages differ? How are meanings encoded in words? How are words put together in sentences? How do languages reflect the culture of their speakers? How do languages change through time? The ANU linguistics courses are organised around distinct sub-fields of the discipline of linguistics, including, Semantics (the organisation of meaning), Syntax (the organisation of grammar), Phonology (the organisation of sound systems, especially in tone languages), Historical Linguistics (how languages change), Analysis of Discourse (how conversation works) and Sociolinguistics (the role played by language in society).
Studying Linguistics develops analytical skills, which can be applied without prior knowledge of particular languages. If you enjoy solving puzzles, chances are that you will enjoy Linguistics, especially once you learn something of the methods appropriate for analysing language data. To illustrate how you can "crack language codes" even without special training, try to decode this foreign language, just by comparing and contrasting sentences that are partly the same and partly different.
What is Applied Linguistics?
In Applied Linguistics people investigate how an understanding of language can be put to use in a variety of fields including first and second language acquisition, second language teaching, literacy, language and classroom education across the curriculum, the use of language in university academic contexts, language and the law, forensic speaker identification, speech pathology, translation and advertising. In other words, it uses knowledge of how languages work within different applied settings.
For academic enquiries, contact the convenor, Professor Jane Simpson.
What can I do with a Linguistics or Applied Linguistics Major?
In some instances studying Linguistics or Applied Linguistics will lead directly into postgraduate work and a career in teaching linguistics at university or going out into “the field” to describe a previously unstudied language. Many of our postgraduate students have in fact described many of the hundreds of indigenous languages of Australia and the surrounding region. But this is not all. Studying Linguistics or Applied Linguistics can be useful for all kinds of employment. It gives you an understanding of many aspects of human communication, and the problem-solving and analytical skills acquired in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics can be used in many areas.
Having a major in Linguistics or Applied Linguistics is very useful for prospective teachers of a foreign language or English. Linguistics also provides valuable background knowledge for anyone going into fields such as translation, editing, speech pathology or audiology, Aboriginal education etc. Applied Linguistics is particularly useful for those interested in a career in language teaching and other applied issues such as cross-cultural communication, language teaching methods, language planning, dictionary-making. You can even do some Linguistics courses as part of other majors, such as English, Sociology, Anthropology, Aboriginal Studies, and Japanese Linguistics.