Linguistics, which is an incredibly broad and well-rounded field, is the study of human language in all of its wonderful and various forms. Linguists want to know how, why and where language changes, is used, or differs from perceived norms. It’s a fascinating subject because it covers such a huge range of disciplines; different elements of the course can incorporate, with a linguistic focus, neurology, acoustics, philosophy, sociology or history, as well as having some specialised topics of its own. This does make it challenging, since it demands so many disparate skills of the people who study it, but also extremely rewarding; I find it incredibly satisfying to be able to look at data sets from several different perspectives of linguistic study. Linguistics is a brilliant choice for anyone who has a real curiosity about why languages act in the way they do, and doesn’t just want to take linguistic phenomena at face value.
Linguistics at Oxford has to be studied either with a Modern Foreign Language, or as a part of PPL (Philosophy, Psychology and Linguistics). With MFL, there are three units in the first year: General Linguistics, Phonetics & Phonology, and Syntax & Morphology. Phonetics deals with the articulation, understanding and rules of spoken sounds; Syntax focuses on grammatical structures found in languages across the globe. General Linguistics is broken down into five areas:
- Historical Linguistics (how languages change over time)
- Semantics (how language creates meaning)
- Psycholinguistics (how the brain stores language)
- General Linguistics (famous linguists and their contributions- especially Chomsky and Saussure)
- Sociolinguistics (language in a social context)
PPL students will study only some of these.