Linguistics and Human Languages


Ferdinand de Saussure laid the foundation for modern studies in linguistics and human languages. It's been twenty years since I graduated from university, but I still remember his name.

He was a Swiss linguist (1857–1913) little known in his native country, not to speak of the rest of the world. Shortly before death he gave three courses in general linguistics at University of Geneva where he was a professor. He had only 6 students the first year, 11 students the second year and 12 student the third year!

He would have been very surprised to know that language departments of foreign universities would include his Course in General Linguistics in their core curriculum, thus making his name known to language professionals all over the world.

So what is linguistics? To put it simply, it is a science about human languages. It is not to be confused with teaching foreign languages. Linguistics study the nature and structure of human languages. Many ancient (e.g. phonetics, grammar, rhetoric) and modern (e.g. computational linguistics, neurolinguistics, sociolinguistics) disciplines form modern linguistics.

Some say linguistics is a boring science. It is not. Linguistics is educational, absorbing and entertaining. After all, it deals with human language. And human language is a phenomenon that permeates all aspects of our life.

If you have an interest in human languages and linguistics, the following useful resources can deepen your knowledge in these areas:

Ask a Linguist
It is a place where anyone interested in language or linguistics can ask a question and, if approved, get responses from a panel of professional linguists, all of whom have volunteered to help provide this free service.

Frequently Asked Questions About Linguistics
Basic questions about linguistics and human languages answered by John M. Lawler, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics.

Ethnologue
A catalogue where you can find a comprehensive listing of the known living languages of the world (6,909 languages) as well as many resources to help you with your research of the world's languages.

Didn't find what you were looking for? Use this search feature to find it.


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_____________________________________________________________________ Website owner: Irina Lychak, self-employed freelance linguist, Russian translator, Ukrainian translator, Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine

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