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Learning the Science of Language: From Linguistics To Artificial Intelligence

Do sounds, words, structures, and meanings, and linguistic origins of words interest you? If they do, then you should consider knowing more about the scientific study of language, which is called linguistics.

Here’s what we’ll cover today

  • What is linguistics
  • What does a degree in linguistics offer
  • Top ten universities to study linguistics
  • Career roles  and the future

First, what is linguistics?

Language etches the grooves through which your thoughts must flow- Noam Chomsky.

In an article earlier, we looked at languages and how studying different languages and pursuing a course in modern languages can open up a plethora of job opportunities and a sense of history. Now let’s dive deep into the science of languages.

Linguistics is a branch of study which looks at human language as an object of scientific investigation. It explores many different aspects like phonetics (how humans produce and perceive sounds), pragmatics (language in context), syntax ( arrangement of words in sentences), semantics (meaning), morphology (the study of the forms of things), and phonology (studies how languages or dialects systematically organise their sounds) which make up a human language and these are an integral part of the study. It doesn’t stop there, studying linguistics provides an understanding of the following things as well :

  • How languages vary from one another
  • How humans acquire language
  • How languages  and words transform over time
  • The unconscious knowledge about language
  • How young children acquire language
  • The general and specific structures of language
  • How can language influence the way we interact with each other and our idea about the world that we live in
  • How is the language being stored in our brain, and how is it processed
  • The interplay between sounds and meanings
  • How languages vary between people and situation
What does a degree in linguistics offer

There are many misconceptions related to linguistics; many people think that linguistics is about learning as many languages as possible, and a linguist is someone who works as an interpreter or as a language teacher. There is no such requirement to know more than one language or multiple languages to pursue a linguistics course or become a linguist. Linguistics is also not about being a ‘gramma Nazi’ and prescribing correct and incorrect grammar. People often think of polyglots and linguists being the same, but, while many linguists are polyglots, the main focus of linguistics is on language in general, the structure of the language, and the psychology of the language.

The field of linguistics covers a wide range of different subfields. It has an intellectual connection with many other disciplines like social science, psychology, computer science, engineering, health science, language pedagogy, philosophy, literature, physics, life science, and even sociology. Here are the main branches of linguistics which overlap with other disciplines:

  • Neurolinguistics: The study of how language is represented in the brain
  • Psycholinguistics: The psychological aspects of Language & Linguistics
  • Sociolinguistics: The descriptive study of the effect of all the aspects of society
  • Applied Linguistics:  This is the field that looks at the real-life applications of Linguistics
  • Computational Linguistics:  This field looks at the application of computer science to the analysis, synthesis, and comprehension of written and spoken language.
  • Dialectology: The study of the way sounds, words, and grammatical forms vary within a language.
  • Ethnolinguistics (or Anthropological Linguistics): The branch of linguistics concerned with the relations between linguistic and cultural behaviour.
  • Comparative Linguistics: The study of similar and dissimilar aspects of common-origin languages
  • Historical Linguistics: The study of evolution and origins of Languages
  • Stylistics: The study and interpretation of style and tones in Languages
Neurolinguistics

This branch of linguistics can be fascinating as it analyses the neural mechanism in the brain that controls the comprehension, production, and acquisition of language.

Psycholinguistics

This branch of study combines linguistics and psychology and shows how both disciplines are very closely related. The main focus of this branch is on the psychological processes involved while using the language.

Sociolinguistics

This is a significant branch of linguistics that deals with society and language. This branch explains why we speak differently in a different context and also looks at how language can differ based on social factors like social class, gender, cultural norms and ethnicity.

Computational Linguistics

Computational linguistics is considered as the future of linguistics as this branch of linguistics uses the techniques of computer science to analyse and synthesis language and speech. Application of this can be seen in almost all the search engines and websites that we use every day,  from speech recognition systems to text-to-speech synthesisers and even in interactive voice response.

Top 10 universities to study linguistics

Now that we are aware of the subfields and significant components of a linguistics degree , let us look at the top universities to pursue a degree in linguistics. Here are the top 10 universities globally to study linguistics as listed in the QS World Ranking.

Serial No. University Country
1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States
2 University of Massachusetts Amherst United States
3 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
4 University of Oxford United Kingdom
5 The University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
6 Harvard University United States
7 Stanford University United States
8 University of California, Berkeley (UCB) United States
9 University of Maryland, College Park United States
10 University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) United States

What do linguistics graduates do?

Linguistics majors are well equipped for various career opportunities. This course helps them acquire valuable skills applicable for many jobs, including analytical reasoning skills, problem-solving, attention to detail,  argumentation, intellectual skills, formulating, clarity of expression, generating predictions, and communicating to a larger audience.

Some of the sectors in which a linguistics graduate can work are as follows :

  • Teach at universities
  • Work in the computer industry
  • Work as a translator or interpreter
  • Lexicographer
  • Work as a technical writer
  • Speech and language therapist
  • Proofreader
  • Work as a journalist
  • Foreign language teacher
  • Work in industry
  • Language documentation
  • Language editor
  • Consultant
  • Research Associate
  • Audiologist
  • Accent Coach
  • Social Researcher
Destination Percentage
Employed 64.2
Further study 12.1
Working and studying 10.7
Unemployed 6.2
Other 6.8

Graduate destinations for linguistics

Type of work Percentage
Marketing, PR and sales 17.1
Business, HR and finance 12.9
Secretarial and numerical clerks 12.6
Education professionals 12.4
Other 45.1

Types of work entered in the UK

The Future; Linguistics and artificial intelligence

We have always thought of robots taking over our jobs, especially in the education and language sector, but the reality is totally different from what we thought it would be. With the application of automation and artificial intelligence in almost all sectors and fields, people with language and linguistics degrees are in high demand. Companies that work closely with artificial intelligence are turning to those people with linguistics degrees for product development, voice recognition, searching engine automation, language translation, and customer service. Such companies consider the combination of linguistics and programming as the ideal one.

At MIT, there is research taking place which collaborates linguistics with electrical engineering, computer science, and cognitive sciences, such studies explore the way in which syntax can inform machine learning for languages that lack extensive bodies of textual material.

There are universities offering Ph.D. courses in linguistics and machine learning as companies like google and yahoo are currently looking for people with a combination of linguistics and machine learning. This unique combination will help to represent the human language in a way that complex computing systems can recognise and understand. Even the chatbots that we use on a website are the result of linguistics, language, and machine learning, every day, these chatbots are being trained for better accuracy and better interaction, and this training requires the help of a linguistics graduate.

Computational linguistics plays an essential role in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning,  currently, there is a shift from text to voice. People are now using voice recognition instead of using text, and all the companies that work in this field require a language expert to make their search engines and software work better. So the future of linguistics is bright, and the time is right if you have the interest and the inclination.

Date added
24.08.2021

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Global Ed

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