An Introduction to Linguistics and Applied Linguistics: A, B, C

G. H. Lewes in The Study of Psychology says, “Just as birds have wings, man has language. The wings give the bird its peculiar attitude for aerial locomotion. Language enables man’s intelligence and passions of acquire their peculiar characters of intellect and sentiment.”

Whatever else people do when they come together—whether they play, flight, make automobiles, or makes love—they talk. We live in world of languages; we talk to our parents, friends, family- , friends, relatives, our teachers and our neighbours. We talk to ' rickshaw-pullers, strangers, bus drivers, co-passengers in trains. To talk face to face and over telephone and everyone responds with more talk. Television, radio and internet chat in computer further swell this torrent of Words. We talk to our pets and sometimes to ourselves. We are the only animal to do so—that talks or uses words appropriately.


Language is a basic human activity. But ‘What is language?’ According to Henry Sweet, ‘Language is the expression of ideas by means of speech sounds combined into words.’ A language is a “symbol system... based on pure or arbitrary convention....infinitely extendable and modifiable according to the changing needs and conditions of the speakers.” (R.H. Robins). Noam Chomsky in his Language and Mind claims language as “unique to man” which constitutes the “human essence.”




Some features of language:

(i) Language is symbolic.

(ii) Language is vocal.

(iii) Language is both individual and social thing.

(iv) Language is arbitrary.

(v) Language is open-ended, modifiable and extendable up to limitless length.

(vi) Language is a medium of information transmission.

(vii) The difference of meaning can be accounted for by the difference in the arrangements of the same linguistic system of the same language:

Linguistics—Linguistics is the scientific study of language. Approach—wise it differs from Philology. Linguistics is a synchronic study (a descriptive study of language at a particular time) of language. The job of a linguist is to construct theory analyzing linguistic data and to predict the potential data as well as the basic patterns of language behaviour of men and women. Linguistics has similarity with Cultural Anthropology. Both these streams depend on practical and theoretical foundations. Linguistics has also relation with Psychology. Language is speech behaviour. Psychology is the study human behaviour. Linguistics is also has relation with Biology (especially Neurology). Archaeology and other disciplines of study. Literature is the artifact of language. Literature is made possible by language. Therefore, language is the crown-pin of the whole fabric of literature in the world.

There are several branches of Linguistics:

(a) Comparative Linguistics——It is based on historical linguistics. It concerns itself with the relationships of different grades. It compares languages from several foundations and parameters.

(b) Historical Linguistics—It concerns itself with the developments in languages in the course of time. Languages have tendency to diverge. Historical Linguistics deals with this basic aspect of languages. Apart from these broad—based heads, we have Saussurean Linguistic, Chomskean Linguistics. Psycholinguistics, Structural Linguistics, Neurolinguistics and so on. Modern Linguistics begins with the Linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. A Course in General Linguistics is his famous book.


The tenets of Modern Linguistics: (a) All languages in the world are potentially equal. (b) There is nothing called ‘corrupt’ or ‘pure’ Language. (c) Speech comes first to man. Spoken language is primary. A child learns to speak first, and then he learns to write. (d) Linguistics is a descriptive science. (6) Linguistic changes are natural for all languages.

Ardhendu De