Calling, ordering rolls, telling jokes, asking questions, reading the newspaper, writing e-mails, arguing, saying yes – none of this would be conceivable without language. We often only notice how important it is when we are in another country and no longer understand anything. This is not uncommon: there are around 7,000 languages in the world .
Exploration of human language
Thanks to language we can express our thoughts, come into contact with one another, understand connections and plan the future. It is the language that distinguishes us from animals and makes us unique. But how does language work? That is the fundamental question of linguistics.
According to Jibin123, linguists understand language as a system . They break down the system into its individual parts – for example syllables or words – and examine them. Linguists often compare different languages with one another in order to uncover the secret of the language.
Of phonetics and semantics: the linguistics course
Linguistics is divided into three major areas :
- General Linguistics
- Historical-Comparative Linguistics
- Applied Linguistics
The majority of the courses offered at German universities are assigned to general or historical-comparative linguistics . There are also study programs in the field of applied linguistics. There is sometimes the opportunity to specialize in individual areas of application. For example, students can study clinical linguistics or focus on computational linguistics or patholinguistics.
Structure of the bachelor’s degree
Regardless of the course of study: At the beginning of the bachelor’s degree , students receive an introduction to the sub-disciplines of linguistics :
- Phonetics and Phonology: There the students deal with the sound system of our language. They learn, for example, how the individual sounds are formed in the oral cavity .;
- Semantics: The theory of meaning is devoted to the sense and meaning of signs. Semantics investigate the question of how it is possible to understand words, sentences or entire texts.
- Morphology: This part of linguistics deals with the question of how words change. For this purpose, the building blocks of language systems are examined and the word classes of specific languages are described.
- Pragmatics: It deals with the use of language. In pragmatics, the main question is which intention the speaker is pursuing with an utterance and how the recipient interprets the message.
Depending on the chosen focus, other sub-areas of linguistics are added in the course of the course. Students taking a course in the field of historical-comparative linguistics examine and compare individual European, Asian and Oriental languages. You take language courses in languages such as Latin , Portuguese, Albanian or Hindi, compare the historical development of individual language families or the grammar of different languages.
In the later semesters of their studies, students of general linguistic courses deal more extensively with a sub-discipline such as syntax or morphology . They often have the opportunity to choose additional areas of focus from applied linguistics, such as sociolinguistics or neurolinguistics.
Structure of the master’s degree
Are you planning to specialize further after completing your bachelor’s degree? In this case, it is worth considering a master’s degree in linguistics. The Master programs serve technical knowledge to deepen and for senior positions to an academic career or qualify . The universities offer master’s courses with different focuses, for example European legal linguistics or lexicography.
Linguistics studies – requirements at a glance
Studying linguistics primarily requires a feeling for languages . In its systematic approach, linguistics is often more similar to the natural sciences than to a humanities subject. Linguists use statistical methods in their research . Prospective students should n’t be afraid of numbers and math .
Study linguistics and then? Possible occupational fields
About a third of all linguists choose a career in science . Graduates stay at the university or do research at research institutes such as the Max Planck Institute for Linguistics. The fields of investigation are human language acquisition or languages threatened with extinction. A master’s degree and a subsequent doctorate are generally required for research activities .
Another popular field of work for linguists is the media . Graduates work for publishers, newspapers, television companies and radio stations. Some linguists also work with agencies or work in press and public relations .
Further professional fields for linguists result from the focus on the course. Graduates who specialize in computational linguistics, for example, work for software companies, while patholinguists have a career as a speech therapist .
Reasons for studying abroad
Students who deal full-time with the topic of languages should ideally have a good command of several foreign languages. It is therefore advisable for linguists to spend a semester or two at a university abroad . In this way they have the opportunity to present their language skills to perfection and the local language scientifically to investigate . This can also be interesting in the context of a thesis.
A stay abroad also offers the opportunity to gain valuable additional qualifications, for example intercultural competencies and soft skills such as flexibility and assertiveness.