What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. For the most part, linguists focus on language structure and use, figuring out how individual pieces (such as words and sounds) fit together and carry meaning. While the field may involve analyzing written systems, much of linguistics looks at how language is spoken/signed. There are many different subfields, including computational linguistics, historical linguistics, and forensic linguistics.


At UVM, there are two main areas of concentration: sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics.

  • Sociolinguistics is the study of language and society. An example of a sociolinguistic study would be looking at how rates of sound change in a community are affected by age, class, gender, race, sexuality, etc.
  • Psycholinguistics is the study of language and the mind. A psycholinguistic study might investigate how children acquire language.

Writing in Linguistics

Most writing in linguistics will require you to refer to a set of data to draw conclusions from. Examples of assignments might include:

  • Homework that asks students to find data relating to a specific concept (e.g. pictures or videos that show a certain trend) and analyze it, write about the significance of a given example, or solve a problem.
  • Traditional lab reports.
  • Larger research papers, often based on experiments the student has conducted themselves throughout the semester.

What type of writing the student will use is highly dependent on the subfield the student is working in. As such, it is always useful to refer to back to the assignment.

  • No matter what, keep writing directly and objectively.