When I tell people I studied English Language and Linguistics at university (bit of a mouthful, I know), most of the time people follow it up by asking what linguistics is.
It’s hard to explain sometimes because I’m unsure whether someone is genuinely interested in hearing a five minute spiel about my course, or whether they’re just being polite and making conversation. I do try and adjust what I’m saying but usually the simplest way of explaining it is by saying that linguistics is the science of language.
People don’t often match science and language as they are seen as two separate disciplines, however linguistics is a mix of both. You analyse, experiment and use theories to inform your work and you also listen, observe and add your own views to what you’re hearing.
It changes all the time and, just like language, it evolves.
As humans, language is our primary means of communication so it’s no wonder we’re fascinated by it. From conversations about the north – south divide of accents to analysing what someone means when they say something, linguistics isn’t just a subject for the lecture theatre.
Having a background in linguistics has obviously made me more aware of how language is used on a daily basis and I am probably more attuned than most to people’s accents, for instance. However, everyone has a view about language use and I love hearing about it.
Therefore when people do ask me about my university studies it generally marks the start of an interesting discussion about language and communication in general.
Yes, there are theories and highly sophisticated ways of representing the scientific part, however linguistics is accessible to all. We all use language, we all communicate and, at the end of the day, we are all human. We have opinions and feelings and use language to get our messages across.
Everyone has their own degree in linguistics when you think about it, each informed by what they know and hear, or what they learn from other people, but it is only when you dig deep into the science behind it all that you appreciate just how complex a subject it is.
And we’ve only touched on the surface.