noun, plural in form but singular in construction
lin·​guis·​tics | \ liŋ-ˈgwi-stiks How to pronounce linguistics (audio) \

Definition of linguistics

: the study of human speech including the units, nature, structure, and modification of language

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Any analysis of language, including 8th-grade grammar, can be called linguistics. As recently as 200 years ago, ordinary grammar was about the only kind of linguistics there was. Today a linguist may be a person who learns foreign languages, but the term usually refers to people who devote themselves to analyzing the structure of language. Many linguists concentrate on the history of a language; others study the way children learn to speak; others analyze the sounds of a language—and still others just study English grammar, a subject so big that you could easily spend your entire life on it.

Examples of linguistics in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Motorola's linguistics team worked with native language speakers of both languages throughout the project, which meant training them on the company's tools and practices. Carolina Milanesi, Forbes, 27 May 2021 Gabi, who graduated from Cal last May with a degree in cognitive science (a mix of computer, linguistics and psychology) is working for Pfizer and will be moving to New York. John Maffei, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6 May 2021 An expert in forensic linguistics examined the letter on March 5, 2021, and compared it with other letters written by Lavigne, according to the district attorney's office. Sahar Akbarzai, CNN, 25 May 2021 That enabled her and her staff to sort through a vast database of digitized Canadian publications, parliamentary debates and books that had been collected as a linguistics project by a Canadian university. New York Times, 16 May 2021 There are no records of it, but scholars have reconstructed it through the method of comparative linguistics. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, 3 May 2021 Triniti Thao, a senior linguistics major, also finds her students' progress rewarding. Peter Warren, Star Tribune, 12 Feb. 2021 Pregnancy is a really sensitive period in terms of brain development for babies, and all types of cognitive, motor, linguistics abilities, and emotion-regulation skills. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, 30 Mar. 2021 After settling in Ohio, Mr. McGinn taught linguistics at Ohio University in Athens, and Ms. McGinn went to work as a librarian, first at the Athens County Mental Health Center and then at the Athens Public Library. New York Times, 9 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'linguistics.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of linguistics

1829, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for linguistics

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The first known use of linguistics was in 1829

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Statistics for linguistics

Last Updated

8 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Linguistics.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for linguistics



English Language Learners Definition of linguistics

: the study of language and of the way languages work


lin·​guis·​tics | \ liŋ-ˈgwis-tiks How to pronounce linguistics (audio) \

Kids Definition of linguistics

: the study of human speech including the nature, structure, and development of language or of a language or group of languages

More from Merriam-Webster on linguistics

Nglish: Translation of linguistics for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of linguistics for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about linguistics


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