lin·​guis·​tics liŋ-ˈgwi-stiks How to pronounce linguistics (audio)
plural in form but singular in construction
: 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 In linguistics and speech pathology, rhotacization means changing some consonant like /d/ or /l/ to an /r/. Kyle Hill, Discover Magazine, 11 Mar. 2014 In linguistics, the term syncope refers to a moment when a letter — typically a vowel — is omitted in the pronunciation of a word. Devin Kelly, Longreads, 26 Jan. 2023 Dennis Preston, a professor of linguistics at the University of Kentucky, said responsible speech research takes into account the differences among age, race and more. Saleen Martin, USA TODAY, 21 Jan. 2023 Deeming her a pioneer and an inspiration for his work, Crowell considers de Laguna’s success to be an outcome of her interest in archaeology, linguistics and anthropology. Jonathon Keats, Discover Magazine, 8 Feb. 2021 Penelope Eckert, a professor of linguistics at Stanford University, said languages are largely a reflection of ideology. Cody Cottier, Discover Magazine, 1 June 2018 Khatchatourian has a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara, graduating summa cum laude in communication, art history and sociocultural linguistics. Los Angeles Times, 29 Nov. 2022 Among the humanities, only two increased: cultural, ethnic and gender studies, and linguistics. Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, 2 Sep. 2022 His other writings covered folklore, primitive art, and linguistics. Allison Futterman, Discover Magazine, 15 Feb. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'linguistics.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1829, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of linguistics was in 1829

Dictionary Entries Near linguistics

Cite this Entry

“Linguistics.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


lin·​guis·​tics liŋ-ˈgwis-tiks How to pronounce linguistics (audio)
: the study of human speech including the units, nature, structure, and development of language, languages, or a language

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