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

John McWhorter, a linguistics professor at Columbia, argues the lack of gifted and talented programs in New York City elementary and middle schools is one reason why few minority students are admitted to the city’s top high schools. Allison Schrager, Quartz, "How young is too young to begin preparing for a career?," 6 June 2019 Technology Andy Wood and Matt Kirshen test the limits of everyday AI by using children of a variety of ages in linguistics tests designed to determine which AI is the best at understanding the most people. Robin Marantz Henig, WIRED, "Women May Have an Alternative to Freezing Their Eggs," 27 Mar. 2018 The confusion has been so great that, in a major Supreme Court case, linguistics professors submitted a brief providing the justices with lessons on the punctuation and grammar. Kurt Eichenwald, Newsweek, "Americans Don't Have the Right to Bear Just Any Arms," 16 July 2015 Her father, who retired as a linguistics professor from Hong Kong Baptist University, is an independent researcher in Washington focusing on sociolinguistics and Sudanese languages. New York Times, "Sigrid Jernudd, Naveen Vennam," 18 Feb. 2018 That witness was Roger Shuy, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University. CBS News, "Did a Texas millionaire get away with a brutal double murder?," 23 Jan. 2018 Kidd says Florian Jaeger, a linguistics professor at the New York university's cognitive sciences department who was one of her academic advisers in 2007, pressured her to rent a room in his apartment for a year. Maria Danilova, Houston Chronicle, "Universities face #MeToo movement over sexual harassment," 29 Dec. 2017 Shortly after finishing a linguistics Ph.D. at Berkeley in 1980, Ken Whistler was frustrated by the inability of mainframe computers to print the specialized phonetic symbols that linguists use. Michael Erard, New York Times, "How the Appetite for Emojis Complicates the Effort to Standardize the World’s Alphabets," 18 Oct. 2017 There’s plenty of amusing political material in Annihilation, particularly a bit that compares his ascent to the presidency to Van Halen's garbled lead singer David Lee Roth taking over a university linguistics department. Maeve Mcdermott, USA TODAY, "Patton Oswalt faces wife's death with jokes, heartbreak and body fluids in new Netflix special," 17 Oct. 2017

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

circa 1837, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for linguistics

Last Updated

14 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for linguistics

The first known use of linguistics was circa 1837

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on linguistics

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with linguistics

Spanish Central: Translation of linguistics

Nglish: Translation of linguistics for Spanish Speakers

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

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an act or instance of editing or removing

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