What is Linguistics?
Linguistics, the systematic study of human language, lies at the crossroads of the humanities and the social sciences. Much of its appeal derives from the special combination of intuition and rigor that the analysis of language demands. Major subfields include: phonetics and phonology, the study of speech sounds; syntax, the study of how words are combined; semantics, the study of meaning; historical linguistics, the study of language change in time; and computational linguistics, the modeling of natural language in all its aspects from a computational perspective.
Studying linguistics is not a matter of studying many languages. Linguistics is a theoretical discipline with ties to such areas as cognitive psychology, philosophy, logic, computer science and anthropology. Nonetheless, knowing particular languages (e.g., Spanish or Japanese) in some depth can enhance understanding of the general properties of human language. Not surprisingly, many students of linguistics owe their initial interest to a period of exposure to a foreign language, and those who come to linguistics by some other route find their knowledge about languages enriched and are often stimulated to embark on further foreign language study.