University of Hong Kong > School of Humanities

Why Study linguistics?

Linguistics is the study of the structural, social and biological dimensions of language. It encompasses the study of the grammar, evolution, and history of different languages across the world, together with the culture and society of their speakers. It also includes the study of the biological and psychological foundations of human language, addressing for example, how language is learnt by children or processed in the brain while we speak.

Linguistics draws on methods and knowledge from many scientific disciplines. For example, linguists learn to use special software to help them analyse the grammar of languages, many of which have never been studied. Phonology, the study of sounds, makes use of insights and methods from physics. Studying and comparing the history of different languages often involves the use of statistics. A linguist may spend hours pondering over old manuscripts in an ancient language or study youth culture in Tokyo. Scanners and eye-trackers in a high-tech laboratory can serve to unravel how language is organized in our brains. As a student of linguistics you will therefore be encouraged to develop a multidisciplinary way of thinking, learning and doing things.

The study of linguistics provides essential skills for a broad range of careers in which language and communication play a role. This includes traditional avenues for linguists like teaching, academic research, journalism and publishing. Beyond that, the digital technology revolution has exponentially increased employment possibilities for linguistics graduates. They help develop user interfaces, program language and speech recognition software and participate in the quest to improve artificial intelligence. Linguists are also sought after in business for their understanding of the role of communication, negotiation, mediation and information management for the success of operations.

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