We explain what linguistics is, its object of study and branches. Also, examples of linguistic and non-linguistic communication.

What is linguistics?

Linguistics is the science that studies the phenomena of language , as well as its origins, its changes over time, its structure and operation. Its purpose is to better understand both languages living and dead, that is, those that nobody talks, but explaining how modern languages have emerged.

Of all the inventions of the human being , language is the most complex system that exists , whose dynamics cross the field of interest of very different sciences. This is partly because it is a tool that reflects our thinking .

Among the disciplines that study it is, from the 3rd century BC. C, philology: guided by a historical perspective of language, turning to written texts, mainly those of a historical, philosophical and literary type . Linguistics has been added to it since the 19th century.

As a science, linguistics is more oriented towards living language: the way of speaking it and the ways in which it operates at a given moment in history . This does not mean that written texts ?literary or not? are not also of interest to him, but in that case he also addresses them from a systemic perspective, typical of modern sciences.

However, both philology and linguistics are daughters of ancient grammar: a science linked to rhetoric and cultivated in Greco-Roman antiquity.

Linguistics was born at the beginning of the 19th century , the result of a paradigm shift that favored scientific thought (more specifically, the school of positivism) and that could conceive of language itself as a substance worthy of objective, systemic study.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) published his Course in General Linguistics in 1916 . There he established the most important scientific guidelines for linguistic study, such as the differentiation between language and speech , meaning and signifier, and other elements that revolutionized the way of thinking about language.

Object of study

Object of study

Linguistics is, at the same time, a social science and one of the branches of psychology , since its particular object of study - language - is importantly related to:

  • Mental processes: They occur from the acquisition of the language itself, to its link with thought and with the psychoanalytic construction of consciousness, for example.
  • Social processes: They intervene because language is our main community tool and is a fundamental element in group identity, in the sense of belonging and in the construction of all social ties.

For this reason, the main objective of linguistics is the formulation of a general theory of natural languages, as well as the cognitive system that supports them. In other words, the object of study of linguistics is both language and the complex system that accompanies it , makes it possible and allows it to be what it is.

In addition, the different branches of linguistics have their own specialized objective, such as semantics (the study of meaning), pragmatics (the study of contexts), grammar (the study of the rules that make up a language), etc.

Branches of linguistics

Linguistics can be organized in different fields or levels, according to the specific aspect of the language that is of interest to you, as follows:

  • Phonetics and phonology . This is the name given to the study of the sounds necessary for the realization of verbal language. This encompasses both the physical emissions of each sound that is articulated, as well as the specific configuration of our speech apparatus at the time of producing it; but also the acoustic (mental) images to which these sounds are associated and which serve to refer to something in particular in reality. Thus, phonetics has to do with speech (concrete, physical, changing) and phonology with language (abstract, mental, enduring).
  • Morphology and syntax . Normally referred to as a single discipline, morphosyntax , these branches of linguistics are concerned with understanding both the dynamics of the very formation of words, that is, the way in which the minimum significant pieces of each word are composed and integrated, as, at the same time, the dynamics of formation of the sentences by means of the combinatorics of the words already formed. This means that morphology is the study of the form (and formation) of words, while syntax is the study of the (sentence) organization of words.
  • Semantics and pragmatics . The first discipline of this pair, which is usually studied together, focuses on the meaning of words and the ways in which they can be associated, share meanings and form a lexical system, that is, a dynamic, living swarm of meanings. ; while the second, pragmatics, is more interested in extralinguistic (non-verbal) elements that have a role on meanings, that is, on the contexts in which what is said is said, and that can be as much or more significant than what was said.

Examples of linguistic communication

In the communication language intervenes language , that is, the ability of human beings to develop codes, sign systems and grant the latter a symbolic function. This is a unique ability of the human being (as far as we know).

Examples of linguistic communication are the following cases:

  • The verbal interaction of two people face to face.
  • Communication through written messages , either on paper (a message slipped under the door) or on electronic support (a text message).
  • All traffic signs that a driver is able to understand and anticipate dangers on the road.
  • The language of the deaf-mute .
  • The message of any audiovisual commercial .

Examples of non-linguistic communication

Examples of non-linguistic communication

On the contrary, we will speak of non-linguistic communication for those cases of communication in which language does not intervene in any way, but the exchange of information occurs through non-systematic mechanisms , such as instinctual, biochemical or sensory.

The following cases are examples of non-linguistic communication:

  • The growl with which one dog frightens another that enters its territory.
  • The meow of cats, even when directed at humans.
  • The chemical communication between the ants , which allows them to pass on the place of the uncovered jam.
  • Certain flirtatious and flirtatious situations between humans, which do not involve the spoken word.
  • The cellular communication that triggers the immune response of the body.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from technology experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


Luke is passionate about fostering student involvement and connection. He studied psychology for his major and likes learning about the past. Luke aims to specialize in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. .

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