Linguistics: The Main Branches

  • Geoffrey Finch
Part of the Palgrave Study Guides book series (SGS)


The last three chapters have dealt with the core areas of linguistics. Between them, phonetics/phonology, syntax and semantics/pragmatics constitute the principal levels of linguistics. Whatever branch of the subject we look at we shall inevitably find ourselves talking about them. We use the metaphor of a tree here because this seems the best way to capture the relationship between these core areas, collectively the ‘trunk’, and the individual disciplines, or ‘branches’, which sprout from them. Changing the metaphor, we could think of the core as the hub of a wheel with the various branches as the individual spokes radiating out. The diagram in Figure 30 shows the main ones, followed by a brief definition of each:
  • sociolinguistics — the study of language and society.

  • stylistics — the study of language and literature.

  • psycholinguistics — the study of language and mind.

  • computational linguistics — the simulation of language by the use of computers.

  • comparative linguistics — the study of different languages and their respective linguistic systems.

  • historical linguistics — the study of language change over time.

  • applied linguistics — the study of language teaching. (You will sometimes find that stylistics and comparative linguistics are treated as sub-branches of applied linguistics.)


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© Geoffrey Finch 2000

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  • Geoffrey Finch

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