Linguistics | Definition of Linguistics by Merriam-Webster


noun, plural in form but singular in construction
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 Emily Jo Noschese, a PhD candidate in linguistics at the University of Hawaii, says she's often encountered this sentiment while interviewing HSL users. Corinne Chin, CNN, 8 Oct. 2021 Deborah Tannen watched the scandal unfold from two perspectives: as a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and as a resident of the nation’s capital. Washington Post, 22 Sep. 2021 Helen is described as Harry’s supportive wife, mother of two teenage kids and a linguistics professor who is getting annoyed by Harry’s constant business trips away from home. Joe Otterson, Variety, 29 Sep. 2021 Her husband had been offered a position as a linguistics professor at Texas Tech and a job as a pastor at a small local church. Eliza Griswold, The New Yorker, 16 Sep. 2021 By chance, Gros had met Pierre Pillet, a linguistics professor at the University of Cambridge and summer resident of La Roquebrussanne. Bebe Hodges, The Enquirer, 18 Aug. 2021 So John studied linguistics and learned German, intending to work as a tour guide. Karina Bland, The Arizona Republic, 9 May 2021 The professor was made an officer in the Order of Isabella the Catholic, a Spanish decoration that includes knights and commanders, in the 1990s for his work on Spanish linguistics., 24 July 2021 The purchaser of his Carnegie Library painting is a linguistics professor who grew up in South Holland, where there was no library, and his mom used to take him to the Harvey facility, Brody said. Paul Eisenberg,, 30 May 2021

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

1829, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for linguistics

Time Traveler

The first known use of linguistics was in 1829

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Dictionary Entries Near linguistics

linguistic island



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Statistics for linguistics

Last Updated

18 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Linguistics.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on linguistics

Nglish: Translation of linguistics for Spanish Speakers

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


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