What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the study of human language in all its aspects, and as such is a perhaps uniquely broad and interdisciplinary area of study. Linguists may be interested in the structure and history of languages; the meaning underlying instances of language use; how children learn language; what goes on when people are speaking; how people understand, mentally represent and generate language. We ask big questions such as:

– How can language help us understand what all humans share and what makes them diverse socially and culturally?

– Why languages differ?

– What happens to language abilities when the brain is damaged by stroke or injury?

– How language is used in literature, the media and by various social groups?

– How can we model human language use?

– Will computers ever be able to understand language?

Listen to Aditi’s welcome video first!

Our Faculty aims to be at the forefront of linguistics research across a range of subdisciplines, and our staff conduct research on a range of questions: from exploring sound production in world languages through looking at how language is processed in the brain to looking at the ways in which language shapes society. Check out the videos below to better understand the subfields of linguistics represented in our faculty:


Explore how John describes how we make sounds.


Listen to Holly discuss patterns of sounds of world languages.


Listen to Victor talking about the study of word formation.


In this video, Isabella and Charles will tell you how language is processed in the brain.


In this video, Kinga talks about the role of language in society.


In this video, Jamie will explain how we form phrases and sentences.


Discover the study of meaning with Daniel.


Listen to Charlotte discuss endangered languages and the fascinating work linguists do with them.


Want to learn more? Here are some recommended resources to check out:

  • David Adger. 2019. Language unlimited: the science behind our most creative power. OUP.
  • David Hornsby. 2014. Linguistics: a complete introduction. Teach Yourself Series, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.
  • John McWhorter. 2011. What language is (and what it isn’t, and what it could be). Gotham.
  • Geoffrey Pullum. 2018. Linguistics: why it matters. Polity
  • E. M. Rickerson & Barry Hilton. 2012. The 5-minute linguist: bite-sized essays on language and languages. Equinox.
Other resources
  • Oxplore asked “Would it be better if we all spoke the same language?”
  • Oxford Linguistics Society have produced a series of video interviews with professor across Linguistics — check out their Youtube Channel to learn more