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What is Linguistics?

Nobody knows for certain just how many languages are currently spoken all over the world. Estimates vary widely, ranging all the way from 5,000 to 10,000, depending on your source and point of view. However many languages there may be, what we can say for certain is that each and every one is of interest to the linguist, who explores the nature and structure of language by carefully noting both the similarities and the differences that exist among the very diverse languages of the world. In much the same way that botanists look upon the large variety of plants in existence as the raw material for examination and classification, linguists use the diversity of languages of the world as the raw material for their own investigations. We are all native speakers of at least one language. By the same token, we are all "language experts", in the sense that we are in possession of a great deal of knowledge about what is and is not linguistically permissible in our native tongue, even if we do not know that we know! One of the first skills budding linguists have to acquire is an explicit awareness of their knowledge of their own particular language.

Linguistic analyses of language can be carried out at various levels, the most important of which are the following:

  • Phonetics and Phonology, which analyse the sound structure of language
  • Morphology and Syntax, which are concerned with the formation of words and the structure of phrases and sentences
  • Semantics and Pragmatics, which respectively deal with linguistic meaning outside of its context of use and in the communicative setting

Given the fact that language is such a fundamental aspect of human behaviour, it is only to be expected that Linguistics should also have links to other areas of study. For example, one can also take a historical view of languages and their development (Historical Linguistics), or try to describe and analyse the relationship between language and society (Sociolinguistics), or investigate individuals' acquisition of language and the mental phenomena surrounding language use (Psycholinguistics). Other areas of interest are Applied Linguistics, the various strands of which include the application of linguistic research to the teaching of languages. Two relatively new but extremely productive disciplines are those of Computational Linguistics and Corpus Linguistics, which harness the computer's ever-increasing processing power and capacity for data storage and processing.

Thus, Linguistics interfaces with numerous other disciplines, including anthropology, psychology and cognitive science, and Artificial Intelligence. The work conducted at the Institute is highly multi-disciplinary, and this is also reflected in our approach to the study of language, as well as the programmes we offer.




Linguistics Circle (06 Dec)
Georgios Yannakakis, Institute of Digital Games, University of Malta

Title:  AI designing games for us with (or without) us

Date: Wednesday 6th December 2017 at 12:00 hrs

Venue: GW164

Change in Name
As of April 2017, the Institute has officially changed its name to Institute of Linguistics and Language Technology.

Class timetables are now available from this page.

For study-units LIN1063, LIN1065, LIN2013 and LIN5063, please click on this page to check the Academic English timetable.

Ethical approval
Deadlines for submission of ethical approval forms to the Institute Research Ethics Committee are now available on the Research page.
Posts of Part-Time Research Support Assistant or Officer I/II
Posts of Part-Time Research Support Assistant or Officer I/II for the MASRI project that aims to build a Maltese speech recognition system.  
Post of Part Time Research Support Officer I, II or III
Post of Part Time Research Support Officer I, II or III  for the Maltese Sign Language Research Project.
Last Updated: 19 November 2014

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