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The following outline is provided as an overview and topical guide to linguistics:
Linguistics is the scientific study of natural language. Someone who engages in this study is called a linguist. Linguistics can be theoretical or applied.
Sub-fields of structure-focused linguistics include:
History of linguistics
When were the basic concepts first described and by whom?
What basic concepts / terms do I have to know to talk about linguistics?
Main article: List of linguists
People who had a significant influence on the development of the field
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See also: Outline of academic disciplines and Linguistics § Nomenclature
Linguistics can be described as an academic discipline and, at least in its theoretical subfields, as a field of science, being a widely recognized category of specialized expertise, embodying its own terminology, nomenclature, and scientific journals. Many linguists, such as David Crystal, conceptualize the field as being primarily scientific.
Linguistics is a multi-disciplinary field of research that combines tools from natural sciences, social sciences, formal sciences, and the humanities.
Historically, there has been some lack of consensus on the disciplinary classification of linguistics, particularly theoretical linguistics. Linguistic realists viewed linguistics as a formal science; linguistic nominalists (the American structuralists) viewed linguistics as an empirical or even physical science; linguistic conceptualists viewed linguistics as a branch of psychology and therefore a social science; others yet have argued for viewing linguistics as a mixed science.
Linguistics is heterogeneous in its methods of research, so that each area of theoretical linguistics may resemble methodologically either formal science or empirical science, to different degrees. For example, phonetics uses empirical approaches to study the physical acoustics of spoken language. On the other hand, semantically and grammatically, the usability of a formal or natural language is dependent on a formal and arbitrary axiomatization of rules or norms. Furthermore, as studied in pragmatics and semiotics, linguistic meaning is influenced by social context.
To enable communication by upholding a lexico-semantic norm, the speakers of a shared language need to agree on the meaning of a sequence of phonemes; for instance, "aunt" (/æ/, /n/, /t/) would be acknowledged to signify "parent's sister or parent's sister-in-law", instead of "drummer" or "guest". Likewise, grammatically, it may be necessary for the interlocutors to agree on the morphological and syntactic properties of the sequence; say, that the sequence (/æ/ , /n/, /t/) would be treated as a singular noun convertible morphologically to plurality by the addition of the suffix -s, or that as a noun it must not be modified syntactically by an adverb (for instance, "Let's call our immediately aunt" would thus be recognized as a grammatically incoherent structure, in a manner similar to a mathematically undefined expression).
Modern linguists approach their work with a scientific perspective, although they use methods that used to be thought of as solely an academic discipline of the humanities. Contrary to previous belief, linguistics is multidisciplinary. It overlaps each of the human sciences including psychology, neurology, anthropology, and sociology. Linguists conduct formal studies of sound structure, grammar and meaning, but they also investigate the history of language families, and research language acquisition.