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Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and structure. Linguistics is concerned with the cognitive as well as the social aspects of language. It is considered an applied scientific field as well as an academic discipline within the humanities and social sciences; it has been classified as a social science, natural science, cognitive science, or part of the humanities.
Traditional areas of linguistic analysis correspond to syntax (rules governing the structure of sentences), semantics (meaning), morphology (structure of words), phonetics (speech sounds and equivalent gestures in sign languages), phonology (the abstract sound system of a particular language), and pragmatics (how social context contributes to meaning). Subdisciplines such as biolinguistics (the study of the biological variables and evolution of language) and psycholinguistics (the study of psychological factors in human language) bridge many of these divisions.
Linguistics encompasses many branches and subfields that span both theoretical and practical applications. Theoretical linguistics (including traditional descriptive linguistics) is concerned with understanding the fundamental nature of language and developing a general theoretical framework for describing it. Applied linguistics seeks to utilise the scientific findings of the study of language for practical purposes, such as developing methods of improving language education and literacy.
Linguistic phenomena may be studied through a variety of perspectives: synchronically (describing a language at a specific point of time) or diachronically (through historical development); in monolinguals or multilinguals; children or adults; as they are learned or already acquired; as abstract objects or cognitive structures; through texts or oral elicitation; and through mechanical data collection versus fieldwork. (Full article...)
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Rongorongo is a system of glyphs discovered in the 19th century on Easter Island that appears to be writing or proto-writing. It has not been deciphered despite numerous attempts. Although some calendrical and what might prove to be genealogical information has been identified, not even these glyphs can be read. If rongorongo does prove to be writing, it would be one of only three or four known independent inventions of writing in human history. Two dozen wooden objects bearing rongorongo inscriptions, some heavily weathered, burned, or otherwise damaged, were collected in the late 19th century and are now scattered in museums and private collections. The objects are mostly tablets made from irregular pieces of wood, sometimes driftwood, but include a chieftain's staff, a bird-man statuette, and two reimiro ornaments. Oral history suggests that only a small elite was ever literate and that the tablets were sacred. Authentic rongorongo texts are written in alternating directions, a system called reverse boustrophedon. In the case of the tablets these lines are often inscribed in shallow fluting carved into the wood. The glyphs have a characteristic outline appearance and include human, animal, plant, artifact and geometric forms. (more...)
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