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In Part 1 of this first lesson on linguistics, we looked at a definition of linguistics, the 3 main branches of linguistics, and one working definition linguists use for language. In this second part, we shall continue to look at the different areas of linguistics.

As already mentioned, linguistics has 3 main branches: soundstructure, and meaning. These 3 branches are more groupings or categorizations of the 6 areas of linguistics. That is, if you take an introductory linguistics course at university, the syllabus will most likely break up the units into six topics, not three. The 6 areas traditionally spoken of, and the main branches they would fall under are:

Sound – Phonetics, Phonology

Structure – Morphology, Syntax

Meaning – Semantics, Pragmatics

The first branch – sound – is pretty self-explanatory. The two areas under it deal with the sounds of different languages. This includes all the various sounds found across different languages, as well as the sounds specific to a language.

The second branch – structure – deals with what is called grammar in lay terms or language learning resources. The quick difference between morphology and syntax is that the former deals with words and units of meaning, while the latter with sentences. Whereas with grammar both individual words and how they are combined into bigger sentences are explained.

The last branch – meaning – seems pretty self-explanatory on the surface. It deals with the meaning of words and sentences, both in general and in specific circumstances. The reason I wrote “on the surface” is that from a linguistic point of view, meaning in terms of grammatical structure is deal with by either morphology or syntax, whereas meaning in terms of the greater context of an utterance (that is, something uttered or said) is dealt with by semantics or pragmatics. (If that doesn’t make sense, it will become clearer in the following weeks.) From a non-linguistic point of view, this distinction is perhaps rarely made.

Over this series I will cover in more detail each of the 6 areas. Next week we’ll start by examining phonetics and phonology.



  1. “MOOC: Linguistics 101 – Fundamentals”, The Virtual Linguistics Campus: http://linguistics.online.uni-marburg.de/