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Why study Linguistics?

Linguistics is defined as the scientific study of language. It looks at all aspects of language: how speech sounds are produced, how they are combined, how words are formed, how complex structures like sentences are formed, how babies learn to master these complex structures and what this tells us about the human brain, how language pathologies can be characterised, how language is used and represented in society, how the meaning of words is created, how discourses shape people’s ideas and how we change our language according to the social situation in which we are operating. Linguistics is a fascinating subject area because language informs every human activity, and we use language practically every minute of our waking lives. Linguistics courses are intended to provide students with an appreciation and understanding of the complex structures that constitute language, and the rules that govern it. Linguistics is a useful subject for anyone going into a communication profession, like journalism, public relations or creative writing. It is also of great interest to psychologists, and vital to speech pathologists and audiologists. In Europe and North America, there is considerable research into computational linguistics, that is, the use of computers to process language and to respond to spoken and written instructions. Another interesting application, sadly underdeveloped in this country, is forensic linguistics, the use of linguistics to ascertain the origin of recorded speech clips or of written documents, in order to solve criminal cases or aid decisions in civil disputes.

Research Profile

Dr Ramona Kunene Nicolas investigates language acquisition of South African Bantu languages and Romance languages from a multimodal; verbal and non-verbal perspective.

Dr Gilles Baro writes on languages in public spaces (especially from a multimodal perspective), on the semiotics of urban spaces, and on the globalization of language.

Dr Andrew van der Spuy's research is focused on theories of word structure, and on describing the structure of South African Bantu languages, especially isiZulu.

Prof. Maxwell Kadenge writes on the phonology of Southern African languages, particularly those of Zimbabwe.