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Language, Linguistics and Philosophy
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General Information

Announcing the Inaugural sessioin of the Caribbean Language and Linguistics Institute 2008


What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the study of one of the most important human characteristics: language.
It is an interdisciplinary field that involves the integration of the natural sciences, 
the medical sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities.

Studying linguistics is not a matter of learning lots of different languages, 
but rather is the study of language in general. It is the study of the essential 
nature of any human language.


The questions that linguists ask are such as the following:

  • How do linguistic structures relate to the sounds we utter, and how 
    do these relate to the meaning that we express?
  • What is the structure of these sounds, and how are they articulated?
  • How can children master language as quickly as they do, even 
    though the number of sentences in a language appears to be infinitely many?
  • What does this remarkable capacity tell us about the mind?
  • How does human language differ from the communication systems of animals?
  • How does language change through time?
  • By what process does a language diverse into two mutually incomprehensible 
    languages, as did Latin into Rumanian and French and Proto-Arawak into 
    Garifuna and modern Arawak?
  • How can the prehistory of a language be reconstructed?

The Linguistics Department is concerned with these as with related, more practical questions:

  • How can a language best be taught and learned?
  • How can it best be translated?
  • What is involved in the ability to read and write?
  • How does one invent a practical orthography (alphabet and spelling system) 
    for a language?
  • How does language relate to other facets of culture and society?
  • What sorts of problems develop when language doesn't work 
    as it should, such as in various language disorders?
  • How do computer scientists use linguistic descriptions for natural 
    language understanding systems?

The department offers three undergraduate majors:

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