Very simply stated, Linguistics is the scientific study of language. What this means is that linguists try to understand the patterns in language by looking at aspects such as the structure of language, language acquisition and learning, and the relationship between language and culture. In other words, linguists try to understand how language works, how we use language, and what different languages have in common.

While the definition of linguistics might seem clear, there are still many misconceptions regarding linguistics. One of the biggest misconceptions is that all linguists speak many languages. But, while some linguists do speak more than one language, it is not a prerequisite for becoming a linguist. Some linguists spend their entire lives studying only one language.

Another misconception is that linguists are translators. This is not at all the case. It could happen that some linguists perform translations between the languages they work with, but it is not their job to do translations for other people.

When you study linguistics at the UFS, you will mainly work in two fields:


This field of linguistics is concerned with the relationship between language and society, specifically looking at the effect of culture, beliefs, and norms on language. Issues such as language policy and management are also addressed by sociolinguists.

Formal linguistics

Formal linguistics includes a number of fields of linguistics which focus on the formal structures of language such as phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and to some extent also pragmatics (which for the most part is is about language use and context more than about formal structures).

Linguistics is linked to other disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, anthropology, sociology, and computer science. Some linguists work across disciplines, and all linguistics students are encouraged to broaden their scope of knowledge by combining their studies in linguistics with compatible fields.


T: +27 51 401 2240 or

Marizanne Cloete: +27 51 401 2592

Neliswa Emeni-Tientcheu: +27 51 401 2536
Juanita Hlongwane: +27 51 401 3269

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