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All about linguistics

Allaboutlinguistics

Back in the 1970s I did my first degree in French and Linguistic Science at Reading University, at that time the leading institution for the study of linguistics. Staff there included some big names in the field, such as David Crystal, Frank Palmer, Peter Matthews and Peter Trudgill. During my teaching career I would do a session on linguistics almost every year with Lower Sixth students. They were pretty enthusiastic about it and a few were even inspired enough to choose to study it at university.

When I did my degree linguistics was pretty much a fringe subject and we had the impression we were studying something different which would perhaps become more mainstream. Well, my impression is that this never really happened. Whilst you will find linguistics frequently offered as an adjunct to other courses, usually modern languages, it remains a relatively obscure corner of academia.

One reason for this is that school students rarely get a chance to engage with the subject. It is still associated with modern languages, itself a declining area of study in Britain, and in the school setting only a small number of enthusiastic teachers will introduce it to pupils. A-level English Language is the one discipline which covers the field to any extent.

Anyway, I recommend the above website, produced by students at Sheffield University in northern England. It offers a lively introduction to the field with some further references. Teachers could easily refer intermediate level (GCSE) and A-level students to the site as a way in to the subject. Don't forget that, whilst linguistics is likely to appeal to young people with an interest in languages, it also has branches which will appeal to students interested in mathematics, computing, psychology, sociology, anthropology and child development. It may have a particular appeal to young linguists who, like me, loved language learning without necessarily being fully committed at that stage to other cultural areas such as literature and history.

Other introductions to linguistics include Peter Matthews' Very Short Introduction to Linguistics and this series of online lectures from the Virtual Linguistics Campus.

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