Fromkin, Victoria A. Department of Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles, California.
Last reviewed:July 2020
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- Phonetics and phonology
- Branches of linguistics
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The science of language. Linguistics, that is, the scientific study of language, is concerned with the general and universal properties of language. Interest in language seems to have arisen in the earliest history of the human species. Every culture has left records that reveal philosophical or practical concerns for this unique human characteristic. The focus of much linguistic inquiry involves the formulation of a theory of generative grammar, which analyzes the biological basis for the acquisition and use of human language and the universal principles that constrain the class of all languages. In particular, generative grammar distinguishes between the knowledge of language (linguistic competence), which is represented by mental grammar, and the production and comprehension of speech (linguistic performance). In addition, the areas of the brain specialized for language have been investigated (see illustration). See also: Anthropology; Brain; Cognition; Psychology; Speech; Speech perception
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