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Study the science behind language.

What does a Linguist do?

Linguists strive to answer the question: “How did words get their meanings?” Tasked with scientifically studying language—both written and spoken—they do so by approaching words like a zoologist approaches animals: They study their anatomy, behavior, and habitat in order to figure out why they do what they do.

When you’re a linguist, you specialize in either theoretical linguistics or practical linguistics. Theoretical linguistics looks at grammar, syntax, semantics, etymology, and phonetics. Grammar is the structure of language, while syntax is its arrangement. Semantics, meanwhile, is the meaning of language, while etymology is its origin. Finally, phonetics is the sound of language.

On the other hand, if you specialize in practical linguistics, you focus on the use and application of language by interpreters, translators, speech therapists, and foreign language teachers.

Because you understand language, you understand communication, which means you’ve got many employment options. As a linguist you might work in computers helping companies develop speech recognition software, search engines, and artificial intelligence. You might work in business helping companies name products, or in international relations performing cross-cultural translation. Or you might work in education, teaching foreign languages.

If you prefer research, you might conduct language surveys and document the emergence of new words. You might also work in government helping military and intelligence agencies decipher communications. You might even work in theater, training actors in pronunciation, intonation, and dialect.

Really, the options are endless—and so are the words for describing them, all of which you no doubt know (and in every language, too)!

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