Roles and responsibilities
Linguists are concerned with the nature of language. Language is a big word, though, and linguists usually focus on specific areas of linguistic enquiry. The foundation is in the structure of sounds, words and sentences, and the meaning encoded by such structures.
Language is such a vital part of our life as humans, and serves a number of different functions which linguists also seek to understand. Some linguists, for example, explore how language is deployed to convey humour, express one’s opinions or be polite.
Linguists are also interested in how language carries social meaning and how people express different identities linguistically. Additionally, linguists study how languages change, using rigorous methods to track their evolution.
Perhaps most excitingly, linguists are interested in a variety of different languages and use their knowledge of language structure, meaning and use to understand the different linguistic systems used by monolingual and multilingual people around the world. Linguistics is not restricted just to spoken language: analysis is conducted on signed and written language, too.
Linguists are employed at universities as researchers and teachers, at government departments, in language curriculum development, at language centres in various linguistically-diverse communities, as translators, interpreters, language teachers and editors.
Some Australian and international linguists use their linguistic expertise in legal cases where scientific knowledge of language is crucial. Other linguists find employment in business, for example helping marketing departments create socially-appropriate names for products.