Language and linguistics offer good research paper topics

There are many benefits to studying Linguistics during one's college career. (Credit: Benjamin Stewart)

There are many benefits to studying Linguistics during one’s college career. (Credit: Benjamin Stewart)

What is linguistics? It’s the study of language and how it’s put together. If you’re looking for good research paper topics for your linguistics, English or foreign languages classes, you can check out Questia.com to find a scholarly article on linguistics, sociolinguistics, semantics or the people who have made contributions to the field.

Linguistics studies grammar, sentence structure, syntax, vocabulary, semantics, lexicon and phonology or the way words sound. There are many branches and fields of study in linguistics, including dialectology, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, computational linguistics and applied linguistics.

Where to find linguistics topics

In addition to Questia.com, you can search the linguistics departments on college and university websites for information on areas of study and programs. You can also visit some linguistics websites including Linguistics.stackexchange.com, which offers questions and answers, as well as various fields of study. Center for Applied Linguistics has practical applications of linguistics in society. LinguistList.org and Omniglot.com offer links to many other linguist sites in a variety of subfields.

Linguistics in society and culture

Speaking a language of unique sounds and grammar rules is something only humans do. “Linguistics is the perfect discipline for study at a liberal arts college because of its highly interdisciplinary nature. Since language is part of everything we do, it’s hard to find a discipline that can’t benefit from a linguistic perspective,” reported the Linguistics Department of Luther College in Iowa on its “Why study linguistics?” web page.

For example, research paper topics can describe how a social scientist uses the study of language, culture, ethnicity and social class in the study of psychology, sociology, anthropology and social work. Political science and business majors need linguistics to study the language of politics and corporate communication. Computer scientists need to understand how computers talk and talk to each other. Foreign language students learn the cross-cultural variation of languages.

Linguistic topics for research papers

There are many branches of linguistics to study and write about for term papers. Check out Questia.com’s Linguistics page for some suggestions for research paper topics. Here are some more ideas:

Semantics – the meanings behind the words we use. Just ask a politician, oil executive, cable news host or high-powered Wall Street trader. Semantics studies the meanings in words, word phrases, “talking points,” implications of words, emotional intent and actionable words.

Sociolinguistics – the reasons why we choose the words we do. It’s the study of language in social context and language variation. Societies, ethnic groups, social classes, geographic regions and even age all influence the type of words and nuanced language we speak.

A research paper topic in sociolinguistics could be studying dialects around the country. For example, Stanford University’s sociolinguistics major offers fieldwork programs. “We have begun to document the English dialects of California… [Students] visit a community in California to interview as large and diverse an assortment of residents as we can. [Then we] work with the data we’ve already collected before going to a new site,” according to the “Welcome to the Stanford Sociolinguistics!” website.

Historical linguistics – the study of how a language changes over time. Any student of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English knows how English has changed over 600 years. Less encompassing could be a study of how American English has changed since the 1800s. Or you could study how today’s written language has changed in the age of Twitter, texting and Facebook – OMG, LMAO!

Famous linguists

A good research paper topic would be to profile the notable people who have contributed to the study of linguistics. For example, Noam Chomsky, “who has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1955, developed a theory of transformational (sometimes called generative or transformational-generative) grammar that revolutionized the scientific study of language,” found on Questia.com.

Other notable linguists include Julia Kristeva, a professor at the University of Paris Diderot who has published on psychoanalysis, literary theory, semiotics, abjection and intertexuality in linguistics, and cultural theory. Benjamin Lee Whorf, linguist and anthropologist, made substantial contributions to the study of the Mayan and Aztec languages.

Check out Questia.com’s Language and Linguistics library and the Linguistics page which have topics such as linguistic anthropology, philology, metalanguages, philosophy of language and notable men and women who study linguistics.

What branch of linguistics would you like to study?

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