Linguist or Bilingual - Difference Between Both


Have you ever ask yourself what is the difference between linguists and bilinguals? And if you can speak more than one language, do you think you’re a linguist or bilingual, or maybe both! The word “Bilingual” may seem familiar but what about the whole thing called “bilingualism” and what about the word “linguist” or “linguistics”. Do many people know the study of linguistics!

Before we start talking about linguistics and bilingualism let’s see what “language” means: Language is a combination of sounds, representing words (which can be represented in writing by symbols), and these are combined by grammar rules to form sentences. It is used by human beings, to communicate, and to share and express their inner status.

What Does Bilingual Mean?

To many, bilingual means that a person can talk more than one language fluently, others say that you must be a native speaker of 2 languages to be considered a bilingual.

What we are sure about is that Bilingual people can speak 2languages, some may have a good accent but still make some grammar mistakes, others are perfect when it comes to structures but not good when it comes to the accent.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of bilingual is: 

Bilingual as a Noun: “A person fluent in two languages”

Bilingual as an Adjective: “Speaking two languages fluently”

From this, we can draw at least one conclusion: Bilingualism is a relative label, a question of degree rather than a dichotomy. It’s also a fundamentally subjective phenomenon, one that is first and foremost felt.

What Is Bilingualism?

Bilingualism (or more generally: Multilingualism) is the phenomenon of speaking and understanding two or more languages. The term can refer to individuals (individual bilingualism) as well as to an entire society (social bilingualism).

The term can also refer to the corresponding scientific research which studies the phenomenon itself.  Bilingualism, multilingualism, and polyglotism can all be used as synonyms for the same phenomenon.

What Does Linguist Mean?

According to Merriam Webster, a linguist mean :

a person accomplished in languages especially: one who speaks several languages Or: a person who specializes in linguistics 

We can say that a linguist is concerned with language as a human phenomenon, linguists study grammar, the social and psychological aspects of language use, and the relationships among languages both historical and present day.

What Is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the study of language. It considers language as a cultural, social, and psychological phenomenon and seeks to determine what is unique in languages, what is universal, how language is acquired, and how it changes. linguistics is, therefore, one of the cognitive sciences, it provides a link between the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education and hearing and speech sciences.

If you want to be a linguist, then you must know these 5 divisions:

  1. Phonology: is the scientific study of speech sound. It involves analyzing how sounds in English for example depending on their position in a word. Phonologists examine such phonetics shifts to construct theories about linguistics sounds in one language that can be used in comparing linguistics systems.

  2. Morphology is the study of the structure of words. Morphologists study minimal units of meaning, called “morphemes” and investigate the possible combinations of these units in a language to form words.

  3. The syntax is the study of the structure of sentences. Syntacticians describe how words combine into phrases and clauses and how these combine to form sentences and make sure they are grammatical.

  4. Semantics is the study of meaning in language. The goal of the semantic study is to explain how sequences of language are matched with their proper meanings and placed in certain environments by the speaker of the language.

  5. Pragmatics is the study of the implied meaning and looks at how context affects meaning. As a function of context, the intended meaning of an utterance is often different from its literal meaning.

So linguistics shares with other sciences a concern to be objective, systematic, consistent, and explicit in its account of language. a linguist is a scientist and an artist too. And for bilingualism, it is really important nowadays to know at least two languages. But being bilingual does not mean you’re a linguist! And being a linguist does not mean you have to be bilingual!

Article By - Nour Fawzi 

Edited By - Khushi Prajapati

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