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There are thousands of languages currently in use in the world today. However, due to the prevalence of computers, television, and radio, and the arrival of Western business into Eastern nations, certain dialects and even whole languages are disappearing. Many children are being raised in English, French, or Spanish, and native languages are being wiped from their regions of origin.

Linguists are often the scientists who try and save these endangered dialects. They want to save them not only for the sake of future generations, but also because linguists want to know as much as they can about the evolution of language, and need to document those languages before they disappear and a bit of the puzzle is lost to us forever.

Linguists travel the world, studying in small communities, libraries, and with other linguists and anthropologists, tracking the origin, structure and development of languages, and their influence on our world and lives.

Historical linguists look at the development of language. They might theorize about the evolution of language. For example, they might try and trace all native American languages to only a few root languages, or attempt to pinpoint the region on earth where spoken language was first used.

Sociolinguists look at modern words and their influence on modern society. Psycholinguists study how we learn languages. They might look at babies and their learning processes, in an effort to find the origins of our vocabularies.

Computational linguists study how computers process human languages, and applied linguists use their knowledge of the mechanics (the rules) of language to work outside of the academic field, as computer software designers, translators, speech therapists, and editors.

Humans are unique because of our spoken language. Other animals communicate with one another, but we are really the only ones who create language, both oral and written, in thousands of dialects all around the world. Linguists want to look at language from as many angles as possible. By fully understanding language, the one thing that makes humankind unique, maybe we will have a better idea about who we are.
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Purdue University Global

Building on Purdue's mission to provide greater access to affordable, world-class education, Purdue University Globaldelivers a fully personalized online experience that's tailored to working adults.

Programs Offered:
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  Interests and Skills  
A budding lingiust is someone who loves thinking, analyzing, and discovering new things. They are patient, precise, and careful with research. They need good communication skills, and feel comfortable speaking with and listening to many sorts of people, from all sorts of places and with varying backgrounds. They need good writing skills and an interest in compiling data into readable reports. While they don't need to speak a number of languages, a solid interest in the world's languages is important.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Study the way humans all around the world use language
  • Study the similarities and differences between languages
  • Study the origin and development of words
  • Study the evolution of language
  • Document ancient or little known languages
  • Learn different languages and dialects
  • Teach classes
  • Mark papers and exams
  • Write academic reports and papers on discoveries and theories
  • A linguist will spend much of each day reading, listening, and analyzing things like sentence structure, word choice, inflection, and punctuation. They will most likely spend some of each day explaining their work in essay form, or in lectures, interviews, or workshops. The work is done indoors, unless some research needs to be conducted outside. The job allows for travel, especially if the linguist is studying the origin or language, or is tracking little known dialects.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Linguists are mostly found hard at work in universities, teaching and researching. Some can be found working for government organizations, but the majority of their work is done in academic settings. They work regular hours, with their time divided among research, grading, and classroom work. Their research can take them from the local library to the Peruvian Andes, depending on the language phenomenon they are studying. They work alone, or in teams of other linguists and anthropologists. They can work long hours, depending on the depth of their studies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Most people trained in linguistics work in universities as researchers and professors. However, it is possible to find work outside of the academic world, as a translator, writing computer language software and manuals, and as a consultant for certain companies. There is also the field of speech therapy. Former linguists can also write books and publish articles about their work, work at museums, and work as anthropologists.

  Educational Paths  
Linguists are academic scientists, which means they spend many years in training. The minimum requirement for linguists is a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in linguistics. With this, a linguist can work in a college or find work in the private sector. But anyone who wants to work in universities as a professor needs a PhD.

Students interested in becoming linguists should make sure they study logic, math, computer science, and languages during their undergrad years.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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