Linguistics is the study of the human language faculty. It requires the investigation of a highly structured system of knowledge within the mind of the speaker (a mental grammar), which is examined empirically and modeled formally. Linguists seek to establish the general principles governing the organization, emergence, and use of language, including a model of how languages vary across space and time. Language is treated as a natural object, like other cognitive faculties, serving as a natural point of entry into scientific discovery and the tools of scientific reasoning, such as pattern recognition, experimental design, and hypothesis construction and testing. Linguistics serves as a "bridge" discipline between the sciences and the humanities, since language is at the center of humanistic inquiry, from philosophy and history to literary theory and language and cultural studies.
Linguistic courses at Bucknell address the following universal questions of human nature:
- Are humans the only species that can talk?
- Can chimpanzees and dolphins talk, too?
- What is special about human being that demands meaning and means of self-expression?
- How did languages originally emerge?
- Do all languages derive from one original language or more than one?
- Why do different peoples speak different languages?
- Do we think differently depending on the language we speak?
- How do children learn their native language so easily-- unconsciously, in fact--when learning a second language is so difficult?
- What role do parents play in language acquisition?
- What is required to learn a second language?
- How can a second language be acquired more easily?
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