Micro Branches of linguistics Micro Branches of linguistics 
Home » Linguistics » Branches of Linguistics | Micro and Macro

The Micro Branches of linguistics are phonetics, phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax, pragmatics Discourse analysis, and Applied linguistics.

The Macro Branches of Linguistics include Sociolinguistics, Psycholinguistics, Theoretical Linguistics, Descriptive linguistics, Historical linguistics, Dialectology, Computational linguistics, Neurolinguistics, and Stylistics.

What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the scientific or systematic study of human language and its features. Insofar as it investigates the concepts, structures, and laws governing human languages, it qualifies as a science. So, it is concerned with human language as a universal and recognizable part of human behavior and of human abilities. The aims of the linguistic theory are:

  • What is knowledge of language? (Competence)
  • How is knowledge of language acquired? Acquisition)

Linguistics has two main Purposes:

  1. One is that it studies the nature of language tries to establish a theory of language and describes languages in the light of the theory established.
  2. The other is that it examines all the forms of language in general and seeks a scientific understanding.

What is Language?

“Language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of voluntarily produced symbols.”

Edward Sapir (1884-1939):

The global language learning market is projected to reach $84.2 billion by 2028.

(Source: Grand View Research)
Chart of Global Language Learning Market 84.2 Billion $
Chart of Linguistics Market

Micro Branches of Linguistics


Phonetics is the scientific study of the physical properties of speech sounds of human language. It generally studies the characteristics of speech sounds. It deals with three functions, articulation, transmission, and reception of speech sounds.

  • Articulatory Phonetics: it is the study of the production or articulation of speech sounds.
  • Acoustic Phonetics: it is the study of the acoustic characteristics of speech as the transmission of sound waves.
  • Auditory phonetics: which deals with the perception, via the ear, of speech sounds.


Phonology is the study of how speech sounds function in a language and the ways speech sounds are organized. And, it examines sounds as discrete, abstract elements in the speaker’s mind that distinguish meaning.

  • Studies the sound system of languages.
  • Distinctive sounds within a language.
  • Nature of sound systems across languages.

There are over 6,000 languages spoken in the world today, with hundreds more facing endangerment or extinction.

(Source: UNESCO, 2023)
languages_distribution_chart - Spoken Languages are over 6000 worldwide
Chart of Languages


Morphology is the study of the formation and internal structure of words from smaller units called morphemes. It might be seen as word grammar that divides words into morphemes.

  • Free Morphemes: can’t be divided e.g. ‘cat’, ‘pen’, and ‘bag’ etc.
  • Bound Morphemes: can be divided further into chunks e.g. ‘unkind’=un+kind, ‘flying’=fly+ing, ‘fashionable’= fashion+able, etc.


Semantics (the Study of language meaning of words) is a branch of linguistics that is concerned with the study of meaning in all its formal aspects. Words have several types of meanings. For example: “conceptual, connotative, collocative, reflective, affective, social, and thematic“.


Syntax (the grammar of sentence construction) is the study of word relationships that result in grammatical sentences. It deals with the combination of words into phrases, clauses, and sentences. It is the grammar of sentence construction.

Syntactic phrases include:

  • Noun Phrase: a tall man, the bus.
  • Verb Phrase: go around, bell the cat.
  • Prepositional Phrase: in the class, at the club.
  • Adjective Phrase: Very good, nice girl.


Pragmatics: (study of meaning in context or study of language in use) It studies language in context and the influence of the situation on meaning. Therefore, it focuses on how utterances are used (literally, figuratively, or otherwise) in communicative acts.: the study of the meaning of words (lexical semantics). The fixed word combinations and how these combine to form the meanings of sentences.

How we use language to communicate rather than how it is internally structured. Because it concerns how listeners determine the intended meaning of speakers and how speakers use language in ways that don’t belong to linguistic knowledge alone. PRAGMATICS -MEANING-SEMANTICS.

Applied Linguistics

It is mainly interested in how concepts are applied in practical situations, such as language instruction. So, applied linguistics is the study of how language is used in real-life situations. It covers a wide range of topics, from language teaching and learning to language research.

Applied linguistics helps people communicate more effectively in different languages. Similarly, applied linguistics handles such areas as discourse analysis and analysis of conversation, language assessment, as well as language pedagogy.

Discourse Analysis

(the analysis of language use in text) Discourse analysis is the study of how language is used in a specific context. It focuses on the meanings of words and phrases, as well as the relationships between them. This information can be used to improve the understanding and use of language.

Also, the study of the connection between language and the situations in which it is used is known as discourse analysis, often known as text linguistics. It focuses on how spoken and written sentences combine to generate more substantial, meaningful pieces.

English remains the most widely spoken language globally, with over 1.3 billion speakers.

(Source: Ethnologue, 2023)
english_speakers_chart 1.3 Billion

Macro Branches of linguistics 

The Macro Branches of Linguistics include Sociolinguistics, Psycholinguistics, Theoretical Linguistics, Applied linguistics, Descriptive linguistics, Historical linguistics, Dialectology, Computational linguistics, Discourse Analysis, Neurolinguistics, and Stylistics.
Macro Branches of Linguistics


Sociolinguistics is the study of how language and society interact. Specifically how social variables affect and how languages are used and structured. For example, the study of social norms and language variety is sociolinguistics. Similarly, anthropological or ethnolinguistics and sociolinguistics focus on languages as part of culture and society, including language and culture, social class, ethnicity, and gender.


Language and the mind are the subjects of psycholinguistics, which examines the mental mechanisms that underlie language learning, understanding, and production. It is one of the major branches of linguistics that deal with linguistic performance – the production as well as comprehension of human speech.

Child language acquisition is an area of psycholinguistics– how children acquire the complex grammar that underlies language usage. This is a very significant matter, especially in light of the growing interest in the biology of language.

Theoretical Linguistics

It refers to generative linguistics, having its basis in views by Chomsky’s 1955 “The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory.” The major aim was to characterize the nature of human linguistic knowledge or competence (represented in the mind as mental grammar). The production and comprehension of speech are ‘performance‘, distinct from ‘competence‘ but dependent on it.

Descriptive linguistics

It analyses Applied linguistics and aims to cover the grammar of languages. ‘Indo-European-linguistics,’‘ Romance linguistics,’ and ‘African linguistics,’ cite the studies of particular languages and their families, from diachronic and synchronic points of view.

Historical linguistics

It is concerned with a theory of language change – why and how languages develop. The comparative method compares languages in an attempt to determine the relationship between languages and to establish families of languages and their roots.


It explores how these factors connect one language to many. Language planning, literacy, bilingualism, and the learning of second languages are further topics of interest for sociolinguistics and applied linguistics.

Computational linguistics

(Using mathematical methods and frequently a computer). Computational linguistics is a method of studying the language with natural language computer applications, e.g. parsing automatically, processing of machine and understanding, and computer simulation related to grammatical models to genera and parses the sentences.

If we view it as a branch of Artificial Intelligence (AI), computational linguistics may have the goal of modeling human language as just like a cognitive system.


The study of how the brain represents and processes language is neurolinguistics. Because it generally focuses on the impairments to language comprehension and production brought on by brain injury to specific regions. Also, it deals with the biological base of language acquisition and its development as well as the brain-language interface. Also, it studies language as a tool for gathering, processing, and communicating information is the emphasis of cognitive linguistics, a method of natural language analysis.


The study of stylistics explores the connections between language style and its literary impact. It primarily refers to the investigation of spoken language, although it can also include the study of written language, especially literary texts. Because it makes the study of literature pleasant and interesting for the reader of literature. Because the reader is capable of understanding the style, figures of speech, and use of other literary devices e.g. tone, mood, etc.

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Phonetics vs Phonology

By Waqas Sharif

Mr. Waqas Sharif is an English Language Teaching (ELT) Professional, Trainer, and Course Instructor at a Public Sector Institute. He has more than ten years of Eng Language Teaching experience at the Graduate and Postgraduate level. His main interest is found in facilitating his students globally He wishes them to develop academic skills like Reading, Writing, and Communication mastery along with Basics of Functional Grammar, English Language, and Linguistics.

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