What are the factors that make linguistics a science?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Linguistics is the scientific study of the human language. Various fields of research include the phonetic and phonological properties of languages; the syntactical and grammatical aspects of languages; the semantic and morphological components of languages. Various approaches to these studies are psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic; synchronic and diachronic; dialectical and ideolectical. Thanks to breakthroughs by linguistic William Labov, linguistic research done in the field is submitted to strict controls and statistical analysis as well as sophisticated sound wave analysis. Linguistic Noam Chomsky expanded linguistic study to encompass cognitive processes and concepts of innate components of language such as a posited common innate capacity for grammar. As a result, research is conducted in the laboratory as well as in the field and is aided by such advanced technology as fMRI. As an illustration of the science of linguistics, a recent study from Northumbria University, UK, has revealed that a vast number of adult native English speakers are unable to understand higher order grammatical constructs as in "The tenor was applauded by the conductor."