The scope of a degree in linguistics has traditionally been considered limited to the academia, professional writing and translation, or about learning and teaching languages if you really stretched your imagination. But Haleema Khalid explains why such a degree has more dimensions than we ever thought it could have.

ver since the earliest humans living in caves started articulating unintelligible utterances, language is being used for wide-ranging intentions. The time we are living in has seen language become a device to initiate, tackle or settle an account both in the national and the international setting. Societal function is largely dependent on language in general. Moreover, considering the global happenings and the way they are described and portrayed in context of the international societal construct, the role of language has become fundamental in terms of communicative expression. It is either used to demonstrate a protest or engagement between nation-states; language is the sole medium. Besides, whether it is the speeches of Prime Minister Imran Khan or the 280 characters of in tweets US President Trump, we always find language at play.

 

Does Linguistics Matter?

Regardless of what profession you are in, language/linguistics cannot be avoided owing to its nature of being communicative. This very nature makes Linguistics an interdisciplinary field. in his stimulating book, Linguistics: Why it Matters?, Geoffrey K Pullum, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh deliberates its relationships with psychology, education, philosophy, and computer science, advocating that the subject held a compelling human story to tell about the ways in which different societies see and describe the world. In addition, he speaks about its far-reaching applications ranging from law to medicine and from developmental psychology to artificial intelligence.

Considering global happenings and the way they are described and portrayed in context of international societal construct, the role of language has become fundamental

By arguing the centrality of language for human life, Dr Pullum reflects the way linguistics explores, “a quintessentially distinctive human ability that is intimately linked to early childhood development, the functioning of the mind, the intricacies of social life, the proper functioning of the legal system, the teaching of languages and many other things”.Considering Linguistics in connection with every aspect of human life, the impact of its usage on its users in diverse contextual settings is determined in view of particular perspective at a deeper and psycho-social level. In this way, Linguistics in general provides a certain set of rules to explore multitudes of nuances and complexities inherent in the language system that influence language users in a societal construct.

 

Traditional Careers In Linguistics 

Traditionally, a career in Linguistics is considered limited to the academia, professional writing and translation. Moreover, it is believed, Linguistics is about learning and teaching languages and its scientific element is by and large used to provide insights in the field of pedagogy, focusing on language and teaching methodology.

Regardless of what profession you are in, language/linguistics cannot be avoided owing to its nature of being communicative. This very nature makes Linguistics an interdisciplinary field

In academia, inclusion of linguistic knowledge to take stock of its ope rationalization in industry, management, law, strategy, and security has not become widespread. Interdisciplinary and intra-disciplinary scholarships involving linguistic perspective are rare due to the non-availability of required expertise. Moreover, the deficiency of necessary exploration in social sciences to date has also added to this gap.

 

Future Projections

The aforementioned outlook can be considered an aspect of this extremely diverse subject, which, according to the Linguistic Society of America, explores the way language adds to a greater comprehensibility of an ultimate part of what it means to be human. Being an interdisciplinary yet a scientific field in addition to be an academic discipline, it has both theoretical and practical applications.Interestingly, technological advancement has produced an unexpected demand for graduates with a background in language/linguistics for various unlikely place-positions in informatics and artificial intelligence. This demand has been originated considering the linguistic specific skills both at micro and macro level of communicative capacity in view of pragmo-semantic intelligibility.

Technological advancement has produced an unexpected demand for graduates with a background in language/linguistics for various unlikely place-positions in informatics and artificial intelligence

In their publication in the International Studies Association and Oxford University Press, Gavan Duffy and Sean Miskell presented an interesting perspective regarding the use of Linguistic Models in International Studies. The argument to take linguistics on board has been based on the notion that world politics, international law, treaties, foreign policies, diplomatic exchanges, military plans, journalistic accounts, conflict management and a few facades of warfare (Mainly Information Warfare) among others are demonstrated in textual or verbal form. Hence, they provide a rationale to centralize Linguistics to reconnoiter not only the mechanisms of social sciences; but also information sciences, mathematics, technology, artificial intelligence and data sciences. 

In a recent article in Forbes titled “What are Important AI & Machine Learning Trends for 2020?”, it was claimed that Linguistics enhanced deep-learning by augmenting the interpretability of the data-driven approach in addition to leveraging the context and human knowledge to supplement the enactment of Natural Language Processing (NLP) systems. Furthermore, CIO Magazine in its website article argued the prospect of careers in Artificial Intelligence, starting with a degree in Linguistics. By considering linguistics and programming skills a killer combination, Caterina Balcells, Chief Linguistic Officer at Conversational Research Technology Company Inbenta, explains the reason companies in AI market are turning towards people with Linguistic background. For developing tech using Natural Language Processing along with the inclusion of applications in voice recognition, search and automatic language translation can take customer satisfaction to the next level. 

Opting for a degree in Linguistics is crucial to developing popular skills such as analytical reasoning, critical inquiry, problem-solving, argumentation, data-collection, exploration, and above all, written and voiced expressio

She believes, as the field is incipient, therefore, linguists can be equipped with essential hardcore technical/programming skills on-the-job. She further states, “If you’re trying to leverage your skills to land a job in this field, you need to know how languages work, be able to make rules to identify features of a language and also have some interest in working with voice — right now, most users interact with technology using text, but that is shifting, so voice recognition is increasingly important.” Hence, Linguistics being the scientific study of language deals with the diverse and interconnected realms within, but not limited to the social sciences.This is an indication of Linguistics occupying the status of a degree for all seasons. Those who understand the demand of rapidly changing globalized world are gearing up to come across this futurist encounter. The traversing trajectory of Linguistics with anthropology, computer sciences, engineering, philosophy, neurology, sociology, semiology, and cryptology, along with foreign language exploration in addition to speech and hearing science, provides the brass-tacks to produce across-the-board professionals.

 

A Degree in Linguistics – Prevailing Situation in Pakistan  

With regards to Pakistan, the existing trends are inclined towards aspects of learning, teaching and translation. However, initiatives have been taken to introduce the integration of computation and informatics with linguistics. In this prospect, Center for Language Engineering (CLE) established by Khwarizmi Institute of Computer Sciences (UET) and Corpus Research Center (CRC), Air University, Islamabad are taking the leap to offer Linguistic study by employing informatics. 

Moreover, CLE through its research-based computational insights of multilingual aspects of languages of Pakistan and CRC through development of Pakistan National Corpus of English (PNCE) are doing a condemnable job. Last but not the least, Center for Translation and Interpretation at National University of Modern Languages (NUML) is bracing to embrace domestic and global changes and responding to the complex multilingual, inter-cultural communicative challenges. With the goal to provide leadership and workforce in inter-lingual meditational zones, this center stands committed to address the interpretive issues of the future in terms of varying tendencies of communicative language use; hence laying the foundation of interdisciplinary and intra-disciplinary Linguistic research. 

Evidently, the linguistic diversity along with the colonial imprints offer a challenging opportunity to document linguistic perspective with reference to Pakistan’s societal construct. This is essential to deal with the all-encompassing globalized phenomenon involving not only academics, but also the industry, government and defense sector in context of socio-cultural, socio-economic, socio-technological, socio-political, and socio-ideological organizational hierarchy contributing to the international knowledge based economy. 

In this way, opting for a degree in Linguistics is crucial to developing popular skills such as analytical reasoning, critical inquiry, problem-solving, argumentation, data-collection, exploration, and above all, written and voiced expression in addition to cross-cultural skills. Considering the age of social media where linguistic ecosystem has become dynamic, understanding the prevalent demands of globalization, socio-global connectivity appear to be principally relying on linguistic expressions. This can be observed in view of the present Pakistani government’s ‘voiced’ posture over matters of great significance in the national and international setting. Therefore, those with specialization in this interdisciplinary field of study would be considered extremely valuable for the country in terms of building a stronger, more positive and more influential narrative of Pakistan before the global community.

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