one and the many” (Louis Auchincloss). IN BRIEF: A division into two especially mutually exclusive or
A dichotomy is any splitting of a whole into exactly two non-overlapping parts.
In other words, it is a partiof a whole (or a set) into two parts (subsets) that are:
? mutually exclusive: nothing can belong simultaneously to both parts, and
? jointly exhaustiv: everything must belong to one part or the other.
The two parts thus formed are complements . Inlogic, the partitions are opposites if there exists a
propositionsuch that it holds over one and not the other.
? The above applies directly when the term is used in linguistics. For example, if there is a
concept A, and it is split into parts B and not-B, then the parts form a dichotomy: they are
mutually exclusive, since no part of B is contained in not-B and vice-versa, and they are
jointly exhaustive, since they cover all of A, and together again give A.
An important topical division is between the study of language structure (grammar ) and the study of
meaning semantics ). Grammar encompasses morphology (the formation and composition of
words ),syntax (the rules that determine how words combine into phrases and sentences ) and
phonology (the study of sound systems and abstract sound units). Phonetics is a related branch of
linguistics concerned with the actual properties of speech sounds ( phones ), non-speech sounds,
and how they are produced and perceived . Other sub-disciplines of linguistics include:
evolutionary linguistiwhich considers the origins of language; historical linguistwhich explores
language change; sociolinguisticswhich looks at the relation between linguistic variation and
social structures;psycholinguisticswhich explores the representation and functioning of language
in the mind; neurolinguisticswhich looks at the representation of language in the brain; language
acquisitionwhich considers how children acquire their first language and how children and adults
acquire and learn their second and subsequent languages; in addition, discourse analysis is
concerned with the structure of texts and conversations, and pragmatics with how meaning is
transmitted based on a combination of linguistic competence, non-linguistic knowledge, and the
context of the speech act.
Linguistics - Dichotomies and language
The study of linguistics can be thought of along three major axes, the endpoints of which are described
? Synchronic vs Diachronic: Synchronic study of a language is concerned with its form at a given
moment; Diachronic study covers the history of a language or family of languages and structural
changes over time.
? Theoretical vs Applied: Theoretical (or general) linguistics is concerned with frameworks for
describing individual languages and theories about universal aspects of language; applied
linguistics applies these theories to other fields.
? Contextual vs Autonomous: Contextual linguistics is concerned with how language fits into the
world: its social function, how it is acquired, how it is produced and perceived. Autonomous or
Independent linguistics considers languages for their own sake, aside from the externalities
related to a language. Sometimes the terms macrolinguistics and microlinguistics are used for
the corresponding terms of this dichotomy.
Given these dichotomies, scholars who call themselves simply linguists or theoretical linguists, with no
further qualification, tend to be concerned with autonomous, theoretical synchronic linguistics, which is
acknowledged as the core of the discipline.
Linguistic inquiry is pursued by a wide variety of specialists, who may not all be in harmonious agreement;