Approaches to Linguistic Theorizing

The theoretical structure that is used to study and understand language is known as linguistic theory. This generally consists of three approaches which include Externalists, and Essentialists and Emergentists. These three approaches are used to theorize the science called Linguistics. The subject matters of these three approaches differ. So do their methods of approaching the subject and studying it and the answers which are considered to be suitable for the subject concerned.


The externalists are those who believe that the main aim of linguistics is to develop the correct models of speech, speech, verses, sentences, idioms and similar other linguistic matter. The matter which has been spoken and written and has been recorded in order to study the linguistic structures. According to them the main aim of linguistic is to prove and shoe that all these models have unique characteristics which are not only predictable but also projectable. Corpora play a very important role in their study of the language. They believe that complete understanding between the speaker and his listeners is extremely important.

The linguists studying the structures in America in the 20th century were externalists.  They supported this approach whole heartedly. This method is used even today in the field of computational linguistics.  Here corpora are analyzed automatically to study linguistics. As technology has advanced by leaps and bounds making information easily available and accessible, corpora can be searched on the computer and used in the study of languages.


These linguists take into count the social factors that affect the science named as linguistics. Human activities such as thinking, speaking, communicating and socializing all affect the characteristics of language. Sociolinguistics are emergentists who study the relation and interdependence between social structures and linguistic ones. Social status and class clearly has a great influence on the language and its structure and also speech. Functionalists are those emergentists who treat language like a system to communicate for social interaction. They basically study the mind and its capacity to understand and use the symbols and signs in order to use language. They research the understanding human beings of the language. They feel that syntax is affected by logical, semantic and perceptive factors.


These scientists study the very basic features and characteristics of language to understand what is that gives language these unique features. They search for features of language that is not really evident, that cannot be easily interpreted from information that is available and that which cannot be predicted when studying the nature of humans. They try to find out the reason why children despite having different socio-economic status, upbringing and intelligence level start talking and writing at the same time and from the same level. So it can be clearly said that all languages have some features that are not only common but also inherent that help a child to learn it up unconsciously.

All the three approaches are different and equally important. No linguist uses a single approach while studying the language. They apply methods which are relevant and most suitable.  The followers of one approach can always use methods of other approaches when they feel the need.