Applied linguistics is a particular field of linguistic exploration that not only studies linguistics in a theoretical manner, but also examines how language has an actual impact on society and on people’s lives. This type of study can be conducted and utilized in a number of different ways, and may overlap with research in some related fields such as sociology, psychology, communications, and multicultural studies. Applied linguistics examines human language, or languages, and applies the understanding of human thought and behavior gained through such examination to real world problems and applications that can be utilized in different ways.
One of the primary ways in which applied linguistics differs from other linguistic fields is that the information gained through research can be relevant to other disciplines. A linguistic scholar might, for example, study how different language sounds or phonetic differences have developed in a language over hundreds of years. While this may be useful for greater understanding of linguistic evolution, it may not necessarily have a direct use for someone in another field or for practical linguistic understanding. Someone working in applied linguistics, on the other hand, might study how different phonetic sounds occur in various languages and use that information in a practical way.
A speech therapist, for example, often uses concepts and knowledge gained through applied linguistics to help someone overcome an accent or difficulty in speaking. Similarly, new developments in related fields such as psychology or sociology may occur through the research and understanding gained through applied linguistics. A psychologist might consider word choice and usage in a letter or spoken recording to learn about the mindset or attitude of a particular person. This type of information could be used by someone to analyze a letter written to a prominent public figure or politician to determine that the writer of that letter may have a violent demeanor.
Similarly, a sociologist can utilize applied linguistics to understand how people who speak different languages can overcome language barriers. This can be used to assist people with learning a new language or to help someone from one culture ensure they do not accidentally offend a person from another culture. Applied linguistics can also be utilized to understand changes and ongoing evolution of a language for various purposes. Someone writing a new computer program for word processing, for example, might utilize certain linguistic concepts to better future proof the program against new developments in language for years to come.