Linguistics is the study of languages for a variety of purposes. The science of language has evolved from an obscure branch of study into modern mainstream uses. Linguistics surfaces in everyday situations and provides a framework to observe and influence our world in areas such as education, business and politics.

Linguistic Techniques for Learning Languages

Linguistics has been a constant presence in language acquisition. Empiricists view language as the product of sensory knowledge. According to this school of thought, elements of language, such as vocabulary, grammar and expressions, are learned from what the language learner hears, sees, tastes, touches and smells. The rationalists, on the other hand, believe that language originates inside the learner, who comes ready to organize and process the language.

While the two schools each have favored teaching methods, the activities often overlap. In both the empirical and rationalist view, language learners benefit from active engagement with the language and its speakers. Meaningful interaction creates situations for the language learner to develop skill and competence. For this reason, many language learners travel to study a language in a country where it is spoken. For example, a person studying French would learn quickly in France, as the language learner negotiated the day's activities, such as ordering breakfast, going shopping, asking about transportation or asking directions for sightseeing.

Linguistic Techniques for Neuro Linguistic Programming

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) was developed during the 1970s by linguist John Grinder and a student, Richard Bandler. Practitioners link neurological processes to language and behavioral experiences, with the goal of creating greater self-awareness and self-questioning skills that can help people realize their potential and dreams. The premise is that, by changing the language and structure of the communication, we can strengthen the communication.

An example is provided in the book, "Happy Kids Happy You." Author Sue Beever explains how her background in NLP helped her communicate with her children. The basic premise is changing "don't" into "do." Instead of telling a child not to argue about going to bed, offer a child a choice of books to read for bedtime. According to Beever, "The challenge of parenting is also a gift. It is the ability to engage, moment by moment, with the wonder and potential that your child brings to the world."

Linguistics Techniques for Coercion

The goal of most linguistic practitioners is to help people with their goals. Yet, some linguists have identified a linguistics of coercion, in which language structure is designed to coerce, with a predetermined goal that may or not be shared with the language learner.

Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer, professor of psychiatry at the University of California at Berkeley, noted coercive tactics that included repeating negative linguistic statements, limiting the information and communication systems and developing an "in-group" language. The distinguishing aspect of coercion is the goal of weakening an individual and destroying free will. Current applications are noted by Dr. Marjorie Zambrano-Paff, of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She wrote an article, "Immigration Interpreter's Co-construction of Defendant's Testimony through Coercive Linguistic Techniques," published in the Fall/Spring 2009 Hispanic Journal, examining how a beneficial goal of interpreting can result in coerced testimony.