This work was done owing to the recent need to carefully locate linguistic issues within the field of science. Though often described as the scientific study of language, linguistics as a discipline has always found its place within the arts and social sciences. After a discussion on the innatist and empiricist theories of language acquisition by Noam Chomsky and B. F. Skinner, respectively, four single paragraph texts written in the three major Nigerian languages and English, all of which constitute the data for this study, were systematically examined using some of the linguistic theories discussed. Consequently, the analysis revealed that no adequate language study can be carried out without a scientific method being used. It equally becomes evident through the work that any formal, acceptable, human parlance only assumes its status as a medium of communication when it has undergone some form of empirical scrutiny and attendant codification. It is thus suggested that language studies be considered scientific projects, as this will in turn provide a meeting point between linguistics and other disciplines both in the natural and physical sciences.
Linguistics has over the years been regarded as a scientific study of language while language itself has often been described as a medium through which humans express their thoughts and ideas. Holmes (2013), for example, says that languages provide us a variety of ways of saying things. In the opinion of Syal and Jindal (2014), language gives shape to people’s thoughts, and guides and controls their entire activity. Language is therefore a vital tool in the hands of humans, for it is the means by which they find expression, engage in meaningful interactions, protect and project their cultural values and pass such down from one generation to another. It is the invaluable status of language which has prompted ancient philosophers and linguists in different ages to conduct studies on its form and structure. Ancient researchers attempted prescribing rules for the usage of grammar; others preferred describing language according to function; while more recent scholars relate language to meaning. Thus, this study attempts to examine some of the theories and methods of analyzing language, which are deemed as scientific. Specific texts taken from three major Nigerian languages, as well as the English language, are analysed as samples.
Linguistics as Science
What is Science? Science has been defined by the Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary as “the study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world and society, especially through observation and experiment”. Similarly, Syal and Jindal (2014) believe that science represents any knowledge that is based on clear, systematic and rational understanding, while Lyons (2009) is of the view that the hallmark of science is empiricism.
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