Linguists study how language is used and develops. Through systematic comparison and field studies around the world, researchers in the Department of Linguistics analyse how differences arise, change and spread. Language typology investigates patterns in vocabulary and grammar; for example, it seeks to uncover which grammar rules are more universal than others. This knowledge is used as part of an international project to create an atlas of different phenomena across the world's languages.
Another successful area is early language development in children, which is studied in a unique phonetics laboratory. Different techniques are used to analyse audio data and to study how infants think when they hear someone speak. How do children break the "language code" and learn to distinguish between words and give them meaning? The results of this research provide mathematical models that can help robots learn language.
The department is also a pioneer in sign language research and is currently leading projects to compile a sign language dictionary. The combined breadth of linguistics research is great, and the work is partly funded by the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Central Bank's Jubilee Fund. A particular strength is the link to other research at the University. The department is hosting a new cross-language research school and is part of the interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution.