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Linguistics is the scientific study of language, and is largely divided into two major fields: theoretical linguistics and applied linguistics. Someone who engages in this study is called a linguist.

Theoretical (or general) linguistics encompasses seven major sub-fields: phonetics (the study of the isolated sounds of speech), phonology (the study of speech sound systems and their mental representations), morphology (the study of the grammatical rules for word formation), syntax (the study of word order), lexis (the study of words), semantics (the study of meaning) and pragmatics (the study of meaning in context) which, together, allow for a description of the way a language works to convey meaning from one speaker to another. Applied linguistics encompasses diverse fields such as language education, second language acquisition, effect of society on language, or language's relationship to psychology, and so on.

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General classifier gè, the most common Mandarin classifier

In Chinese, classifiers are words that must be used whenever a noun is modified by a number or a demonstrative such as "this" and "that". There are as many as 150 different classifiers, and many nouns are associated with certain ones—for example, flat objects such as tables use the classifier zhāng, whereas long objects such as lines use tiáo. How exactly these classifier–noun associations are formed has been a subject of debate, with some linguists proposing that they are based on innate semantic features (e.g., all nouns with "long" features use a certain classifier), and others suggesting that they are motivated by analogy to prototypical pairings (e.g., dictionaries and textbooks use whatever the more general noun "book" uses). There is also, however, a "general classifier", , which can be used in place of the specific classifiers; in informal speech, this one is used far more than any other. Furthermore, speakers often choose to use only a bare noun, dropping both the classifier and the number or demonstrative preceding it; therefore, some linguists believe that classifiers are used more for pragmatic reasons, such as foregrounding new information, rather than for strict grammatical reasons. (more...)

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The number 605 in Khmer Numerals

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