List of language subsystems

In linguistics, languages are often studied in terms of seven major subsystems, which relate to major subfields within linguistics. In addition, particular subfields of linguistic inquiry may divide their subject matter into more specific subsystems. This list contains links to commonly studied language subsystems.

Major subsystems

Linguists recognize seven major language subsystems:

This division varies among linguists and authors. For example, phonetics and phonology are occasionally merged into one subsystem. Morphology and lexicology can also be merged.


  • The term variety in sociolinguistics is used as a cover term for dialects, registers, and other forms of language, including standard languages.
    • Dialect refers to a variety that is used by a particular group of speakers.
    • Accent refers to a specific system of pronunciation.
    • Idiolect refers to the variety that is used by an individual speaker.
    • Register or style refer to a variety that is used in a particular setting or for a particular purpose.
    • Standard language is a variety promoted by some social group, either officially or unofficially, as the preferred form.
  • Abstand and ausbau languages are concepts developed by sociolinguists to describe related language varieties, ranging from dialects of a single language to distinct languages.

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