Linguists study and explore every aspect of spoken and written language: the sound, meaning, and origin of words; systems of grammar; semantics, or the way words combine to mean what they mean; the evolution of both individual languages and families of languages; and the sounds that are used in a language's vocabulary. Linguists study both "dead" languages (languages that are no longer spoken), such as Latin and Classical Greek, and modern languages. Philologists examine the structure, origin, and development of languages and language groups by comparing ancient and modern tongues. Etymologists specialize in the history and evolution of words themselves. Linguists do not yet know all there is to know about the world's languages. Some languages in remote parts of the world, such as the Pacific Islands, South America, and Africa, have existed for centuries and have yet to be studied closely by linguists. Scientific linguists study the components of language to understand its social functioning, and they may apply linguistic theory to practical concerns and problems.

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