Research subjects in general linguistics include phenomena related to linguistics and languages on a general level. Thus, its topics are not limited to any individual language. The discipline studies, among other things, the boundaries of variation between languages, linguistic universals, language acquisition, language change and the relationship of language to the speech community and society. General linguistics also encompasses the documentation of individual, in particular small and thus far less known and documented languages. The discipline can be considered a sort of umbrella discipline for all research conducted on languages.
Research focus areas in general linguistics at the University of Helsinki include
- Linguistic typology: the study of linguistic diversity – differences and similarities between languages – through wide-ranging comparison of languages
- Descriptive linguistics: the study and description of languages with limited description, particularly through methods of field linguistics
- The study of the following linguistic phenomena in particular: the origin of knowledge, transitivity, negation, questions, classifiers and spatiality
- Language contacts, sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, endangered status of languages
- Linguistic complexity.