Which one would be the correct and more common usage? I tried googling for answers but realized that both of them are used. In my opinion, I think that "linguistic experts" is the correct phrase, but I would like to know why.


2 Answers 2


✔ "I'm studying linguistics."
✘ "I'm studying linguistic."

✔ "Those people are very linguistic."
✘ "Those people are very linguistics."

From Merriam-Webster:

linguistics noun, plural in form but singular in construction

: the study of human speech including the units, nature, structure, and modification of language

variants: or less commonly linguistical

: of or relating to language or linguistics


  • A linguistics expert is an expert in the field of linguistics.
  • A linguistic expert is an expert who uses or knows language well.
  • (And a linguistic linguistics expert is an expert in the field of linguistics who uses or knows language well.)

Which phrase is correct depends on how you are using it—as a noun or as an adjective.

  • *These people are very linguistic is a very strange sentence. That's not the difference at all. Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 16:50

Confusion is being caused here because linguistics looks like a plural (see Scott's link in comment above).

When a plural noun is qualifying another noun it is necessary to take the -s off. So an expert in cats is a cat expert not a *cats expert. It is made more confusing by the word linguistic existing and making some sense. There would be less confusion with physics as physic is a rare word with an unrelated meaning, or mathematics, as the word *mathematic does not exist and upsets my spellchecker.

Note that I said take the -s off, not make singular as it is optional if the plural does not end in an -s. You can say women soldiers but not *girls soldiers.

  • If you would say mathematics expert or physics expert you can say linguistics expert. But linguistic expert is more common, and expert in linguistics more clear. Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 16:52
  • Yes, @johnlawler, but the point is that it is either a different meaning with linguistic an adjective, as Jason Bassford points out, or it's an error. However, due to the risk of confusion you cannot assume the intended meaning accords with Jason's logic. Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 17:15
  • That's why noun compounds (or any construction that removes linguistic material) are prone to ambiguity. Commented Oct 13, 2018 at 17:28

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