Literally translated, this is "I study the Russian language"; but if I say I study the Russian language I do not mean that I am learning Russian (as I am!), it would mean that I was an etymologist studying the structure and history of the language. How should I say in Russian that I am studying the Russian language in this latter sense?
In the most basic sense (without emphasizing anything), the same way. Depending on how well you speak Russian with your interlocutor, the meaning will be understood.
I am sorry, I do not understand your reply. I asked how one does say that one is studying linguistic structure and history of a language, rather than implying that one is simply learning it. If I say: я изучаю английсктй язык, surely that will imply to my interlocutor that English is not my native language?
In short, how do I say I study the English language in Russian (NOT: I study English)
I'd say that I am learning a language = я учу язык and I am studying a language = я изучаю язык, but я изучаю is used broader and can be met in both senses.
Maybe because изучать sounds more official and can never go wrong.
In your example it would be much easier to say that you're an etymologist.
Can someone give the run-down on the difference between the "to learn" verbs (изучать, учить, заниматься, etc.)
I've seen this linked to on other threads: http://www.russianforeveryone.com/Rufe/Lessons/Course1/Grammar/GramUnit5/GramUnit5_4.htm
I thought it sounds funny to say изучать in this context and that заниматься was preferred?
I think it's fine. At least according to this: http://www.russianforeveryone.com/Rufe/Lessons/Course1/Grammar/GramUnit5/GramUnit5_4.htm
When I was at DLI, our teachers said that using изучать implied that you were studying the whole language, while заниматься implied that you were learning to speak the language. Your link seems to suggest the same thing.