Information for Majors

What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the scientific study of natural language and how language is acquired, understood, and used. The interdisciplinary Program in Linguistics offers courses to prepare students for graduate study in theoretical and applied linguistics and for careers in the teaching of linguistics and applied linguistics, including the teaching of English as a Second Language.

The field of linguistics includes the following core topics of study:

  • Phonetics: the physical characteristics of speech sounds (how sounds are produced and how they are perceived)
  • Phonology: the patterning of speech sounds (how sounds function together as part of a linguistic system)
  • Morphology: the structure of words (how words are formed and new words created)
  • Syntax: the structure of sentences (how words and phrases are combined to form a potentially infinite number of sentences)
  • Semantics: the meaning of words and sentences

What do you learn when you study linguistics?

  • You learn what language means and how language is used in communication
  • You learn all of the different elements of language
  • You learn how children acquire language
  • You learn about the different properties that all of the world's languages share
  • You learn the ways that all of the world's languages differ

What can you do with a degree in linguistics?

  • A bachelor's in linguistics prepares you to teach English or another language at home or abroad.
  • A bachelor's or master's in linguistics, coupled with multilingual skills, prepares you to work as a translator or interpreter.
  • A bachelor's in linguistics, coupled with computer science courses, prepares you for work in computer and software engineering, such as work on language recognition programs.
  • A bachelor's in linguistics background, together with an master's in education may prepare you to teach English as a Second Language within the United States.
  • The analytical and writing skills developed through a linguistics program are highly valued in fields such as law or journalism.
  • Linguistics students may also go on for a Ph.D. in Linguistics or Cognitive Science in order to teach at a college or university and contribute to research in linguistics and/or human cognition, or to work in language-related industries.