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First-Year Focus


What is Linguistics?

"The marvelous thing is that even in studying Linguistics, we find that the universe as a whole is patterned, ordered, and to some degree intelligible to us." - Kenneth L. Pike

Linguistics is the scientific study of language and its structure, including the study of language patterns, rules of sentence structure, speech sounds and transmission, how we hear words, and the different interpretations of the meanings we attach to those words. It describes how different languages build sounds and words and sentences.

Why Study Linguistics?

Language is a complex, species-specific system made up of several components (sound, sentence structure, and meaning). The study of linguistics gives us a unique window on the structure of the human mind and the mind's activity. Furthermore, there are many real world applications of linguistics (e.g., natural language technologies). Additional information can be found at the Linguistic Society of America.

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Linguistics majors pursue careers in many different fields such as:

  • Acting and Acting Training
  • Advertising
  • Communication Consulting
  • Computer Industry
  • Editorial Work
  • Educational Testing
  • Foreign Service
  • Foreign Language Teaching
  • Government
  • Journalism
  • Language Documentation
  • Legal Practice
  • Lexicography
  • Marketing
  • Medicine
  • Teaching English as a Second Language
  • Technical Writing
  • Translation and Interpreting

Some students use the BA in Linguistics to prepare for professional schools, or clinical programs in:

  • Business
  • Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Law
  • Library/Information Science
  • Medicine
  • Speech Pathology

Other students continue their study of Linguistics in MA and Ph.D. programs, either in Linguistics or related fields like:

  • Anthropology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Bilingual Education
  • Cognitive Science
  • Computer Science
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology


Linguistics students will develop critical, scientific thinking skills through learning across several core subfields in linguistic science. Through course work, students will gain a solid understanding of scientific approaches to the study of language: students will be able to understand scientific arguments; construct arguments; identify regularities and patterns in language; use a variety of linguistic data to test hypotheses. Courses in the linguistics program are designed to present students with information about the main subfields in linguistic science (Morphology, Phonetic, Phonology, Pragmatics, Semantics, and Syntax). Once presented with this information, students will be able to utilize this knowledge to understand, construct and verify arguments (hypotheses and evidence) in each subfield. Specific training in linguistics courses includes how to test theories using empirical methodologies (designing and conducting experiments, looking for naturally occurring linguistic data to verify hypotheses etc.).

Exposure to a scientific approach to language will help students develop critical thinking skills. Students will learn to be soundly skeptical about scientific theories. They will see and learn how to construct arguments for or against these theories. Once students learn scientific and critical thinking in linguistics, they will have a chance to put their experience into practice. For example, students in the linguistic program have the opportunity to get involved in research projects led by faculty members.


First-Year Seminars

Our department offers first-year seminars that cover various topics in linguistics.

Introductory core courses

There are three 200-level courses that together serve as the introduction to the study of the core components of human language: sound, grammar and meaning.

  • LING 250 The Sound Pattern in Human Language
    Serves as an introduction to the analysis of human language sounds.
  • LING 260 Formal Analysis of Words and Sentence
    Covers basics of the analysis of grammatical structure of words and sentences.
  • LING 270 Meaning.
    Introduces how to approach the meaning that is carried by language expressions (e.g., words, sentences, and sentences in contexts).


Requirements for a Linguistics Major

Introductory (3 units):

  • 250 Sound Patterns in Human Language
  • 260 Formal Analysis of Words and Sentences
  • 270 Meaning

9 courses at the 300-level or beyond. These 9 courses must include 3 of the following:

  • 350 Fundamentals of Laboratory Phonology
  • 360 Fundamentals of Syntax
  • 370 Fundamentals of Meaning
  • 33x any 1 methods course

Only 1 of the 9 advanced courses may be 398/399, and certain exceptions may be granted (e.g. CogSci 210) in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

4 related courses. Decisions as to which courses count towards this requirement are generally made on a case-by-case basis. The list of courses related to linguistics on this site offers some guidance, but students must discuss their options in the context of their individual course of study with the Director of Undergraduate Studies.


The Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) for the Department of Linguistics is available to talk with students who are majoring or minoring in linguistics, as well as those just thinking about it. Students can discuss with the Director of Undergraduate Studies:

  • requirements for the linguistics major and/or minor
  • course selections
  • career choices
  • planning your undergraduate career in linguistics
  • research in the department
  • graduate school options

Graduation Petition

The Director of Undergraduate Studies can review and sign your graduation petition, which you should complete one year prior to your expected graduation.

Study abroad applications

If you plan to study abroad and need a department signature on your Study Abroad application, you should set up a meeting with the Director of Undergraduate Studies.  For more information contact the Study Abroad Office.

Requirement Substitutions: The Director of Undergraduate Studies is the only faculty member who can:

  • approve the counting of courses taken abroad toward department requirements
  • approve the counting of credits from other US and Canadian schools
  • approve other non-standard ways of completing our requirements

Make an appointment with the Director of Undergraduate Studies

If you have any questions, contact the Department of Linguistics at 847-467-3384. Or feel free to stop by the main office of the Linguistics Department at 2016 Sheridan Road.

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