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Linguistics is the study of language. Studying language enables us to understand the ways in which people encode their experience, communicate their sense of the world, transmit knowledge, and interact with each other. Linguistics investigates the range of patterning found in systems of sound, structure, and meaning in languages. The goal of linguistic study is both specific and general: Linguists attempt to describe the structure of specific languages in order to generate theories about universal characteristics of human language and to gain insight into the functioning of the human mind. Although linguistics is not the study of any particular language or language family, knowledge of or familiarity with particular languages informs the understanding of the possibilities of linguistic form and meaning. Subdisciplines within the field focus on such issues as the history of a language or language family; cultural assumptions coded in words and texts; language variation within a community based on region, gender, class, race/ethnicity; and language acquisition and language teaching.

The concentration in linguistics acquaints students with theories of language, techniques of linguistic analysis, and applications of linguistic knowledge and method to cultural, social, and pedagogical issues. Courses that are included in the concentration focus on topics in theoretical linguistics; philosophy of the mind; historical linguistics; analysis of language in its social, cultural, and political contexts; and the practical application of linguistic findings in teaching language and in the acquisition of native and foreign languages. The linguistics concentration is ideally complemented by existing courses in foreign languages, anthropology, sociology, and literature like American studies, Asian studies, creative writing, cross-cultural relations, European studies, French and Francophone studies, German studies, literary studies, Russian studies, and Spanish and Latin American studies.


To begin the exploration of linguistic theory and methods, students are required to take Linguistics 100 Introduction to Linguistics. The course also acquaints them with disciplines within the field such as historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, and language acquisition. The concentration requires a minimum total of 16 credits in addition to the introductory course, Linguistics 100. Six credits must be at the 300-level or above, taken either as existing courses or as tutorials.

Although the concentration focuses on the discipline of linguistics, its theoretical assumptions, and its methodology, students are required to supplement linguistics courses with interdisciplinary work in languages, relevant social sciences, and relevant studies in cognition and development. Students concentrating in linguistics are strongly encouraged to take three to four credits in languages above the minimum requirement for the AA degree (which can be fulfilled the either with language courses or with demonstrated proficiency). These credits may be taken by continuing language study at the intermediate or advanced level or by adding more languages. The linguistics concentration also requires six credits in cognate courses, chosen to reflect students’ interests. These may include languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Latin, and Spanish), cognitive neuroscience, or related courses in anthropology and other social science disciplines. In addition to the courses listed below, students may design tutorials, with the guidance of the faculty, to pursue their specialized interests.

The linguistics concentration prepares students for advanced work in languages and in linguistics. Through their coursework, students will become familiar with the research methodologies and analytic techniques central to the discipline. These include both work within descriptive and theoretical linguistics as well as work in sociolinguistics to understand language production and interpretation as embedded in sociocultural contexts and meanings.

Students concentrating in linguistics may devise a program of study that might include intermediate and advanced language courses, studies in anthropology or sociology that would complement the sociocultural analysis of language use, or work in psychology and cognition. Additional relevant programs of study can be discussed at Moderation to respond to specific student interests.


Anthropology 202 CP Language and Culture
Linguistics 100 Introduction to Linguistics
Linguistics 101m English Grammar
Linguistics 216m Language and Power
Linguistics 218m Language and Gender
Linguistics 280 History of the English Language
Linguistics 304 CP Native American Languages
Linguistics 305m Topics in Morphology and Syntax

Recent Senior Theses

“Spain and Euskera: A Study of Basque Cultural Identification and the Question of Bilingualism”
“Brigit Buadach: Studies Toward an English Edition of the Early Lives of Saint Brigit”
“Music as Language: a Study of Meaning, Grammar, and Mind”
“Yiddish Language Maintenance”
“The Development of the English Present Perfect”
“Imperial Linguistics, Colonial Discourses: Strategies of Domination and Resistance”
“Motivation in a Monolingual Milieu: Foreign Language Learning in the United States”
“...In Other Words: A Study in Rereading and Rewriting”
“The Time Course of Lexical Access”
“Language Contact and Linguistic Restructuring: A Grammatical Survey of Pidgin and Creole Languages”


Gabriel Asfar, Nancy Bonvillain, Chris Callanan, Mileta Roe, Maryann Tebben, Colette van Kerckvoorde
Faculty Contacts: Nancy Bonvillain, Colette van Kerckvoorde