Linguistics Major

The Program offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Linguistics - LINGBA. Majors are exposed to a broad range of information in the study of language from the perspectives of physiology, cognition, meaning, society and culture.

After students have completed the Linguistics program, they will be able (minimally) to:

  • Think critically about language and linguistic research,
  • Describe and apply principles and methods in the field,
  • Communicate effectively orally and in writing according to standards in the field, and
  • Recognize situations in which ethical questions arise in Linguistics and apply appropriate standards.

Declaring the Major and Choosing an Advisor

Students can declare the major or minor under the Course Planning and Enrollment tile in OPUS. An advisor will be assigned to you from the Linguistics faculty but if you have a preference, please send a request to Darni Bolden after you have completed the Declaration of Major form in OPUS.

Majors should meet with their advisors on a regular basis to discuss courses to take to meet the requirements for the major. In addition, students should talk to their advisors about future career plans if they include graduate training, as there may be additional courses they should take for entrance to graduate school. Advisors are available during pre-registration. Sign-up sheets are placed outside each advisor's office. It is strongly advised that students sign up as early as possible. Additionally, advisors often have more time to spend with students at times other than pre-registration. Dr. Marjorie Pak is the Director of Undergraduate Studies and can also answer questions. She may be reached at: 727-8077 or To change advisors, email a request to Ms. Darni Bolden at

Required Courses

The linguistics major consists of eleven courses, including two foreign language courses (normally at the 200 level or above), and three elective courses.

Completion of the major requires a minimum of a C average in the major. The S/U option may be exercised only in the elective component of the major, for a maximum of four credit hours. A maximum combined total of four hours of courses at the 490-499 level (Directed Reading, Directed Research, Independent Research, Honors) may be applied toward the major. You can only double-count two courses between a Linguistics major or minor and any other major or minor. Courses completed in approved Linguistics study abroad programs can also be used to fulfill major requirements (with approval of the Program Director or designated faculty advisor).

I. Students are required to take three basic courses in the study of linguistics:

  • LING 101.  Language Diversity in the US (formerly History of the American Languages)
  • LING 201.  Foundations of Linguistics
  • LING 401W.  Language, Mind and Society (a permission-only capstone senior seminar - refer to the tab labeled "Planning Your Major" DOWN BELOW)

II. Students will also take three breadth courses on key approaches to the study of linguistics:

One course in Structural Approaches to Human Language:

  • LING 210.  Sounds of Human Language (Phonetics and Phonology)
  • LING 212 or 212W.  Structure of Human Language (Morphology and Syntax)
  • LING 214.  Meaning in Human Language (Semantics and Pragmatics)

One course in Cognitive Approaches to Human Language, including but not limited to:

  • LING 309.  Brain and Language
  • LING 316.  Language Acquisition
  • LING 317.  Psycholinguistics

One course in Sociocultural Approaches to Human Language, including but not limited to:

  • LING 340.  Topics in Sociolinguistics
  • LING 350.  Health Communication
  • LING 385. Language and Culture

III. Students must take three Linguistics electives:

The elective requirement can be satisfied by taking additional courses in any of the three breadth areas above, and/or any other LING course (min. 3 credit hours) except LING 151 Second Language Study.

IV. Students must take one course with a designated focus on research methods (min. 3 credit hrs.), including but not limited to:

  • LING 316 Language Acquisition
  • LING 317 Psycholinguistics
  • LING 485 Field Methods in Linguistics
  • LING 497R or LING 499R with DUS approval

NOTE: This course may also be counted toward the breadth (II) or elective (III) requirement for the major.

V. Students must take two foreign language courses.

  1. Two courses in one foreign language at the 200-level or above or
  2. Two courses in two different foreign languages at any level, with approval from the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

NOTE: Students participating in the Amsterdam Study Abroad Program may use introductory Dutch to satisfy one semester of this requirement.

AP credit in a foreign language may be used to fulfill the foreign language requirement but an additional linguistics elective must be taken to meet the required credit hours of the major.

Planning Your Major

  • LING 101 and LING 201 may be taken in either order. These are foundational courses that we recommend taking early in the major.  
  • LING 401W is a permission-only capstone senior seminar, intended for students who have completed most or all of the other major requirements. Permission to enroll is granted to seniors only, unless a compelling case can be made for taking it earlier.
    LING 401W is usually offered only in the spring. If you are planning to graduate early, you need to request permission to take this course the spring of your junior year.
  • The research-focused course (IV) is ideally taken sometime in the sophomore or junior year, after the foundational courses have been completed. Students who are interested in writing an honors thesis should take a research-focused course before their senior year, as preparation.
  • If you have questions about your Degree Tracker report, contact the Linguistics office, your advisor, or the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Dr. Pak, 
  • If you want to know if you have satisfied the breadth (II) and/or research-focus (IV) requirements for the Linguistics major, please consult this page.
  • Students who are considering graduate school in Linguistics or a related field should meet with their advisers early on for guidance on additional recommended courses.
  • If you are an Oxford student, please consult the Oxford Continuee page for more information.


Course Descriptions

Independent Research Courses

To arrange in an independent research course (LINGs 497 & 499) , students should first identify a general topic area of interest and second, identify a potential faculty member with whom they would like to work. Students should contact a faculty member about arranging an independent study project towards the end of the semester BEFORE they plan to complete it.

Once a faculty member has agreed to supervise an independent research project, the faculty member and student will negotiate a project that both are interested in and that is a reasonable one for the student to complete within a semester’s time. Faculty member and student must complete the Directed Research/Study form and return it to Darni Bolden (202C Modern Languages) at least two days before Add/DropSwap ends.

Note that LING 497 and LING 499 do not automatically fulfill the Research-Focus requirement for the Linguistics Major. If you want your LING 497 or LING 499 to be considered for this designation, you must email your completed form, signed by you and your adviser, to the Director of Undergraduate Studies at the beginning of the semester.


What can I do with a major or minor in Linguistics?

Linguistics majors and minors come from a variety of different backgrounds and have diverse professional aims. Students with undergraduate concentrations in linguistics can prepare for graduate study in Linguistics, Psychology, Anthropology, and numerous other fields. They are also in an excellent position for embarking on training for careers in Conflict Resolution and Mediation, Corporate Communications, Education, English as a Second Language Instruction, International Business, International Communications, International Diplomacy, Health Communication, Journalism, K-12 Education and Curriculum Development, Law, Library Management, Medicine, Public Health, Public Relations, Social Services, Speech and Learning Disabilities, Therapy, and Translation.

Career Opportunities

(list compiled by Linguistics Society of America,

Computer industry
Linguists may work on speech recognition, search engines, and artificial intelligence.

Teach at the university level
A graduate degree in linguistics allows you to teach in departments such as linguistics, philosophy, psychology, speech/communication sciences, anthropology, English, and foreign languages.

Teach English as a Second Language (ESL) in the United States or abroad
If you want to teach ESL in the US, you will probably need additional training in language pedagogy, such as a Masters degree in Education or TESOL. Many teaching positions abroad require only an undergraduate degree, but at least some specialized training in the subject will make you a much more effective teacher. Linguistics can give you a valuable crosslanguage perspective.

Translator or interpreter
Skilled translators and interpreters are needed everywhere, from government to hospitals to courts of law. For this line of work, a high level of proficiency in the relevant language(s) is necessary, and specialized training may be required. Nonetheless, linguistics can help you understand the issues that arise when a message is communicated from one language to another.

Language documentation or fieldwork
A number of projects and institutes around the world are looking for linguists to work with language consultants to document, analyze, and preserve languages (many of which are endangered). Some organizations engage in language-related fieldwork, including documenting endangered languages, conducting language surveys, establishing literacy programs, and translating documents of cultural heritage. This is a great way to interact with speakers of diverse languages, representing communities around the world.

Law or Medicine
The subfield of forensic linguistics involves studying the language of legal texts, linguistic aspects of evidence, issues of voice identification, and so on. Law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and police departments, law firms, and the courts hire linguists for these purposes.

Publishing industry, as a technical writer, or a journalist
The verbal skills that linguists develop are ideal for positions in editing, publishing, and writing.

Testing agencies
Linguists help prepare and evaluate standardized exams and conduct research on assessment issues.

Dictionaries (lexicography)
Knowledge of phonology, morphology, historical linguistics, dialectology, and sociolinguistics is key to becoming a lexicographer.

Work for a product-naming company
Companies that name products do extensive linguistic research on the associations that people make with particular sounds and classes of sounds. A background in linguistics qualifies you for this line of work.

The federal government hires linguists for the Foreign Service, the FBI, etc.

Actor or train actors
Actors need training in pronunciation, intonation, and different elements of grammar in order to sound like real speakers of a language or dialect. They may even need to know how to make mistakes to sound like an authentic nonnative speaker.

For more information on careers and other job listings, including academic jobs, visit these web sites:

Linguistic Society of America
Center for Applied Linguistics