Director of undergraduate studies: Veneeta Dayal [fall 2024]; Jason Shaw [spring 2025];

Linguistics is the systematic study of human language. Linguistics studies how language works: how it is produced and processed in the mind, how it develops in children, how it is used in society, and how it changes over time. Linguistics also looks at the structures of the thousands of spoken and signed languages used throughout the world. The undergraduate major in Linguistics introduces students to many of the key areas of linguistics and offers a program of study leading toward an understanding of phonological, grammatical, and semantic structure and various approaches to descriptive, experimental, computational, and historical linguistics. Majors take a flexible combination of courses across subfields of linguistics and go into depth in one or more areas. Students learn about the many ways that language interfaces with questions in the social sciences, humanities, and sciences, and they often take complementary coursework in other departments or programs. All students write a senior essay and many make use of their linguistics work in future careers. Interested students should consult the director of undergraduate studies (DUS).

Courses for Nonmajors and Majors

Students with no previous background in linguistics are encouraged to approach the field by taking a 100-level course. All 100-level courses are accessible to students with no prior background.

Requirements of the Major

The major requires twelve term courses in linguistics and related areas, distributed as follows:

  1. Breadth requirement (four courses). All majors must take one course in the areas of phonology (LING 232) and syntax (LING 253). In addition, at least one course must be taken in any two of the six remaining foundational areas of linguistics: phonetics, morphology, semantics/pragmatics, computational linguistics, language and mind/brain, and historical linguistics.
  2. Depth requirement (two courses). In one of the eight areas of linguistics, students must take two additional courses beyond the introductory level.
  3. Electives (four courses). Four additional courses relating to linguistics are required, at least one of which must be at the 200 level or above. Electives may be chosen from courses offered by the Linguistics department or, with approval of the DUS, from related courses in programs such as Anthropology, Classics, Cognitive Science, Computer Science, English, Philosophy, Psychology, or foreign languages. No more than two foreign language courses can count toward the major without specific DUS approval. 
  4. Senior research requirement (one course). LING 490, Research Methods in Linguistics, is required and is taken in the fall term of the senior year. This course prepares students for the senior essay.

Credit/D/Fail Courses taken Credit/D/Fail, Pass/Fail, or any scale other than the standard letter-grade scale, may not be counted toward the requirements of the major without specific DUS approval. 

Senior Requirement

Senior requirement (one course). Students attend a research colloquium and write a senior essay in LING 491 during the spring term of the senior year.


Combined B.A./M.A. degree program Exceptionally able and well-prepared students may complete a course of study leading to the simultaneous award of the B.A. and M.A. degrees after eight terms of enrollment. See Academic Regulations, section L, Special Academic Arrangements, “Simultaneous Award of the Bachelor's and Master's Degrees.” Interested students should consult the DUS prior to the sixth term of enrollment for specific requirements in Linguistics.


Prerequisites None

Number of courses 12 term courses (incl senior req)

Specific courses required LING 232 (phonology), LING 253 (syntax), LING 490

Distribution of courses 1 course each in 2 foundational areas other than phonology and syntax (breadth req), as specified; 2 addtl courses beyond intro level in 1 foundational area (depth req); 4 electives, at least 1 at the 200 level or above

Substitution permitted Electives from related programs with DUS approval

Senior requirement LING 491


12 courses (12 credits), including the senior requirement

  • LING 232
  • LING 253
  • 2 courses to fulfill the breadth requirement (see Overview)
  • 2 courses beyond the introductory level to fulfill the depth requirement (see Overview)
  • 4 electives with at least 1 of the courses at the 200 level or above
  • LING 490
  • LING 491


The scientific study of language is fundamental to the understanding of the human mind. The Department of Linguistics offers several courses open to students with no previous training in the field. These courses provide a general introduction to the subject matter and technical methods of linguistics, both for students who do not plan to major in Linguistics and for prospective majors:

  • LING 110 Language: Introduction to Linguistics introduces the goals and methods of linguistics, emphasizing the development of analytic techniques for various types of linguistic data.
  • LING 112 Historical Linguistics provides a general introduction to the ways in which languages change over time.
  • LING 116 Cognitive Science of Language explores the study of language in the context of cognitive science and the relationship between linguistic and nonlinguistic cognition.
  • LING 217 Language and Mind studies knowledge of language as a component of the structure of the mind, including the nature of mental grammar and its neural implementation.

The department also offers more specialized introductions to the field, including:

By the end of sophomore year, prospective majors should have completed one introductory linguistics course. Ideally, they will also have begun to explore the foundational areas of the field through one or more 200-level courses in phonetics, phonology, syntax, or semantics.

The study of language builds on a range of disciplines that Linguistics majors are encouraged to explore. Courses in anthropology, biology, computer science, mathematics, philosophy, and psychology can inform and contribute to a student’s major program.


Professors Claire Bowern, Veneeta Dayal, Robert Frank, Laurence Horn (Emeritus), †Frank Keil, †Joshua Knobe, †Jason Stanley, †Zoltán Szabó, Petronella Van Deusen-Scholl (Adjunct), Raffaella Zanuttini (Chair)

Associate Professors Maria Piñango, Kenneth Pugh (Adjunct), Jason Shaw 

Assistant Professors Natalie Weber, Jim Wood

Lector Julia Silvestri

Lecturers Roslyn Burns, Chelsea Sanker

†A joint appointment with primary affiliation in another department.

See visual roadmap of the requirements.