Linguistics Major

Linguistics Program Director: Dr. Lee S. Bickmore

Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics and Cognitive Science (36 credits)

Students in this major focus on the history, structure, function, and evolution of language. Majors take introductory courses in linguistics, syntax, and phonology, followed by an advanced course in either syntax or phonology and a field methods course in which they learn how to collect and analyze field data while working directly with native speakers of the language under study. Other linguistics classes may be chosen from a number of electives. Coursework in one or two foreign languages is also required.

Summary of requirements

36 credits, distributed as below:

Required courses:
ALIN or AANT 220, Introduction to Linguistics (3 credits)
ALIN 321, Introduction to Syntax (3 credits)
ALIN 322, Introduction to Phonology (3 credits)
ALIN 421, Advanced Syntax, or ALIN 422, Advanced Phonology (3 credits)
ALIN 429, Field Methods in Anthropological Linguistics (4 credits)

One year of a foreign language, or ALIN 423, Linguistic Structures, as advised. This language should be of a radically different structure from the language used to demonstrate foreign language competence (see below). Usually this will be a non-Indo-European language. Credits earned in ALIN 289, Directed Study in a Foreign Language, may count among the 36-credit total only if used to fulfill this one-year language requirement.

Additional language requirement: majors will demonstrate competence in a foreign language equivalent to two years of college-level study, demonstrated through either coursework or the passing of an exam. Course credits taken for this requirement do not count toward the 36 credits for the major.

For a suggested pathway to degree completion, click here


At the undergraduate level, linguistics majors compete favorably with those from other humanities and social science disciplines for entry-level positions in a wide variety of fields requiring analytical, communication and research skills. The major provides appropriate preparation for those interested in pursing graduate work in linguistics or related disciplines, such as foreign languages, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and education to name only a few. Career opportunities for graduates also include speech pathology, TESOL, computer programming, computer software development, editing, technical writing, and dictionary-making. Students planning to undertake professional study in such fields as law, public administration, public policy, business, speech pathology and education will find that coursework in linguistics provides valuable preparation in analytical skills as well as an understanding of the social implications of language and attitudes toward language. Careers involving teaching and research within linguistics are normally only found at the college/university level and generally require a Ph.D. For suggested sequences of courses appropriate to specific areas of advanced study or careers, consult the undergraduate advisor.    

Honors Program

The Honors program in Linguistics and Cognitive Science is open to students who have a GPA in the major of at least 3.5, and at least 3.25 overall. Students may apply to this program after they have completed 12 credits of coursework in the program. Honors majors take 39  credits in Linguistics, with 12 credits coming from 400-level Linguistics courses. These higher-level courses must include the field methods course (ALIN 429, 4 credits), Language Structures (ALIN 423, 3 credits), and the honors thesis (ALIN 495). For this course, students write a major research paper, which may be based on new research or be an expanded version of a paper written for a previous course. A faculty member supervises this project, completed during the student's final semester in the program. All Honors students give a public oral presentation on their thesis research before submitting the final written version.