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 that examines its structures, how it is used to convey meaning, how it is acquired and processed in the mind and brain, its social functions, and how it evolves over timespans of individuals and societies. Linguists look for patterns in the articulation, perception, and sequencing of speech sounds, in the structure of words and sentences, and in the association of these patterns with different types of meaning, using empirical and computational methods to investigate languages in all their varieties, from all parts of the world.
Why Study Linguistics?
Language is a complex, species-specific system made up of several components (sounds, words, sentences, and meaning). The study of linguistics gives us a unique window on the structure of the human mind and the mind's activity. Linguistics contributes to advances in many real world applications, including the development of technologies for speech and natural language processing, second language learning, and diagnostics and interventions for individuals with atypical language function. Additional information can be found at the Linguistic Society of America.
WHAT TO DO WITH A MAJOR IN LINGUISTICS?
Linguistics majors pursue careers in many different fields such as:
- Acting and Acting Training
- Communication Consulting
- Computer Industry
- Editorial Work
- Educational Testing
- Foreign Service
- Foreign Language Teaching
- Language Documentation
- Legal Practice
- 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:
- Communication Sciences and Disorders
- Library/Information Science
- Speech Pathology
Other students continue their study of Linguistics in MA and Ph.D. programs, either in Linguistics or related fields like:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Bilingual Education
- Cognitive Science
- Computer Science
LEARNING GOALS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF LINGUISTICS
COURSES OPEN TO FIRST-YEAR STUDENTS
Our department offers first-year seminars that cover various topics in linguistics.
The Linguistics Department offers a selection of courses at the 200-level that introduce students to the fundamental properties of language and their scientific investigation.
- LING 220 Language in Society
- LING 223 Language and Gender
- LING 250 Sound Patterns in Human Language (Phonetics and Phonology)
- LING 260 Formal Analysis of Words and Sentence (Morphology and Syntax)
- LING 270 Meaning (Semantics and Pragmatics)
UNDERGRADUATE STUDIES IN LINGUISTICS
Please see the Northwestern online catalog for a complete listing of the current undergraduate courses in Linguistics, along with course descriptions and information about prerequisites.
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 choice
- planning your undergraduate career in linguistics
- research in the department
- graduate school options
Make an appointment with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Or feel free to stop by the main office of the Linguistics Department at 2016 Sheridan Road.
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 Global Learning 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