Why Linguistics?

Multilingual welcome message in the Linguistics lounge

Linguistics is the study of the human capacity for language. What properties of the human mind allow us to learn and use language in a way that is unique to us as a species? What can the similarities and differences found across human languages tell us about how language is stored and organized in our brains? What role does social context and other nonlinguistic factors play in how humans create meaning with language?

Natural languages all involve a system of meaning (semantics), a system of externalization through speech or sign (phonology), and a grammatical system of sentence structure that links meaning and externalization (syntax). Students who major in Linguistics gain a strong background in the principles governing the structure of natural languages in all of these areas.

Coursework and research activities in the Institute of Linguistics give our majors and minors both breadth and depth in linguistics, as well as opportunities to participate in cutting-edge linguistic research. Our graduates take their in-depth knowledge of how language works and their strong problem-solving skills to a variety of careers, including language policy and planning, language teaching, natural language processing and data science, publishing, translation and interpretation, advertising and branding. In addition, the BA provides excellent preparation for graduate study in linguistics, NLP and computer science, and professional programs such as law and speech-language-hearing sciences.

We foster research that bridges the gap between linguistics as a pure science and applications such as documentation and revitalization of endangered languages, language engineering, and language technology. The Linguistic Society of America has published an in-depth article about careers for people who study linguistics.

All of us students in the program formed a close friendship and had weekly coffee hours and social gatherings. It felt like a close community, probably because we were the only ones that understood what each other’s research was about. 

Alexander, alumnus