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What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. There are two general sub-disciplines. Theoretical linguistics involves the systematic and analytical study of speech sounds, words, sentences, meaning, and discourse, and how they evolve over time. Applied linguistics involves the mental, social, cultural, and educational aspects of language. You DON’T need to be bilingual to become a linguist though being a bilingual will allow you to capitalize on your bilingual ability, giving you a head start.

Linguists are interested in questions like:

  • How many languages are there in the world?
  • What is the difference between a language, a dialect, and an accent?
  • What do languages have in common and how do they differ?
  • How do languages emerge? How and why do they change?
  • What is the relationship between language and culture?
  • How are world events influenced by contact between groups that speak different languages?
  • How does language influence thinking or perceptions of the world?
  • How do children learn their first languages?
  • How do children and adult learn second languages?
  • How can I be a better teacher of English learners?

If these are real questions for you, consider a Major, Minor, or Double Major in Linguistics.

Why major or minor in linguistics?

Here is what students in linguistics do:

  • Learn about the beauty and complexity of language.
  • Study the basic mechanisms common to all languages (the domains of phonetics and phonology, morphology and syntax, and semantics and pragmatics) and the ways different languages embody these mechanisms.
  • Understand the social functions of language and the roles they play in culture.
  • Study language variation, including historical change, social and regional dialects.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the process of learning and understanding first and second languages and implications for schooling and educational policy.
  • Evaluate language research and policy critically.
  • Apply linguistics in community setting.
  • Develop proficiency in English and at least one or two other languages.

For more information also visit the Undergraduate Advising for Linguistics Webpage.

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