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Undergraduate Linguistics Major

This major allows students to receive a bachelor of arts degree in linguistics. Linguistics, which is the study of language as a structural, cognitive, historical, and cultural phenomenon, intersects with many different academic disciplines and career paths. Linguists study how people acquire their knowledge of a language (or multiple languages), how this knowledge interacts with other cognitive processes, and how best to model this knowledge. They study how to represent the structure of the various aspects of language (such as sounds or meaning), how to account for different linguistic patterns theoretically, and how the different components of language interact with each other. Since every language is spoken across multiple communities of practice, linguists also study variation in language based on region, ethnicity, gender, or any number of other social factors. In order to learn about as many of the world’s 7000 languages as possible, many linguists do fieldwork. This means that they work with speakers of little-studied languages to discover grammatical patterns and/or to document the language. Other linguists search databases (or corpora) of spoken and written language to find patterns there. Yet others run carefully designed experiments with children and adults in schools, in the field, and in university labs. Linguistics is the scientific study of language in all its complexity.

You might like this program if...

  • You enjoy studying languages, particularly finding and applying grammatical patterns.
  • You are interested in communication, and learning more about the function of language(s) in society and how language structure and use varies depending on social context.
  • You like to think about how the human brain functions, and want to know more about language and cognition, language learning (by children or adults!), or how the brain handles multiple languages.
  • You like logic, computer programming, and/or abstract puzzles.

More information about the linguistics major, including how to get in and program requirements, can be found in the Bulletin for Linguistics.

What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. Linguists are not interested in changing language or language use. Nor are they necessarily translators or polyglots (though many linguists do speak multiple languages). Linguists are scientists who seek to understand human language in all its complexity, including structural (grammatical), cultural, and cognitive phenomena.

Hard Science

Social Science



Director, Linguistics Program
(814) 263-2138
Undergraduate Officer, Associate Teaching Professor of Linguistics and African Studies
(814) 865-4252