Scope and Objectives

The goal of the Department of Linguistics is the enrichment of knowledge about the nature, grammar, and history of human language. Linguistics is a theoretical discipline, akin to philosophy, anthropology, and cognitive psychology. It is important for prospective students to understand that studying linguistics is not a matter of learning to speak many languages. Linguistics courses draw examples from the grammars of a wide variety of languages, and the more languages linguists know about in depth (as distinct from possessing fluency in the use of them), the more likely they are to discover universal properties. It is also possible to pursue these universal aspects of human language through the intensive in-depth study of a single language. This accounts for the high proportion of examples from English and familiar European languages found in linguistics courses and research publications.

The core areas of linguistic theory are phonology (with its roots in phonetics), morphology, syntax, and semantics. A grammar is a system of rules that characterize the phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics of a natural language. The properties of grammars are the central focus of linguistic theory.

Because language is central to all humanistic disciplines, as well as to several social sciences areas, it is studied from many points of view. Linguistics itself cannot be said to recognize a single optimal approach to the subject. Hence, the courses provide a variety of approaches that reflect the diversity of the field.

The Linguistics Department has consistently been ranked among the very best linguistics departments in the country. It offers programs leading to the Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and PhD degrees.