BA in Linguistics

The major in Linguistics enables students to explore, at many levels and from a variety of perspectives, how language works. Students of linguistics examine the structure, use, acquisition, and development of the languages of the world. We aim to identify both those elements that are common to all human languages (spoken and signed) and the ways in which languages and dialects can differ from one another. Courses in phonetics and phonology reveal the sound patterns of language. Morphology studies the composition of words. Syntax, semantics, and pragmatics focus on how phrases are put together and how “meaning” is communicated. Historical linguistics examines the evolution of linguistic systems over time. Sociolinguistics considers the relationship of language form and social factors such as gender, race, and region. Acquisition investigates the learning of language from birth into adulthood.

The major offers the flexibility to enable students to study two foreign languages of their choosing, to pursue their own interests within linguistics, and to explore interdisciplinary connections. The vibrant linguistics community in the Boston/Cambridge area affords the opportunity for students to attend lectures and conferences and participate in other local linguistics events.

An undergraduate degree in linguistics offers excellent training for a wide variety of careers, including translation, interpreting, teaching, publishing, national security, international affairs, forensics, or medicine, and for graduate study in linguistics or related fields (such as anthropology, law, philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, computer science, or speech and hearing sciences).


Courses that a student takes toward the major in Linguistics cannot also be used by the student for Divisional Studies course credit outside the Humanities Division.

The major consists of 12 courses: eight in Linguistics (including four basic required courses and four electives) plus four intermediate or advanced language courses including two different foreign languages. Unless otherwise indicated, all courses are 4 credit hours. Further information on individual courses can be found in the list of Linguistics course descriptions and on the Linguistics program website.

1. An introductory course—to be taken before all other linguistics courses in the major

  • CAS LX 250 Introduction to Linguistics

2. Three basic linguistics courses

  • CAS LX 502 Semantics I
  • CAS LX 510 Phonetics
  • CAS LX 522 Syntax I

3. Two additional linguistics courses, including at most one at the 200 level, from the following

  • CAS AN 521 Sociolinguistics
  • CAS LX 205 Origins of Writing
  • CAS LX 235 Language in the Contemporary World: Technology, Society, and the Law
  • CAS LX 240 Great Linguists
  • CAS LX 245 Language and Mind
  • CAS LX 320 Language, Race, and Gender
  • CAS LX 340 Language Myths
  • CAS LX 500 Topics in Linguistics
  • CAS LX 503 Semantics II
  • CAS LX 504 Topics in Pragmatics
  • CAS LX 513 Introduction to Phonology
  • CAS LX 515 Languages in Contact: The High Stakes of Grammatical Border-Crossing
  • CAS LX 517 “Having” and “Being” across Languages
  • CAS LX 518 Focus
  • CAS LX 519 Questions
  • CAS LX 521 Morphology
  • CAS LX 523 Syntax II
  • CAS LX 525 Prosody
  • CAS LX 535 Historical and Comparative Linguistics
  • CAS LX 540 Acquisition of Syntax
  • CAS LX 541 Phonological Development
  • CAS LX 542 Second Language Acquisition
  • CAS LX 545 Bilingualism
  • CAS LX 546 Incomplete Acquisition and Language Attrition

4. One course in the linguistic analysis of a specific language

Offered in English:

  • CAS EN 515 History of the English Language 1
  • CAS EN 516 History of the English Language 2
  • CAS EN 518 Linguistic Problems in the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language
  • CAS LX 406 The Linguistics of Contemporary English
  • CAS LX 501 Linguistic Field Methods
  • CAS LX 505 Structure of African Languages
  • CAS LX 530 Variation in English Dialects
  • CAS LX 532 Romance Linguistics
  • CAS LX 533 The Structure of Creole Languages
  • SED DE 672 American Sign Language Structure

Knowledge of the language a prerequisite:

  • CAS LF 500 French Phonetics
  • CAS LF 502 The Structure of French: Syntax
  • CAS LF 503 The Structure of French: Phonology
  • CAS LF 504 History of the French Language
  • CAS LF/LX 506 Topics in French Linguistics
  • CAS LG 315 Introduction to German Linguistics
  • CAS LJ 410 The History of the Japanese Language
  • CAS LJ 510 The Structure of the Japanese Language
  • CAS LS/LX 420 Spanish in the United States
  • CAS LS 504 History of the Spanish Language
  • CAS LS 505 Topics in Spanish Linguistics
  • CAS LS/LX 507 The Sounds of Spanish
  • CAS LS/LX 508 The Structure of Spanish

5. One additional course chosen from among those listed in groups 3 and 4 above plus those listed below (or another related course, with approval of the major advisor)

Logic and philosophy of language:

  • CAS PH 160 Reasoning and Argumentation
  • CAS PH 261 Puzzles and Paradoxes
  • CAS PH 360 Symbolic Logic
  • CAS PH 421 Frege, Moore, and Russell
  • CAS PH 463 Philosophy of Language
  • CAS PH 486 Topics in Knowledge, Language, and Logic

Language, culture, and society:

  • CAS AN 351 Language, Culture, and Society
  • CAS AN 524 Seminar: Language and Culture Contacts in Contemporary Africa
  • CAS AN 532 Literacy and Islam in Africa
  • CAS AR 208 Lost Languages and Decipherments

Language acquisition and development:

  • CAS NE/PS 544 Developmental Neuropsychology
  • SAR SH 505 Introduction to Phonological Disorders
  • SAR SH 523 Introduction to Speech Science
  • SAR SH 524 Language Acquisition
  • SAR SH 531 Introduction to Communication Disorders

Independent study:

  • CAS LX 491/492 Directed Study: Linguistics

6. Four courses made up of any combination of language courses at or above the third-semester level and/or upper-level courses taught in a foreign language, including two different foreign languages. (These include both Indo-European and non-Indo-European languages. One of the two languages may be American Sign Language, taught in the School of Education.)

Study Abroad Opportunities

Students of Linguistics are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. Students should consult with their advisor to determine which of the Study Abroad and Internship Programs might best fit with their study of languages and linguistics and to discuss which Study Abroad courses may fulfill degree requirements. At least 6 of 12 courses required for the major must be taken on the Charles River Campus.