BA in French & Linguistics

The French & Linguistics major enables students to combine the study of human language from a variety of perspectives with the study of French language, literature, and culture. In their linguistics courses, students explore the formal structures of language (sound system, internal structure of words, syntactic organization, and representations of meaning) as well as language universals, variability across languages, social dimensions of language use, and historical language change. At the same time, they achieve an understanding of the essential elements of French grammar and pronunciation, further develop their abilities to express themselves with clarity and precision in spoken and written French, and improve their listening and reading skills. They gain an understanding of French and Francophone cultural and literary traditions and learn to analyze and appreciate great literary and cultural works. Integrating the two components of the joint major, coursework in French linguistics focuses on the historical development of French, on variation in the uses of French in different parts of the world, or on the distinguishing characteristics of French in relation to other languages. Class projects and interactions with faculty provide frequent opportunities for making connections between the major’s two primary areas of study. Study abroad is strongly encouraged and, with careful planning, easily accommodated.

The joint major equips students with language skills and cultural competence for employment across all economic sectors and provides excellent background for a range of careers including language education, testing and assessment, translation and interpretation, international business, speech therapy, voice coaching, information technology, law, nursing and medicine, child development, and social work. It also prepares students for graduate study in the areas of language, literature, linguistics, and related areas such as regional studies and cognitive science.

Learning Outcomes

  • The ability to identify and describe with precision the empirical patterns found in sets of language data, and to construct well-reasoned linguistic analyses by formulating, testing, and refining hypotheses about these patterns.
  • Linguistic mastery of some aspect of modern­-day French (phonetics, phonology, or syntax, e.g.) or of the historical development of the language.
  • Proficiency in the French language at an advanced level, with respect to reading, writing, speaking, and understanding of spoken French.
  • Critical and analytical engagement with French/Francophone cultural and literary traditions, practices, genres, and great works.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in French & Linguistics will ordinarily, through coursework for the major, satisfy some of the BU Hub requirements in Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Historical Interpretation; Scientific and Social Inquiry; Quantitative Reasoning; Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship; Communication; and the Intellectual Toolkit. For further details about how the French & Linguistics major courses fit in with the Hub requirements, see the Linguistics Hub requirements website. Students can satisfy up to 15 of the 26 required Hub units from courses counting for the joint major. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

The major consists of thirteen 4-credit courses, all completed with a grade of C or higher. Further information on individual courses can be found in the list of French course descriptions and Linguistics course descriptions, and on the Linguistics Department website.

Five courses in French

  • One French language course at the 300 level
  • Two survey courses in French literature: CAS LF 350 and 351
  • Two French literature courses at the 400 or 500 level, including one covering a period before 1800, and one covering a period after 1800:
    • Applicable courses for before 1800: CAS LF 451, 453, 457, 550, 553, 555, 560, 562, 563, 564, 565, 575
    • Applicable courses for after 1800: CAS LF 455, 456, 460, 469, 551, 554, 558, 570, 571, 590

Five courses in linguistics

  • CAS LX 250 Introduction to Linguistics
  • Three core courses in linguistics, to be taken in any order (all have CAS LX 250 as a prerequisite):
    • CAS LX 301 Phonetics & Phonology: Introduction to Sound Systems (previously offered as CAS LX 510)
    • CAS LX 321 Syntax: Introduction to Sentential Structure (previously offered as CAS LX 522)
    • CAS LX 331 Semantics & Pragmatics: Introduction to Linguistic Meaning (previously offered as 502)
  • One additional CAS LX elective above the level of CAS LX 250

One course in French linguistics

Choose from the following (or others offered abroad, with advisor approval):

  • CAS LF 500/CAS LX 372 French Phonetics
  • CAS LF 502/CAS LX 374 The Structure of French: Syntax
  • CAS LF 503/CAS LX 373 The Structure of French: Phonology
  • CAS LF 504 History of French
  • CAS LF 506/CAS LX 376 Topics in French Linguistics

Two additional electives

  • One course in French linguistics (listed above) or general linguistics (CAS LX courses at or above the 300 level)
  • One additional French course at the CAS LF 300 level or above in the area of advanced language, linguistics, culture, film, or literature

Options include courses taken abroad, with advisor approval.

Study Abroad Opportunities

Students may take courses to fulfill requirements for the joint major in French & Linguistics in various locations through the Boston University Study Abroad and Internship Programs. For example, the BU center in Paris offers an Internship Program running throughout the year. Students in the Paris Internship Program take three courses at the center followed by an internship placement with accompanying academic work.

Opportunities to take courses abroad taught in French are also available in BU’s program in Geneva and through exchange programs in Paris in the fields of management and political science. Additional information on these programs is available in the Study Abroad and Internship Programs portion of this Bulletin.

Students should consult in advance with a faculty advisor to determine which Study Abroad courses may fulfill degree requirements.

A minimum of 6 of the 13 courses required for the joint major must be taken on the Charles River Campus.

Honors in the Major 

Students with a sufficient GPA overall (at least 3.65) and in the major (at least 3.7) and who have already taken at least two of the core courses in Linguistics (from CAS LX 250, 301, 321, 331) as well as CAS LF 350 plus another of the required courses in French literature can apply to participate in the Honors program, which involves additional advanced coursework. See the Linguistics Department website for details. Applications will be accepted no sooner than the end of sophomore year and no later than the beginning of the second semester of the junior year.