BA in Linguistics and Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences

The intercollegiate BA Program in Linguistics and Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences is offered by the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) in conjunction with the College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College (SAR). It is designed for students interested in studying human language from a variety of perspectives and in gaining an understanding of language acquisition and communication disorders. The program provides a solid grounding in linguistics through examination of the structure, use, acquisition, and development of languages of the world. The intercollegiate joint major focuses on experimental approaches to the study of language as well as interactions between theoretical study of language and clinical applications.

Students completing this program may pursue careers in research, education, medicine, public health, or the law. The joint major prepares students for graduate study in any of a number of related areas (e.g., linguistics, psychology, neurolinguistics, cognitive science) and for graduate/professional work in speech language pathology, audiology, or more generally, for future careers in medicine, neuropsychology, language technology (e.g., speech recognition or speech synthesis), or areas of child development and education. Students work with advisors in both colleges to design individual programs of study that match each student’s interests and professional goals.

Undergraduates should note that employment as a certified speech-language pathologist or audiologist is not possible with only a bachelor’s degree. An advanced degree in speech-language pathology or audiology is required for certification by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) as well as for licensure in most states. Boston University’s graduate program in speech-language pathology is accredited by the Council on Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). The BU Master of Science program enables students to fulfill the requirements for professional certification by the ASHA in speech-language pathology, as well as for Massachusetts state licensure and teacher certification.

Learning Outcomes

Students graduating with a major in Linguistics and Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences are expected to attain:

  • An understanding of the fundamental questions that drive modern linguistic research concerning formal structure, universals, acquisition, historical change, variation, and social dimensions of use, along with foundational knowledge in the core areas of linguistic theory.
  • Foundational knowledge in the areas that form the basis for research and clinical work in speech, language, and hearing sciences.
  • The ability to identify and describe with precision the empirical patterns found in sets of language data, and to construct well-reasoned analyses by formulating, testing, and refining hypotheses about these patterns.
  • The ability to apply their coursework in linguistics and speech, language, and hearing sciences either in research or in clinical or other professional experiences, demonstrating integrative reasoning to interpret data in relation to published research, justifying the scope of their analyses, supporting their conclusions, and presenting a coherent summary of the relevant facts and of their reasoning.


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 Linguistics and Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences will ordinarily, through coursework for the major, satisfy some of the BU Hub requirements in Scientific and Social Inquiry; Quantitative Reasoning; Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship; and the Intellectual Toolkit. For further details about how the Linguistics and Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences major courses fit in with the Hub requirements, see the Linguistics Hub requirements website. Students can satisfy up to 11 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.

Thirteen courses, including at least five in CAS Linguistics and at least five in Sargent Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences (all courses listed below are 4 credits unless otherwise indicated):

A. A basic introduction to linguistics, to be taken before all other CAS LX courses, and a basic course in Communication Disorders, to be taken before all other SAR SH courses:

  • CAS LX 250 Introduction to Linguistics
  • SAR SH 531 Introduction to Communication Disorders

B. One course in phonetics—either of the following:

  • CAS LX 301 Phonetics & Phonology: Introduction to Sound Systems (previously offered as CAS LX 510)
  • SAR SH 221 Phonetics

Note that only CAS LX 301 satisfies specific BU Hub requirements.

C. Two additional core courses in Linguistics:

  • 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 CAS LX 502)

D. Two additional core courses in Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences:

  • SAR SH 522 Anatomy and Physiology of the Speech Mechanism
  • SAR SH 523 Introduction to Speech Science

E. One course in language acquisition—chosen from the following:

  • CAS LX 350 Crosslinguistic Approaches to Language Acquisition
  • CAS LX 355 Second Language Acquisition (previously offered as CAS LX 542)
  • CAS LX 453 Acquisition of Phonology (previously offered as CAS LX 541)
  • CAS LX 454 Acquisition of Syntax (previously offered as CAS LX 540)
  • SAR SH 524 Language Acquisition

F. Two additional courses in Linguistics:

  • Chosen from CAS LX courses at or above the 300 level, in consultation with an advisor

G. One additional course in Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences, chosen from:

  • SAR SH 505 Introduction to Phonological Disorders
  • SAR SH 535 Introduction to Audiology
  • SAR SH 548 Introduction to Language Disorders

H. One of the following two courses:

  • SAR SH 547 Introduction to Clinical Practice
  • SAR SH 642 Senior Seminar: Internship (2 cr)

I. One additional elective from E, F, or G above.

*Students intending to apply to graduate programs in Speech-Language Pathology or Audiology will need to include the following courses as part of their undergraduate curriculum: General Psychology (CAS PS 101), Human Anatomy (CAS BI 106), Physics of Health Professions (CAS PY 104), Statistics (CAS MA 113, MA 115, or PS 211), and Language Acquisition (SAR SH 524).

Honors in the Major

Students with a sufficient GPA overall (at least 3.65) and in the major (at least 3.7) can apply to participate in the Honors program, which will require 2 additional semesters of Honors Research beyond the 13 courses required for the standard major. An application, including a research proposal, needs to be submitted and approved by the end of the junior year. Further details are available from the Linguistics Department website.