BA in Italian & Linguistics

The Italian & Linguistics major enables students to combine the study of human language from a variety of perspectives with the study of Italian 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 proficiency in Italian (reading, writing, speaking, listening) and gain an appreciation and critical understanding of Italian cultural and literary traditions, practices, genres, and great works. 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 sought-after language skills and intercultural competence 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

Students graduating with a joint major in Italian & Linguistics 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.
  • 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.
  • Proficiency in the Italian language at an advanced level, with respect to reading, writing, speaking, and understanding of spoken Italian.
  • Critical and analytical engagement with Italian cultural and literary traditions, practices, genres, and great works.
  • Systematic exposure to the earliest forms of written Italian from the 12th through the 17th century: Umbrian, Sicilian, Tuscan, and the emergence of literary Italian.


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 Italian & Linguistics 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; the Intellectual Toolkit; and possibly Communication. For further details about how the Italian & Linguistics major courses fit in with the Hub requirements, see the Linguistics Hub requirements page. Students can satisfy up to 15 of the required 26 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.

Major Requirements

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 Italian course descriptions and Linguistics course descriptions and on the Linguistics Department website.

Six courses in Italian

  • One Italian language course at the 300 level (CAS LI 303–310)
  • One Italian literature course chosen from CAS LI 350 or 351
  • Four additional Italian literature courses at or above the 300 level from among CAS LI 350, 351, 352, 450, 452, 453, 459, 553, 555, 556, 590; others with Italian advisor approval

Six 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)
  • Two additional CAS LX electives above the level of CAS LX 250

One additional elective


  • in Italian—Italian literature (see above listing) or Italian culture: chosen from CAS LI 349, 452, 473, 480, 540


  • in linguistics—from courses in general linguistics (CAS LX courses at or above the 300 level) or other linguistics courses with advisor approval

Study Abroad: Padua

Students may take courses to fulfill requirements of the Italian & Linguistics major in the Boston University Study Abroad program in Padua. Additional information on this program is available in the Study Abroad and Internship Programs section of this site. Students should consult with their advisor to determine which Study Abroad courses may fulfill major and minor requirements.

A minimum of 6 of the 13 courses required for the 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 LI 350 or 351 plus another of the required courses in Italian 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.