BS in Linguistics and Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences

The intercollegiate BS program in Linguistics and Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences is offered by the Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences in conjunction with the College of Arts & Sciences. 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.

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 completing this program who choose not to continue their education will be well prepared to pursue careers in research, education, medicine, public health, or the law. 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 master of science 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 in Speech-Language Pathology enables students to fulfill the requirements for professional certification from ASHA as well as 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 SLHS 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 Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Quantitative Reasoning, Communication, Scientific and Social Inquiry, Diversity, Civic Engagement and Global Citizenship, and some elements of the Intellectual Toolkit. 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 are required for the joint major, including at least five in CAS Linguistics and at least five in SAR 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 110 Introduction to Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences (previously offered as SAR SH 531)

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

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 220 Anatomy and Physiology of the Speech Mechanism (previously offered as SAR SH 522)
  • SAR SH 325 Speech Science (previously offered as SAR SH 523)

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 230 Language Acquisition (previously offered as SAR SH 524)

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 240 Introduction to Audiology (previously offered as SAR SH 535)
  • SAR SH 355 Introduction to Language Disorders Across the Lifespan (previously offered as SAR SH 548)
  • SAR SH 356 Introduction to Phonological Disorders (previously offered as SAR SH 505)

H. One of the following two courses:

  • SAR SH 350 Clinical Methods (previously offered as SAR SH 547)
  • SAR SH 415 Senior Seminar: Internship (2 cr) (previously offered as SAR SH 642)

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

*Students intending to apply to graduate programs in Speech-Language Pathology or Audiology are advised to include the following courses as part of their undergraduate curriculum: General Psychology (CAS PS 101), Human Anatomy (CAS BI 210), Physics of Health Sciences (CAS PY 104), Statistics (CAS MA 113, MA 115, or PS 211), Language Acquisition (SAR SH 230), Introduction to Audiology (SAR SH 240), and Clinical Methods (SAR SH 350).

Graduation with Distinction

Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences students are eligible to participate in the Sargent College Senior Thesis for Distinction. This experience provides a thorough understanding of the research enterprise. The thesis will develop your technical writing and oral presentation skills through interactions in the laboratory, writing a final report on your project, and summarizing your research in a final presentation to students and faculty. In addition, the dedication, creativity, and independence honed during your thesis experience will be invaluable in helping prepare you for graduate school. Successful completion of the Sargent College Senior Thesis for Distinction results in the designation “graduation with distinction” appearing on the student’s diploma and transcript. Further information is available on the Sargent website.