The joint Linguistics & Philosophy major combines a solid foundation in both disciplines with an interdisciplinary focus on understanding the human capacity for language. Through rigorous training in a variety of theoretical, empirical, and analytical approaches, students acquire the knowledge and skills they need for in-depth exploration of fundamental questions related to meaning, intention, and reference.

The small size of the program enables close personal and intellectual contact between students and faculty, and allows student majors to design a course of study that reflects their individual goals and interests. The Linguistics & Philosophy major provides excellent preparation for graduate study in the humanities, social sciences, and computer science or for professional training in law, education, or communications.

Learning Outcomes

Students graduating with a major in Linguistics & Philosophy are expected to attain:

  • Some mastery of the history and development of analytic philosophy and the concepts of truth, reference, objectivity, and meaning as they have figured in philosophy in the last century or so.
  • An understanding of fundamental concepts in the philosophy of language and logic.
  • Foundational knowledge in the core areas of linguistic theory, including phonetics, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, with additional emphasis on one of the latter three subfields, and an understanding of the fundamental questions that drive modern linguistic research in these subfields.
  • 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.


All first-year, first-time students will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, a general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements are flexible and can be satisfied in many different ways, through coursework in and beyond the major. Students majoring in Linguistics & Philosophy 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; the Intellectual Toolkit; and possibly Communication. For further details about how the Linguistics & Philosophy major courses fit in with the Hub requirements, see the Linguistics Hub requirements page. 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.

Thirteen courses are required for the major, with at least six courses each in Linguistics and Philosophy. All courses must be completed with a grade of C or higher. Further information on individual courses can be found in the list of Linguistics course descriptions and Philosophy course descriptions and on the Linguistics Department website.

Unless otherwise indicated, all required courses are 4-credit hours.

Two foundation courses, one philosophy course, and one linguistics course, from the following:


One of the following, to be taken before higher-level philosophy courses:

  • CAS PH 100 Introduction to Philosophy
  • CAS PH 110 Great Philosophers
  • CAS PH 160 Reasoning and Argumentation


  • CAS LX 250 Introduction to Linguistics; to be taken before higher-level linguistics courses

Principal Courses

In addition to the above, also required are 11 principal courses (at least five philosophy courses and five linguistics courses), as outlined below:

Four philosophy courses:

  • CAS PH 310 History of Modern Philosophy
  • CAS PH 360 Symbolic Logic
  • CAS PH 463 Philosophy of Language
  • CAS PH 422 Analytic Philosophy or CAS PH 443 Philosophy of Mind

Four linguistics courses:

  • 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 CAS LX 502)
  • One additional course in formal syntax, semantics, or pragmatics, chosen from:
    • CAS LX 317 “Having” and “Being” across Languages (previously offered as CAS LX 517)
    • CAS LX 327 Focus (previously offered as CAS LX 518)
    • CAS LX 328 Questions (previously offered as CAS LX 519)
    • CAS LX 422 Intermediate Syntax: Modeling Syntactic Knowledge
    • CAS LX 432 Intermediate Semantics: The Grammatical Construction of Meaning (previously offered as CAS LX 503)
    • CAS LX 433 Experimental Pragmatics (previously offered as CAS LX 504)
    • or an appropriate CAS LX 390 or 490 topics course, selected in consultation with the student’s advisor

Three additional linguistics or philosophy courses 200 level and above, including at least one each in linguistics and philosophy. Recommended courses include the following:

  • CAS PH 261 Puzzles and Paradoxes
  • CAS PH 265 Minds & Machines
  • CAS PH 270 Philosophy of Science
  • CAS PH 266 Mind, Brain, and Self
  • CAS PH 421 Frege, Moore, and Russell
  • CAS PH 424 Wittgenstein
  • CAS PH 460 Epistemology
  • CAS PH 461 Mathematical Logic
  • CAS PH 462 Foundations of Mathematics
  • CAS PH 465 Philosophy of Cognitive Science
  • CAS PH 468 Philosophical Problems of Logic and Mathematics
  • CAS PH 486 Topics in Knowledge, Language, and Logic
  • CAS LX 311 Morphology: Introduction to the Structures and Shapes of Words (previously offered as CAS LX 521)
  • CAS LX 342 Language, Race, and Gender (previously offered as CAS LX 320)
  • CAS LX 345 Languages in Contact (previously offered as CAS LX 515)
  • CAS LX 346 Language Variation and Change
  • CAS LX 349 Bilingualism (previously offered as CAS LX 545)
  • CAS LX 359 Interrupted Acquisition and Language Attrition (previously offered as CAS LX 546)
  • CAS LX 360 Historical and Comparative Linguistics (previously offered as CAS LX 535)
  • CAS LX 365 Variation in English Dialects (previously offered as CAS LX 530)
  • CAS LX 394 Introduction to Computer Programming for Computational Linguistics
  • CAS LX 405 Prosody (previously offered as CAS LX 525)
  • CAS LX 423 Advanced Syntax: Issues in Modern Syntactic Theory (previously offered as CAS LX 523)
  • CAS LX 454 Acquisition of Syntax (previously offered as CAS LX 540)
  • CAS LX 496 Computational Linguistics

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 completed CAS LX 331 Semantics & Pragmatics plus one of the required philosophy courses (from CAS PH 310, 360, 422, 443, or 463) can apply to participate in the Honors program, which involves additional advanced coursework and one semester of Senior Honors Research. 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.