Major: Linguistics

Find the right college for you.

The sentence that you are reading right now has a structure that can be taken apart and analyzed, just like sentences written in other languages have structures unique to them. Yet, since all humans are, after all, human, every language also contains universal linguistic elements.

Linguistics majors study how languages like Spanish, French, Korean, Hopi -- and even computer programming languages -- function and how people learn to speak and write in those languages.

Linguistics deals with the structure of language (including syntax, phonetics, and grammar), the relationships between languages, and the way languages change over time.

“I just really like language. I enjoy every aspect of it, be it reading or writing poetry, essays, and plays, or studying parts of speech and grammar.”Jon, senior, linguistics and English, University of Michigan

Are You Ready To...?

  • Record people speaking in order to study the way they use parts of speech
  • Perhaps study in another country for a semester or a summer
  • Diagram sentences written in unfamiliar languages
  • Translate a computer programming language

It Helps To Be...

Interested in the way language works. If you like to look up the origins of words, guess where people are from by the way they speak, and play word games, this could be the major for you.

College Checklist

  • Does the program offer a B.A. or a B.S. in linguistics?
  • Is there a linguistics department, or is linguistics part of another department, such as anthropology?
  • How easy is it to double major?
  • Does the college have a linguistics lab?
  • Does the program offer a study-abroad program in which students can immerse themselves in a foreign language?
  • Will you be able to do independent research?

Did You Know?

Many of the more than five thousand languages spoken in the world today may be extinct by the end of the century.

Course Spotlight

In an introductory linguistics course, you’ll get a taste of how diverse this major can be. One topic covered in class will be the ethnic and regional variations in speech. The professor might even ask you and your classmates to demonstrate. Other topics include the neurology of speech and the way people learn language in the first place. And don’t be surprised if you’re asked to analyze a sample of writing in a language you’ve never seen before.