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The Breakdown

I think we can all agree that language is pretty integral to society.  No matter if you grew up speaking English, Hungarian or Finnish, language was likely your primary form of communication.  After all, it’s what separates us from other species.  If you’re interested in the development and application of language, then linguistics could be the major for you!   

As a linguistics major, you will study the nature of language, how it evolves and the impact it has on different communities.  You’ll address the correlation between different languages, analyze speech patterns and learn how humans acquire and process language.  And since linguistics is connected with a handful of other disciplines, you can expect to take a variety of courses in anthropology, psychology, philosophy and even computer science as well.

As you might already suspect, linguistics majors must have stellar communication skills.  Indeed, they possess a great ear for languages and are astute at picking up subtlety and nuance.  Further, they are detail-oriented and have strong analytical skills.  And they know how to properly use a semi-colon.


Nuts and Bolts

If you choose to study linguistics, you’ll acquire a firm grasp on the tenets of communication with classes like: History of the English Language, Phonetics and Phonology, Meaning and Understanding in Western Cultural Thought, Generative Syntax, Introduction to Cognitive Science, Grammar and Meaning, Logic, Historical Linguistics, Semantics, Introduction to Human Development, Psycholinguistics, Bilingualism, Cross Cultural Communication and Language and Religion. 

Decisions, Decisions

Linguistics majors are clearly curious about the development of language and communications.  Therefore, they also might consider studying anthropology, French, Spanish, German, Korean, Japanese, communications, Italian, Arabic, Greek, Portuguese, comparative literature, rhetoric, Scandinavian languages and literature, Chinese, African languages and literature, Hebrew, Russian, Slavic languages and literature and speech pathology.

What's Next

You might be shocked to learn that linguistics majors often pursue professional fields that center around communication.  To begin with, many linguistics grads wind up in publishing, journalism and/or advertising working as proofreaders, copywriters or copy editors.  Education is another big field and you’ll often find linguistics majors teaching foreign languages or ESL.  Others might turn their attention to communication disorders, becoming audiologists, speech pathologists or speech therapists.  Of course, a handful of linguistics students ultimately find work as translators or interpreters.  Believe it or not, the government also hires linguists and you’ll find them sprinkled throughout the CIA, FBI, NSA, Dept. of Defense, etc.  The computer industry is another big draw.  There, you’ll discover linguists working on subjects like artificial intelligence, text-to-speech synthesis and natural language processing.  Finally, there’s always the requisite number that pursues graduate study in linguistics along with law, anthropology, philosophy and education.



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Don Munce