Linguistics is a social science which endeavors to find the commonality of languages. The study of linguistics doesn’t focus on the specifics of a language; the rules regarding proper usage such as grammar. Instead, linguistics is a cognitive science similar to psychology and philosophy. Each of these disciplines studies the mind, the impact of the field on society individually and as a whole and uses the knowledge gained through study and research as a tool to predict what may or may not occur. The linguistics discipline employs a multi-directional approach to understanding and examining the relevance of language in connection to other fields of study. Linguistics scientifically studies the entirety of language; encompassing many subfields such as morphology, phonology, evolutionary linguistics, linguistic anthropology, neurolinguistics, psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics. Linguists seek to identify the distinctive qualities of individual languages as well as the universal properties of all languages.
Here we’ve ranked the top 10 linguistics schools for 2009-2010. Keep in mind that there are many good linguistics departments around the country. Don’t just look at these ten. Also, make sure to visit the departments and interact with the students and faculty to see if the college or university is right for you.
1. New York University:
The Department of Linguistics at New York University considers language “a social Phenomenon” which has recognizable structural similarities. Linguistics is seen as a link between the cognitive and social sciences. Through the study of language science can answer fundamental questions of biology, psychology and even sociology. At New York University, the study of linguistics addresses both the structural and social characteristics of language; examining phonetics (the study of speech sounds), morphology (the principles by which words are constructed), syntax and semantics (the study of the meaning of words). The University investigates the historical and evolutionary paths of language utilizing an interdisciplinary approach.
New York University offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the field of linguistics. The undergraduate major in linguistics will be required to complete nine courses in the major including introduction to linguistics or language and mind, sound and language, grammatical analysis, phonological analysis, introduction to semantics and either African American English, Language and Culture, Language in Latin America or Pidgin and Creole languages. The interdisciplinary curriculum allows students to pursue joint degree programs in six fields; Anthropology, French, German, Italian, Psychology and Spanish. The linguistic honors program requires a 40 to 50 page thesis in conjunction with two advanced courses. A joint honors program is also offered.
2. University of Pennsylvania:
The Department of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1947, boasts the oldest program in the United States. The linguistics program at the university is recognized for the breadth of its program which includes interdisciplinary research spanning multiple disciplines and the theoretical interpretation of the corpus research in the discipline. The University of Pennsylvania explores the causal and reciprocal of language in relation to cognition, society and historical perspectives and even extends to the language of gestures, not limiting to solely spoken language. A number of faculty members are award winning published authors in the filed of linguistics and respected researchers. The ‘Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology and Sound Change’ by William Labov was awarded the Linguistic Society of America’s biennial Bloomfield Book Award.
The degree programs at the University of Pennsylvania in linguistics are interdisciplinary curriculums encompassing a number of subfields. The undergraduate program provides students with a basic understanding of human language and its connection with cognition, society and history. Coursework for students majoring in linguistics include ten classes in the discipline including an undergraduate tutorial. Courses must be taken in formal structures, language diversity and change and from related disciplines so that students are familiar with the diversity of the field. An accelerated degree program is offered which allows students to obtain the bachelor and master degrees as well as the traditional masters and PhD programs.
3. Georgetown University:
Georgetown University’s Department of Linguistics was established in 1949 and has earned distinction among the top programs in the nation. The department is a leader in the field; initiating the annual Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics (GURT) conference which has become an internationally recognized forum in the field with themes varying from year to year. Linguistics is studied and analyzed through varying perspectives and contexts at Georgetown University encompassing the wide breadth of the discipline. The areas of study in the department include applied linguistics, computational linguistics, sociolinguistics and theoretical linguistics in which the universal and particular aspects of the individual languages are examined and compared.
The degree programs in linguistics at Georgetown University offer interdisciplinary curriculums. The program places emphasis on the importance of research in understanding linguistics and discerning the unique characteristics of individual languages. Students will study the individual aspects of language such as grammar and sound structure. The cognitive and social sciences are incorporated into the coursework so that students will be able to recognize the relevance and role of language in society on an interpersonal basis and as a whole. Course work for undergraduates include phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and five electives in the field. Twelve credits in a foreign language are also required.
4. University of California Berkeley:
UC Berkeley boasts the original Linguistics Department in North America; having been first established in 1901 for the purposes of exploring and translating unwritten languages in the United States. Though the department has expanded its program to explore as aspects of the linguistics discipline, it has remained dedicated to its original purpose. The department has created the Cross-Linguistic Tonal Database which is a forum intended for researchers to contribute and add to so that they might discover new aspects of linguistics. Throughout its evolution, the linguistics department has earned distinction for its theoretical advancements and innovative research. The department of linguistics utilizes both traditional methods and pioneering theoretical exploration to advance knowledge in the field. UC Berkeley endeavors to discover innovative reasons for linguistic fundamentals such as development and context. The interdisciplinary collaboration allows students to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of other departments.
The degree programs in linguistics at University of California Berkeley encompass the span of the discipline. Students develop skills in research methodologies, critical thinking and analysis and in communication. While the requisite core courses teach the foundational principals of linguistics, the array of electives permits students to explore particular areas of interest. The curriculum prepares students to evaluate theory, to identify linguistic patterns, to analyze empirical evidence and linguistic arguments. The small classes are taught by renowned experts in specific areas of linguistics. Graduate students are expected to complete an oral exam, research papers, a dissertation prospectus and, for PhD students, a Ph.D. dissertation.
5. Stanford University:
The department of Linguistics at Stanford University investigates the phenomenon of language through diverse and dynamic means. The area of language is explored from the cultural, psychological and social perspectives. Linguistics is considered a cognitive science which links humanities and the social sciences. At Stanford, linguistics explores the unique and universal aspects of language across cultures and throughout history. The linguistics department explores the breadth of the discipline through research and teaching; looking at the areas of phonology, pragmatics, phonetics, typology, variation, semantics computational linguistics and others. The department enjoys a collaborative relationship with other departments, universities and centers of research which offers the advantage of unique and diverse insights into the field.
The linguistics undergraduate major at Stanford University is centered on developing an elemental understanding of the importance and effects of language. Language is considered a fundamental human ability which provides insight into and an understanding of individuals and entire societies. The linguistics major is an interdisciplinary program which Stanford considers to be valuable in conjunction with numerous other fields of study. Students are required to complete a total of 50 credits within the major. The requisite core courses include introduction to phonetics and phonology, introduction to syntax, language in society, introduction to language change and introduction to lexical meaning. Students can pursue a concentration in a specific area by developing an individualized program with an advisor. Students are also required to develop a competency in a second language. An honors program is offered as well as graduate degree programs.
6. Cornell University:
The department of Linguistics at Cornell University embraces the view of language as the center of human activity. Cornell University’s linguistics department investigates the complexity of the development of language and the ability to understand language from varying perspectives. Through examining the various aspects of language, Cornell expects to find answers to questions which affect the humanities and social sciences and gain a more comprehensive understanding of human interaction and its evolution. The faculty members of the linguistics department explore the breadth of the field; historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, applied linguistics syntax and semantics. Students are introduced to all aspects of the linguistics discipline and learn how language has shaped our world.
Cornell University offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the linguistic major. Students are required to complete two years in a non-European or non-indo-European language, a historical linguistics course and introductory courses in phonetics, phonology, syntax and semantics and pragmatics. An undergraduate degree program in cognitive science is offered. Students can also choose to pursue a dual degree program. Any student interested in completing the honors program must maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average in general courses and 3.5 in linguistics courses. The phonetics and computational linguistics laboratories provide students with extensive practical and research opportunities. The graduate program is geared towards students intending to pursue doctorate degrees and academic career tracks.
7. University of California Los Angeles:
The Department of linguistics at the University of California was founded in 1960 and is an internationally respected leader in the discipline. The program is recognized for its work in all the sub-disciplines of linguistics and its unique academic investigation of African and American Indian languages. UCLA endeavors to ‘increase the knowledge and understanding of our world’ through the study of language. The program encompasses the traditional interdisciplinary facets of linguistics; semantics and syntax, psycholinguistics, language acquisition, historical linguistics, mathematical linguistics, and phonetics. UCLA’s linguistics program is one of the largest in the nation offering a large phonetics laboratory, psycholinguistics laboratory, computer facilities for computational linguistic studies and 18 faculty members who are experts in the field.
The undergraduate and graduate degree programs at the University of California provide versatile and innovative curriculum. The undergraduate students in linguistics can choose to concentrate in a general linguistic curriculum or can select an integrated program which combines a language concentration or a concentration in another discipline. Degree programs that can be pursued in combination with linguistics include Anthropology, Computer Science, Asian Languages and Cultures, English, French, Italian, Philosophy, Psychology, Scandinavian Languages and Spanish. The linguistics major also offers an honors program to students who maintain a grade point average of 3.6 or higher throughout their junior and senior years. The graduate degree programs include both master and doctorate degrees and can be earned in applied linguistics.
8. Ohio State:
The Department of Linguistics at Ohio State University, established in 1965, offers a multidimensional program dedicated to the scientific investigation of language from its various perspectives; historical, psychological and social. The university endeavors to obtain an inherent understanding of the workings and purpose of language through research and academic exploration of theory. The department analyzes the existing theories in linguistics utilizing proven empirical methodologies to develop new knowledge in the area. The award winning faculty members have developed a range of research interests in the various facets of the discipline. Students have the opportunity to participate in the undergraduate linguistics student’s club. The department also assists students with finding internships in the field of linguistics.
The undergraduate and graduate degree programs at the university are suited for a range of student interests. The undergraduate offers students two program tracks from which they can choose to follow. One track is intended for students who plan to attend graduate school while the other provides a foundational background in the area of linguistics. Students also have the option of discussing and developing an individualized degree program tailored towards specific needs with the assistance of an advisor. Dual degree programs are another option offered to undergraduate students. The combined bachelor and master degree program is available to students who maintain at least a 3.5 grade point average and have completed at least 135 course hours in linguistics. Courses with the linguistics degree program include historical linguistics, computational linguistics, phonology, sociolinguistics, syntax, language and the mind and language and social identity in the US.
9. University of Chicago:
The University of Chicago’s Department of Linguistics was founded in the mid 1930’s. The linguistics department explores the whole of the discipline instead of focusing on one particular core area of study. The interdisciplinary program utilizes the expertise and knowledge of faculty in other departments to develop a comprehensive understanding of the reciprocal nature of the discipline. Students are permitted and encouraged to work with faculty in other departments also. The programs core is research. The University of Chicago actively encourages linguistic majors to become involved in academic research as early as possible. Faculty members explore languages from across the globe as they existed at specific points in time and throughout their evolution.
The degree programs offered at the University of Chicago in linguistics include both undergraduate and graduate degrees. The undergraduate bachelor of art curriculum centers on providing a solid foundation in the central sub-disciplines of linguistics. Students must complete thirteen requisite courses which must include the introductory courses in linguistics, phonetics & phonology, syntax and semantics & pragmatics. At least two, but generally three, courses in a non-Indo European language are also required. The University also offers a minor in the program and an honors program for students majoring in linguistics. The university only offers a master degree program in conjunction with the doctorate programs. Joint doctorate degree programs are offered in linguistics and anthropology, comparative human development, psychology, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Slavic Languages and Literatures and in Philosophy.
10. University of Massachusetts Amherst:
The Department of Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts is renowned internationally as a leader in linguistic theoretical research and academic exploration. The department investigates the connections shared between the field of linguistics and other areas of study including philosophy of language, cognitive sciences and psychology. Faculty members and students work closely; researching areas such as psycholinguistics, language acquisition, prosody (the study of the structure of poetry) and morphology. The department leads community outreach activities; dealing with teachers, native communities and local bilingual communities.
Degree programs in linguistics at the University of Massachusetts are innovative and challenging. More individualized programs of study tailored to the students’ interests are also offered. Students can either follow the general education curriculum or can pursue courses solely centered on linguistic theory. Students can also choose a joint program with another field or with a language from seven interdisciplinary combinations; anthropology, Chinese, German, philosophy, psychology, Russian or Japanese. The university offers the opportunity to participate in exchange and study abroad programs, summer programs, internships and fellowships. A PhD in linguistics can be pursued with a concentration in the areas of syntax, semantics, phonology, phonetics, optimality theory, language acquisition or psycholinguistics.