THE LINGUISTICS MAJOR

Linguistics Photo

The Linguistics Major

Bachelor of Arts Degree in Linguistics.

The undergraduate major in Linguistics focuses on how the human mind structures, processes, and acquires language, as well as how similar communication goals are met by diverse means in the languages of the world.

Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Linguistics


Honors Program

The Linguistics honors program requires students to complete the requirements for the major with a GPA of 3.5 or above and to complete LING 497 – Honors Thesis or relevant course in affiliated programs for the combined majors with a grade of B or better. Students intending to complete the honors program should register with the undergraduate advisor no later than the second semester of their junior year.

  • Linguistics Major with Honors
  • Combined Major in Linguistics and Philosophy with Honors
  • Combined Major in Linguistics and Psychology with Honors

Combined Programs

In addition to the major and minor in Linguistics, the Linguistics department offers five combined programs: Linguistics and Philosophy; Linguistics and Psychology; and Linguistics and East Asian Languages and Cultures.

  • Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts Degree with a Combined Major in Linguistics and Philosophy
  • Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts Degree with a Combined Major in Linguistics and Psychology
  • Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts Degree with a Combined Major in Linguistics and East Asian Languages and Cultures

Courses of Instruction


Study Abroad

Undergraduate Linguistics majors and minors can participate in university-wide international study programs administered through the USC College Office of Overseas Studies. 53 semester or year-long programs are offered, and you can find Linguistics courses in 14 countries.

Learn more about undergraduate international study programs.


Career Opportunities

An undergraduate major in Linguistics provides a strong foundation and a highly respected preparation for professional schools, for careers that are either scientific or humanistic in orientation, and for graduate study in a wide range of fields. Graduate programs in Education respect a background in Linguistics, and the students wishing to pursue graduate study in English or a foreign language will find their application enhanced by a Linguistics major or minor. Schools of business, law, and medicine looking for applicants with a broad intellectual background recognize the analytical skills and scientific rigor which a major in Linguistics represents. To graduate schools and respective employers in computer science, a Linguistics background will be especially attractive. The Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics can thus be the starting point not only for careers in Linguistics, but also in a number of diverse areas, such as education, law, government, business, and computer science.


Bachelor of Arts Degree in Linguistics.  Program Learning Objectives

Specific learning objectives of the B.A. in Linguistics program are:

1. Understanding the Generative Linguistics Program

Students completing a B.A. in Linguistics will develop a clear understanding of why the generative modeling of language initiated by Noam Chomsky has become the dominant paradigm in modern linguistics.  Students will be familiar with arguments relating to language acquisition, issues of language complexity and the poverty of the stimulus as foundations for a generative, modular approach to the modeling and scientific analysis of language. 

2. Developing knowledge of broad range of sub-fields of theoretical linguistics

Students in the B.A. in Linguistics will engage in courses representing a broad range of different sub-fields of modern, formal linguistics.  Four major areas in which students will be able to develop intermediate to advanced skills and knowledge are: syntax, semantics, phonetics, and phonology.  With a strong foundation in these areas, students will be able to approach and gain knowledge of other linguistics’ sub-fields such as psycholinguistics, language acquisition, field linguistics, sociolinguistics, neuro-linguistics and the study of contact linguistics.  Students will learn to appreciate the major achievements, debates and controversies in each sub-discipline, as well as develop the skills necessary to engage in analysis of novel data within each mode of linguistic description.

3. Practical applications of knowledge of research methodology

In all linguistics courses, students will be required to analyze paradigms and portions of language, making use of specific modes of analysis presented and taught in each course.  Students will learn how to interpret the results of experiments and formulate and test the predictions of different hypotheses and approaches to language variation.  Additionally, students in the B.A. in Linguistics will be encouraged to undertake individual, extended research projects under the supervision of a faculty member, exploring theoretical issues and/or developing principled, theory-based descriptions of previously undocumented or unanalyzed sets of data from different languages.

4. Developing skills in oral and written communication and the presentation of scientific materials

Students will learn how to present the results of novel scientific investigation and analysis both orally and in written forms, making use of standard conventions present in the different sub-fields of formal linguistics.  Students will develop the skills necessary to produce and communicate scientific arguments, present information using theory-driven models or analysis, engage in the discussion of concepts in modern linguistics, and explicate the ideas of others and themselves in accessible, clear, professional ways.  

  • Chair: Andrew Simpson
  • 3601 Watt Way
  • Grace Ford Salvatori 301
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-1693