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 several combined programs: Linguistics and Philosophy; Linguistics and East Asian Languages and CulturesComputational Linguistics and Linguistics and Cognitive Science.

Capstone Requirement

The major requires a capstone experience, which can be fulfilled in one of the following ways:

(A) A research paper completed as Honors Thesis LING 497, or as Directed Research LING 490 or as a Linguistic 400-level course.

(B) A poster presented at the USC UG symposium or at a conference.

(C) A summer internship related to the degree.

Courses of Instruction

  • Linguistics
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • East Asian Languages and Cultures

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

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. program 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 sub-fields of linguistics such as psycholinguistics, language acquisition, field linguistics, sociolinguistics, neuro-linguistics and the study of contact linguistics, in order to gain a multi-disciplinary perspective on the fundamental questions of our discipline.  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. Scientific inquiry and research methods

In all linguistics courses, students will be required to analyze paradigms and patterns 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. program 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 data from different languages.

4. Communication skills and the effective presentation of scientific materials

Students will learn how to present the results of novel scientific investigation and analysis effectively, in oral and 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 their ideas and those of others in clear, accessible, professional ways.

5.  Professional development

Students in the B.A. program in Linguistics are encouraged to take advantage of a wide range of opportunities for professional development, including language study abroad, fieldwork in under-reported languages, conference participation, internships in speech technology, participation in grant-supported projects (or even designing a project of one’s own), and a fourth-year capstone project.   The Linguistics faculty strives to impart and continually reinforce the skills that effectively prepare the student for a competitive workplace or for graduate study.