Program in Linguistics

Academic Unit

Program Information

Linguistics is the scientific study of language and all its properties. Some of the core aspects of language that linguists study include:

  • The physical manifestations of language as sounds/signs (Phonetics)
  • The systematic patterns in those physical manifestations (Phonology)
  • The construct of the “word” and its sub-parts (Morphology)
  • The structural organization of words into phrases and sentences (Syntax)
  • The logical meanings and interpretations of linguistic expressions (Semantics, Pragmatics)

Students at Princeton develop the skills of a linguist through hands-on engagement with gathering and interpreting data from many different languages, the employment of diverse methodologies, and the investigation of language through a variety of lenses, including:

  • Working with native speakers of an unfamiliar language (Field Methods)
  • Engaging with descriptive grammars and large-scale statistical correlations to investigate similarities and differences across languages (Linguistic Typology)
  • Analyzing extant texts to discover and elucidate how language changes over time (Historical Linguistics)
  • Modeling linguistic differences across dialects and other social contexts (Sociolinguistics)
  • Measuring linguistic behaviors in controlled experimental contexts (Psycholinguistics)
  • Observing how languages develop/coexist within speakers (Language Acquisition, Bilingualism, Machine Translation)

Beyond the scope of linguistic knowledge mastered through such coursework, students of linguistics will gain a number of invaluable skills that extend to nearly every domain, including: applying logical problem solving skills to new problems, gathering/organizing large sets of data, pattern recognition, making and testing hypotheses, and identifying problems in and benefits to particular interpretations and analyses.

Students with a particular interest in language and linguistics can pursue a certificate in linguistics. Participants satisfy the requirements of their chosen departmental major and develop a complementary course of study in linguistics as outlined below. Students may also apply to the University to be an Independent Concentrator in Linguistics.

Admission to the Program

The program is open to undergraduates majoring in any department. Students should meet with the program director, usually during the sophomore year, to apply to the program and plan a course of study. Applicants will be accepted on the basis of interest and a coherent academic plan.

Program of Study

The program of study will be approved by the program director. It will include completion of the following requirements:

1. Satisfactory completion of LIN 201/ENG 213, Introduction to Language and Linguistics.  Permission may be granted by the Director to substitute a different LIN course in place of 201; decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

2. Satisfactory completion of four additional LIN courses, 200-level or above.  At least three of the four courses should bear the LIN designation or be cross-listed with Linguistics. Linguistics related courses in other departments and programs may be counted with the approval of the director.

3. Some substantial aspect of linguistics should be incorporated into either junior independent work or into the senior thesis.  If this is not feasible, students should contact the director to discuss alternative arrangements. 

Certificate of Proficiency

A student who fulfills the requirements of the program with satisfactory standing receives a certificate of proficiency in linguistics upon graduation.