Program in Linguistics



  • Adam N. Elga

Director of Undergraduate Studies

  • Florian Lionnet

Executive Committee

  • Byron T. Ahn, Council of the Humanities
  • Adam N. Elga, Philosophy
  • Tera W. Hunter, History, ex officio
  • Laura Kalin, Council of the Humanities
  • Boris C. Kment, Philosophy
  • Harvey Lederman, Philosophy
  • Sarah-Jane Leslie, Philosophy
  • Florian Lionnet, Council of the Humanities
  • Gideon A. Rosen, Philosophy
  • Esther H. Schor, English, ex officio
  • Una Stojnic, Philosophy

Associated Faculty

  • David M. Bellos, French & Italian
  • Adele E. Goldberg, Psychology
  • Daniel Heller-Roazen, Comparative Literature
  • Casey Lew-Williams, Psychology

Sits with Committee

  • Christiane D. Fellbaum
  • Dunia Catalina Méndez Vallejo

Assistant Professor

  • Byron T. Ahn
  • Laura Kalin
  • Florian Lionnet
For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

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 spoken sounds and gestural signs (Phonetics)
  • The systematic patterns in those physical manifestations (Phonology)
  • The construct of the “word” and the relations of its parts (Morphology)
  • The structural organization of words into phrases and sentences (Syntax)
  • The assignment of meanings to linguistic expressions in context (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 texts to elucidate how language changes over time (Historical Linguistics)
  • Modeling linguistic differences across dialects and social contexts (Sociolinguistics)
  • Measuring linguistic behaviors in controlled experimental contexts (Psycholinguistics)
  • Observing how languages develop/coexist within speakers (Language Acquisition, Bilingualism)

Beyond the linguistic knowledge mastered through such coursework, students of linguistics will gain a number of valuable skills that extend to nearly every domain, including: logical problem solving, gathering and organizing large data sets, recognizing patterns, making and testing hypotheses, and identifying problems in and prospects for analytical approaches and problem-solving strategies.

Admission to the Program

Students with a particular interest in language and linguistics can pursue an independent concentration in linguistics or a certificate in linguistics.

For the certificate, participants satisfy the requirements of their chosen departmental concentration and develop a complementary course of study in linguistics as outlined in the Program of Study section, below. The certificate program is open to undergraduates concentrating in any department. Interested students should plan a course of study and apply through the LIN Program website. Applicants will be accepted on the basis of interest and a coherent academic plan.

For the independent concentration in linguistics, interested students must arrange a meeting with the LIN director of undergraduate studies, no later than early-/mid-fall of sophomore year, to discuss a program of study and to obtain an application. (Details of this independent concentration can be found on the LIN Program website.) Applications will be reviewed by the Office of the Dean of the College, and applicants will be notified of a decision early in the spring semester. The application is due in early December of the student’s sophomore year.

Program of Study

The program of study for the LIN certificate will be approved by the LIN program director or director of undergraduate studies. It will include completion of the following requirements:

1. Satisfactory completion of LIN 201/CGS 205, Introduction to Language and Linguistics. Ordinarily this course cannot be taken Pass/D/Fail. Permission may be granted 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 beyond 201, at the 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 approved on a case-by-case basis. At most, one of these courses may be taken Pass/D/Fail.

3. Some substantial aspect of linguistics should be incorporated either into the student’s junior independent work or into their senior thesis. If this is not feasible, students should contact the program director or director of undergraduate studies to discuss alternative arrangements such as (significantly) expanding on a prior linguistics term paper or undertaking a new (small-scope) research project.

(Note: This program of study is for a LIN certificate, and is separate from the program of study for an independent concentration in linguistics. For the latter, see the LIN Program website.)

Certificate of Proficiency

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



LIN 201 Introduction to Language and Linguistics (also
CGS 205
) Fall/Spring EC

An introduction to the scientific analysis of the structure and uses of language. Core areas covered include phonetics and phonology, morphology, the lexicon, syntax, semantics and pragmatics, with data from a wide range of languages. Additional topics include language acquisition, language and the brain, and language change. Instructed by: C. Fellbaum, L. Kalin

LIN 202 Constructed Languages: From Elvish to Esperanto Spring EC

This course is about constructed languages (those deliberately created for artistic or political purposes; think Elvish or Esperanto) and how they relate to or differ from natural languages (which arise spontaneously in human communities; think English or Ewe). By studying and analyzing variation in natural languages, we will learn to appreciate language constructors' aesthetic, ethical, and philosophical intentions. We will survey the history and properties of existing constructed languages, as well as collaboratively construct our own class language, providing hands-on experience with language creation and diverse grammatical structures. Instructed by: S. Foley

LIN 205 A Survey of American Sign Language (also
TRA 205
) Spring CDEC

This course introduces DEAF+WORLD, a world where people speak with their hands and hear with their eyes. It is for students who are interested in learning basic American Sign Language (ASL). Students will acquire basic vocabulary and grammar through interactive activities in order to develop conversational skills in ASL. Students also will practice using body language to communicate in order to effectively communicate with Deaf people while having minimal signing skills. In addition, the basics of Deaf culture and Deaf American history will be discussed. Instructed by: N. Buchholz

LIN 208 Origins and Nature of English Vocabulary (See CLA 208)

LIN 209 Introduction to the History of the Russian Language (See RUS 209)

LIN 210 Introduction to Historical and Comparative Linguistics (also
CLA 210
) Fall HA

The world's astonishing linguistic diversity owes to the fact that languages change, and that each language takes a unique and unpredictable trajectory of change. In this course, students explore different models of change and the forces behind it. Employing core methodologies (the Comparative Method and Method of Internal Reconstruction), students learn to analyze phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic language changes. We also learn about the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European language and the people who spoke it. Strong focus on applying methods to a variety of data sets. Instructed by: I. Monich

LIN 211 Varieties of Spanish (See SPA 211)

LIN 212 Human Language: A User's Guide Not offered this year EC

Where does language come from? How do we know that you can't say it that way? And who has the authority to tell you? Why are some sentences better than others? Why do the same words differently organized have different effects? This course is about human language, its nature, use, users, and origin, based primarily on English. Major topics include the structure of sentences, paragraphs, words; language and thought; and the historical and biological origins of language. Two 90-minute classes. Instructed by: Staff

LIN 214 Advanced American Sign Language (also
TRA 214
) Spring EC

This course offers intensive practice in American Sign Langauge (ASL) through learning specialized vocabulary, analyzing grammar, developing ASL-English translation skills, and discussing ASL literary works and Deaf culture. Instructed by: N. Buchholz

LIN 215 American Deaf Culture (also
AMS 214
GHP 315
) Fall CDSA

This course explores the history, culture, and language of the Deaf in the United States. The first part of the course focuses on the history of Deaf people in the United States. The second part discusses various aspects of Deaf culture: language, literature, art, politics, etc. The third part critically examines different issues facing Deaf people here in the United States and around the world. These issues include audism, linguicism, ableism, intersectionality, bioethics, and education. Instructed by: N. Buchholz

LIN 216 Language, Mind, and Brain (also
PSY 216
) Not offered this year EC

This course examines the complex mental and neurological processes that underlie linguistic knowledge and behavior. It will be concerned with the precise description and measurement of language activity, with its governing principles, and with available indices for the associated neural computations and their location in the brain. Seminar. Instructed by: Staff

LIN 233 Languages of the Americas (See SPA 233)

LIN 235 Mythbusting Language Fall EC

As educated users of language, many of us have strong feelings about it, such as how we should use it ("That isn't what 'literally' means!") and why. Which of these feelings are valid and which are closer to folklore? In this class, we investigate many preconceptions about language, objectively explore their validity as myth or fact, and make conclusions about how human languages can(not) be described. Topics may include whether: women talk more than men, children learn languages better than adults, legalese is more precise, dolphins use language, all languages/dialects are equally sophisticated, and bilingualism makes you smarter. Instructed by: Staff

LIN 260 Languages of Africa (also
AFS 262
) Spring CDEC

About 2000 of the world's 6000 to 7000 languages are spoken in Africa. The diversity that characterizes these languages is exceptional, but very little is known to non-specialists. In this course, we will learn about the languages of Africa: the diversity of their linguistic structures (including famous features that are found nowhere else, e.g. click consonants), their history and the history of their speakers (from ca 10,000 BP to the (post) colonial period), and their cultural contexts, among other topics. This course has no prerequisites, and is open to anyone with an interest in African languages or the African continent. Instructed by: F. Lionnet

LIN 301 Phonetics and Phonology Fall EC

This course is an introduction to the science of speech sounds (phonetics) and sound systems (phonology). Students will 1) learn how sounds from a wide variety of languages are produced, and learn to produce and transcribe them; 2) understand and analyze the acoustic properties of speech sounds using (free) software; 3) understand the unconscious knowledge speakers have of the rules and constraints that govern their native language's sound system; 4) extract phonological generalizations from phonetic data from various languages; 5) learn about the similarities and differences between the sound systems of the world's languages. Instructed by: F. Lionnet

LIN 302 Syntax Spring EC

Syntax is the aspect of human language involved in building phrases out of words. How do words combine - like beads on a string? Are words the smallest building blocks of phrases? How can we make predictions about what is possible and impossible in these structures? This course aims to answer these questions while focusing on the methods linguists use to analyze natural language expressions. Explorations of universal properties of language structures, as well as the ways in which those structures can vary. Strong emphasis on building and testing hypotheses on the basis of both language data and foundational principles of the field. Instructed by: B. Ahn

LIN 303 Linguistic Semantics Not offered this year EC

The central issues and leading theories of linguistic semantics for natural languages. Analyses of specific linguistic phenomena will be used to illustrate the interaction of syntax and semantics, the relation between language and the world, and the role of linguistic meaning in communication and understanding. Prerequisite: 201 or instructor's permission. Instructed by: Staff

LIN 304 Introduction to Machine Translation (See TRA 301)

LIN 306 The Structure and Meaning of Words Fall EC

This course delves into the internal composition of words (morphology) across languages. What is a word? What can be inside of a word? Do all languages build words in the same way(s), with the same sorts of ingredients? How similar is word-building to sentence-building? We will engage deeply with both the empirical and theoretical side of this topic, exploring not just morphology, but also its interactions with phonology (sound systems) and syntax (sentence structure). This class is highly interactive and hands-on. Students will develop tools of analysis and argumentation that are applicable in all areas of linguistics and beyond. Instructed by: L. Kalin

LIN 308 Bilingualism (also
TRA 303
) Spring EC

This course covers the linguistic, psycholinguistic, neurolinguistic, and sociolinguistic aspects of bilingualism. We examine language acquisition in monolingual and bilingual children, the notion of "critical age" for language acquisition, definitions and measurements of bilingualism, and the verbal behavior of bilinguals such as code-switching. We consider the effects of bilingualism on other cognitive domains, including memory, and examine neurolinguistic evidence comparing the brains of monolinguals and bilinguals. Societal and governmental attitudes toward bilingualism in countries like India and the U.S. are contrasted. Instructed by: C. Fellbaum

LIN 309 Psychology of Language (See PSY 309)

LIN 310 Intonation: Melody in Language Fall EC

This course explores intonation (the melodic patterns of sentences), addressing questions like: What does punctuation (e.g., a comma) sound like? How can we measure intonation, acoustically? How is intonation different from "tone" in languages like Mandarin? How do we transcribe intonation and analyze it? Students learn how to use laboratory methods and computer software to study intonation in spoken languages. (We focus on Mainstream American English but study other languages/dialects as well.) We also examine how intonational features relate to other aspects of language, such as sentence structure, linguistic meaning, and social context. Instructed by: B. Ahn

LIN 313 Rhythm and Tone in Words (See LIN 313)

LIN 314 Linguistics and Language Acquisition (also
PSY 302
) Not offered this year EC

What does it mean to know a language? Is it something we learn or something the brain "grows?" What aspects of language are innate? Is parents' speech important in language learning? An examination of the properties of child language through the lens of current linguistic theory. Two 90-minute classes. Instructed by: A. Goldberg

LIN 316 Second Language Acquisition and Pedagogy (See GER 316)

LIN 334 Semantics (See PHI 334)

LIN 336 Introduction to Indo-European (See CLA 336)

LIN 355 Field Methods in Linguistics Spring SA

This course provides a thorough intro to the principles and practice of linguistic fieldwork. Students will be trained in methods of language description and analysis based on data provided by a native speaker of an unfamiliar language. A wide range of topics will be covered, from data collection techniques to the theoretically informed analysis of the collected data, and all major subfields of linguistics will be involved. This course is designed for students interested in documentary/descriptive linguistic work and those interested in incorporating linguistics data into research in theoretical linguistics. Instructed by: F. Lionnet

LIN 356 Experimental Linguistics EC

In modern linguistics it is assumed that a speaker's knowledge of syntactic structure can be accessed via introspection about whether a linguistic expression is or is not deviant. This yes/no task has always been limited in the kind of information is provides about the underlying structure of language. We will look at various more probing experimental methods that have been proposed for accessing speakers' knowledge of grammar via judgment tasks, and then try them for ourselves. In the end, we will study a small part of the grammar by using an appropriate technique in an experiment to see if we can learn something new about language. Instructed by: Staff

LIN 360 Linguistic Universals and Language Diversity Fall EC

This course is a hands-on exploration of language typology. Each student will work with a different endangered language to help us, as a class, answer typological questions across various domains of language (sounds, words, sentences, etc.). Along what lines do languages vary? How much can languages differ from each other? Are any linguistic properties shared across all human languages, and if so, how do we explain them? How do signed languages fit into this picture, and what's all that buzz about Pirahã? Through answering these questions, we will build up and engage with various models and theories of language variation. Instructed by: L. Kalin

LIN 400 Junior Seminar Fall

This course will familiarize concentrators with research questions and practices in various subfields of linguistics, common linguistics research methodologies (including experimental, fieldwork, text-based, and ethnographic), and writing conventions specific to linguistics. Throughout, students will connect with on-campus resources and explore research questions of their own choosing, supported by readings from linguistics textbooks and handbooks. The goal of this course is to prepare concentrators for success in their junior and senior independent work. Instructed by: F. Lionnet

LIN 401 Advanced Phonology Spring EC

This course offers an intensive study of phonological theory and analysis, following the introduction offered in LIN 301. Both rule-based and constraint-based approaches will be introduced. The course will explore the typology of phonological properties and processes (assimilation and dissimilation, vowel and consonant harmony, tonal processes, syllable structure, stress), with examples from geographically, typologically, and genetically diverse languages. The focus will be both on description and theory. Instructed by: F. Lionnet

LIN 412 Advanced Syntax Fall EC

This course develops students' syntactic reasoning abilities beyond the introductory level, providing new tools for analyzing the syntactic components of linguistics phenomena. We read and discuss both classic and contemporary syntactic research on a variety of topics, including syntactic issues in word order, pronunciation, and interpretation. Students apply these tools to a broad set of linguistic data, from a variety of languages, both in and out of the classroom. The course culminates in each student writing a "squib", in which they test multiple hypotheses on a syntactic phenomenon of their choice. Instructed by: B. Ahn

LIN 445 Introduction to Sanskrit (See CLA 445)

LIN 475 Introduction to Sanskrit (See CLA 475)

LIN 476 Introduction to Sanskrit II (See CLA 476)