Program in Linguistics



  • Adam N. Elga

Executive Committee

  • Byron T. Ahn, Council of the Humanities
  • Adam N. Elga, Philosophy
  • Eric S. Gregory, Religion, ex officio
  • Laura Kalin, Council of the Humanities
  • Joshua T. Katz, Classics
  • Boris C. Kment, Philosophy
  • Harvey Lederman, Philosophy
  • Florian Lionnet, Council of the Humanities
  • Gideon A. Rosen, 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 other 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 the 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 P/D/F. 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 P/D/F.

3. Some substantial aspect of linguistics should be incorporated into either 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. 

(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, B. Ahn

LIN 205 Beginning American Sign Language (also
TRA 205
) Fall EC

The primary goal is to build a strong foundation for acquiring American Sign Language (ASL) and understanding Deaf culture. Students will acquire basic vocabulary and grammar through interactive activities in order to develop conversational skills in ASL. Students will also focus on developing visual skills, which are critical to attaining proficiency in ASL, through various exercises. In addition, the basics of Deaf culture and Deaf American history will be discussed. Instructed by: N. Buchholz

LIN 206 Beginning American Sign Language II (also
TRA 207
) Spring EC

This course aims to improve conversation skills in ASL, review and refine knowledge of basic grammar, broaden vocabulary, develop ASL-English translation skills, and increase awareness of Deaf culture. Students will develop their ASL skills through interactive activities in class and interacting with Deaf people out of class. Instructed by: N. Buchholz

LIN 207 Intermediate American Sign Language (also
TRA 209
) Fall EC

An intermediate language course that aims to strengthen students' communication and comprehension skills. Students will broaden their grammar, vocabulary, and Deaf culture knowledge through viewing and analyzing various ASL literary works and films. Students will also practice holding conversations about a wide variety of topics following Deaf cultural norms through interactive activities. 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

This course provides an introduction to the study of language change and language families. We will examine different types of language change (sound change, syntactic change, meaning change), and look at the explanation of such change. We will learn the core methodologies of Historical Linguistics, especially the Comparative Method, and apply it to a wide variety of languages. We will also examine a number of case studies of language change due to the contact with other languages, and the many different results which take place (language shift, linguistic convergence, pidginization/creolization, etc.). Instructed by: S. Zukoff

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 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: B. Ahn

LIN 250 Language in Its Contexts Spring SA

This course investigates language in its social, cultural, political, and historical contexts. Does your native language influence your perception, your behavior, and your culture? How does your identity influence properties of your language? What happens when unrelated languages come into contact for prolonged periods? How are new languages born? Why isn't English the official language of the United States, and should it be? We will explore these questions (and more) by engaging with the often contradictory opinions of specialists and the public, as well as with the empirical realities behind these different language situations. Instructed by: V. Gor

LIN 260 Languages of Africa (also
AFS 262
) Fall 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: N. Rolle

LIN 301 Phonetics and Phonology Spring 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: S. Zukoff

LIN 302 Syntax Fall 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 on language data and foundational field principals. Instructed by: B. Ahn

LIN 303 Linguistic Semantics Fall 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: D. Farkas

LIN 304 Introduction to Machine Translation (See TRA 301)

LIN 306 The Structure and Meaning of Words Spring 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: Staff

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

What is intonation? How can we measure it, transcribe it, an analyze it? What kinds of contributions does it make to a sentence's meaning? This class focuses on American English melodic patterns, addressing questions such as: What is the difference between English-style intonation and Mandarin-style tone? Do all questions have the same intonation? What does a comma sound like? Students learn how to analyze prosodic data using laboratory methods, computer software, and standard annotation conventions. They also learn how prosodic features interact with other aspects of language to convey a variety of meanings. Instructed by: M. Esipova

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 346 Introduction to Formal Semantics (See PHI 346)

LIN 355 Field Methods in Linguistics 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: Staff

LIN 356 Experimental Linguistics Fall 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: V. Gor

LIN 360 Linguistic Universals and Language Diversity Fall EC

This course delves into linguistic typology: How do we classify languages? ow much can languages differ from each other? What linguistic properties (if any) are shared across all languages? The course will demonstrate that, contrary to initial impressions, languages of the world do not differ arbitrarily and without limit. All human languages share a common core (universals). We must therefore explain why there are linguistic universals and along what parameters languages can vary (diversity). To do so, we will look at a wide range of linguistic phenomena across unrelated languages, many of which are endangered. Instructed by: S. Zukoff

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: B. Ahn

LIN 412 Advanced Syntax Spring 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)