Program Offerings

Offering type

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) 

Goals for Student Learning

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.

Admission to the Program

Students with a particular interest in language and linguistics can pursue an independent major in linguistics or a minor in linguistics.

For the minor, students satisfy the requirements of their chosen departmental major and develop a complementary course of study in linguistics as outlined in the Program of Study section, below. The minor program is open to undergraduates majoring 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 major in linguistics, interested students must arrange a meeting with the LIN director of undergraduate program, no later than early- to mid-fall of sophomore year, to discuss a program of study and to obtain an application. (Details of this independent major 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 minor will be approved by the LIN program director or director of undergraduate program. It will include completion of the following requirements:

  1. Satisfactory completion of LIN 201/CGS 205, Introduction to Language and Linguistics. Permission may be granted to substitute a different LIN course in place of 201; decisions will be made by the director of undergraduate program on a case-by-case basis.
  2. Satisfactory completion of four additional LIN courses beyond 201 in the following three categories:
    • At least one course from the set of “core” courses (LIN 301, LIN 302, LIN 303, LIN 306; LIN 303 may be substituted with PHI/LIN 334)
    • At least one course from the set of “methods” courses (LIN 210, LIN 310, LIN 355, LIN 356.
    • Any two other LIN-designated courses at the 200 level or above (which may be drawn from the sets above). Linguistics-related courses in other departments and programs that do not have the LIN designation may be approved by the director of undergraduate program on a case-by-case basis. No more than one of these elective courses may be taken pass/D/fail. No more than one of the five courses to be completed may double-count with the student’s major.
  3. Some substantial aspect of linguistics should be incorporated either into the student’s junior independent work or into their senior thesis. This requirement is typically met either by writing a junior paper or senior thesis on a linguistics topic or topic related to linguistics (i.e., a topic that satisfies the requirements of both the student’s major and minor), or by including a chapter on a linguistics topic in a senior thesis whose general topic is not directly related to linguistics. If this is not feasible, students should contact the director of undergraduate program for alternative arrangements, which in most cases will involve writing a short piece of independent work on a topic related to linguistics, supervised by a member of the LIN faculty.

A student who fulfills the requirements laid out above with satisfactory standing receives a minor in linguistics upon graduation.

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

Additional Information

Students in the Class of 2025 will be the first to be eligible to earn a minor. The Class of 2024 will earn certificates.


  • Director

    • Adam N. Elga
    • Laura Kalin (associate)
  • Director of Undergraduate Program

    • Florian Lionnet
  • Executive Committee

    • Byron T. Ahn, Council of the Humanities
    • Adam N. Elga, Philosophy
    • Laura Kalin, Council of the Humanities
    • Boris C. Kment, 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
  • Associate Professor

    • Laura Kalin
  • Assistant Professor

    • Byron T. Ahn
    • Florian Lionnet

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.


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. B. Ahn, C. Fellbaum, L. Kalin

LIN 208 - Origins and Nature of English Vocabulary (also CLA 208/ENG 240/TRA 208) Spring LA

LIN 211 - Varieties of Spanish (also SPA 211) Spring SA

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. Staff

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. Staff

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. F. Lionnet

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 of both language data and foundational principles of the field. B. Ahn

LIN 303 - Linguistic Semantics Spring 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. A. Göbel

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. 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. C. Fellbaum

LIN 309 - Psychology of Language (also PSY 309) Fall EC

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. A. Goldberg

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. L. Kalin

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. B. Ahn