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Linguistics

Language is a uniquely human capacity that enables us to communicate a limitless set of messages on any topic. While human languages can differ greatly in certain respects, all are intricate, complex, rule-governed systems. Linguistics is the scientific study of these systems, their use in communicative and other social settings, and their cognitive and neural underpinnings. The linguistics concentration at Brown gives students a background in the “core” aspects of the language system: phonetics/phonology (the study of speech sounds and their patterning), syntax (the study of combinatorics of words, phrases, and sentences), and semantics/pragmatics (the study of the meanings of words, sentences, and conversation). Beyond this, students may focus more heavily in one or more of these areas and/or explore related questions such as how children and adults learn language (language acquisition), how utterances are produced and understood in real time (psycholinguistics), or how speaking and understanding are anchored in underlying neural systems (neurolinguistics). Other areas such as historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, philosophy of language, and linguistic anthropology can also be pursued in conjunction with offerings in other departments.

Students who wish to pursue one or more aspects of Linguistics in greater depth than does the Bachelor of Arts, and to focus on some of the more technical, computational, and/or experimental areas of the field may choose to take a Bachelor of Science in Linguistics. Students will choose a focus pathway which will direct their choices. Pathways include: Language, Computation, and Information; Language, Mind, and Brain; Meaning and Logic, or one of the student's design, with approval from the concentration advisor. 

A.B. Requirements (10 courses)

Prerequisite Course1
Introduction to Linguistics (May be waived in special instances)
Required Courses2
Phonology 1
and either
Introduction to Syntax 1
OR
Linguistic Variation and Universals
AND one of:1
Lexical Semantics
Compositional Semantics
Pragmatics
One course in Psycholinguistics to be drawn from the following:1
Language and the Mind
Child Language Acquisition
Learning Compositional Language
Language Processing
Language Processing in Humans and Machines
Laboratory in Psycholinguistics
or any Topics Course in Language Acquisition or Language Processing
5 additional appropriate electives forming a thematically related set to be determined in consultation with the Concentration Advisor. At least one of these must be drawn from the list of advanced courses listed below, and we strongly recommend that at least one course be an appropriate methods and a topics course. No more than 2 of these courses may be drawn from below 1000 level courses. The electives can be drawn from any of the above courses, or any of the other linguistic/language related courses in the CLPS department. Electives may also be drawn from courses in other in consultation with the Concentration Advisor; a list of courses which standardly count towards the Linguistics Concentration (provided they form part of the thematically related set) is appended below.5
Advanced Courses
The Production, Perception, and Analysis of Speech
Compositional Semantics
Introduction to Corpus Linguistics
A course from the 1381 series (Topics in Phonetic & Phonology)
A course from the 1383 series (Topics in Syntax and Semantics). For example:
CLPS 1383D
Topics in Syntax and Semantics
A course from the 1385 series (Topics in Language Acquisition)
A course from the 1387 series (Topics in Neurolinguistics)
A course from the 1389 series (Topics in Language Processing)
Linguistic Field Methods
CLPS 1880 series (Topics in Psycholinguistics)
Laboratory in Psycholinguistics
Other Courses Routinely Fulfilling Linguistics Concentration Requirements (in consultation with the Concentration Advisor):
NOTE: This is NOT an exhaustive list of courses that can be applied towards the Linguistics Concentration requirements.
Sound and Symbols: Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology
Sociolinguistics, Discourse and Dialogue
Playing with Words: The Linguistic Principles Behind Word Games and Puzzles
Historical Linguistics
Computational Linguistics
Chinese: A History of the Language
History of the Ancient Egyptian Language
Sociolinguistics (with Case Studies on the Former USSR and Eastern Europe)
Logic
Philosophy of Language
Total Credits10


Honors (12 courses)

Candidates for Honors in Linguistics must meet all of the requirements above, write an Honors thesis, and take two additional courses.  One course is normally CLPS 1980 (Directed Research in Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences) - intended for work on the Honors thesis.

Three of the total 12 courses must be drawn from the advanced list above (the Directed Research course counts as one of the advanced courses).

Refer to the CLPS Honors Program page for detailed information about the Linguistics Honors program.

Independent Study

Independent study is encouraged for the A.B. degree. Students should sign up for CLPS 1980 with a faculty advisor who is a member of the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences (CLPS). Arrangements should be made in Semester 6 for students expecting to do independent study during Semesters 7 and/or 8.

Do Foreign Language Courses Count?

Foreign language courses will generally not count towards the concentration requirements, except those that focus on the structure or history of the language. Students are, however, advised to gain familiarity with a foreign language, and are encouraged to take at least one course which deals with the structure of a language other than English.

ScB Requirements (16 courses)

Students who wish to pursue one or more aspects of Linguistics in greater depth than does the A.B., and to focus on some of the more technical, computational, and/or experimental areas of the field may choose to take an Sc.B in Linguistics. Students will choose a focus pathway which will direct their choices.  Three possible pathways are described below in additional detail, though other pathways are possible, if approved by the concentration advisor. The core requirements are:

  • One gateway course
  • Four breath requirements, one each in Phonology, Syntax, Semantics or Pragmatics, and Psycholinguistics. 
  • Three electives in the focus area (see individual pathways below)
  • Four non-linguistic focus area electives (see individual pathways below)
  • Two breadth requirements that satisfy the Linguistics AB requirement. These could serve as a secondary focus area. 
  • One additional linguistics course, either as additional  breadth or in the focus area
  • One Capstone course
Language, Computation, and Information Pathway
Gateway course1
Introduction to Linguistics
At least one course in phonetics / phonology, such as:1
Phonology
At least one course in syntax, such as: 1
Introduction to Syntax
Linguistic Variation and Universals
At least one course in semantics / pragmatics, such as:1
Lexical Semantics
Compositional Semantics
Pragmatics
At least one course in psycholinguistics, such as:1
Language and the Mind
Child Language Acquisition
Learning Compositional Language
Language Processing
Language Processing in Humans and Machines
Laboratory in Psycholinguistics
Three electives specifically in the focus area, such as: 3
Introduction to Corpus Linguistics
Information Theory in Language
Language Processing
Language Processing in Humans and Machines
Introduction to Discrete Structures and Probability
Computational Linguistics
Four non-linguistic focus area electives, such as:4
Introduction to programming
Multivariate Statistical Techniques
Statistical Inference I
Introduction to Discrete Structures and Probability
Artificial Intelligence
Machine Learning
Data Science
Statistical Programming in R
Linear Algebra
Two additional courses outside the main focus that satisfy the Linguistics AB requirement, such as: 2
Linguistic Field Methods
Linguistic Variation and Universals
Sociolinguistics, Discourse and Dialogue
Sociolinguistics (with Case Studies on the Former USSR and Eastern Europe)
Or many others (see Linguistics AB for examples)
One additional class in linguistics (related or unrelated to the focus area), such as:1
Compositional Semantics
Language Processing in Humans and Machines
One independent study / capstone requirement1
Directed Reading in Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences
Directed Research in Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences
Total Credits16
Language, Mind and Brain Pathway
Gateway course1
Introduction to Linguistics
At least one course in phonetics / phonology, such as:1
Phonology
At least one course in syntax, such as: 1
Introduction to Syntax
Linguistic Variation and Universals
At least one course in semantics / pragmatics, such as:1
Lexical Semantics
Compositional Semantics
Pragmatics
At least one course in psycholinguistics, such as:1
Language and the Mind
Child Language Acquisition
Learning Compositional Language
Language Processing
Language Processing in Humans and Machines
Laboratory in Psycholinguistics
Three electives specifically in the focus area, such as: 3
Language and the Mind
Child Language Acquisition
Learning Compositional Language
Language Processing
Language Processing in Humans and Machines
Laboratory in Psycholinguistics
Four non-linguistic focus area electives, such as:4
Human Cognition
Cognitive Neuroscience
Children's Thinking: The Nature of Cognitive Development
Statistical Methods
Cognitive Neuropsychology
Computational Cognitive Neuroscience
Cognitive Development
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Research Methods And Design
Social Context of Learning and Development
Biology of Hearing
Introduction to Computational Neuroscience
Neural Systems
Philosophy of Mind
Two additional courses outside the main focus that satisfy the Linguistics AB requirement, such as: 2
Linguistic Field Methods
Linguistic Variation and Universals
Sociolinguistics, Discourse and Dialogue
Sociolinguistics (with Case Studies on the Former USSR and Eastern Europe)
Or many others (see Linguistics AB for examples)
One additional class in linguistics (related or unrelated to the focus area), such as:1
Compositional Semantics
Introduction to Corpus Linguistics
One independent study / capstone requirement1
Directed Reading in Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences
Directed Research in Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences
Total Credits16
Meaning and Logic Pathway
Gateway course1
Introduction to Linguistics
At least one course in phonetics / phonology, such as:1
Phonology
At least one course in syntax, such as: 1
Introduction to Syntax
Linguistic Variation and Universals
At least one course in semantics / pragmatics, such as:1
Lexical Semantics
Compositional Semantics
Pragmatics
At least one course in psycholinguistics, such as:1
Language and the Mind
Child Language Acquisition
Learning Compositional Language
Language Processing
Language Processing in Humans and Machines
Laboratory in Psycholinguistics
Three electives specifically in the focus area, such as: 3
Introduction to Syntax
Linguistic Variation and Universals
Lexical Semantics
Compositional Semantics
Pragmatics
Logic in Language and Thought
Conditionals
Philosophy of Language
Four non-linguistic focus area electives, such as:4
Introduction to Higher Mathematics
Introduction to Discrete Structures and Probability
Paradox and Infinity
Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy
Mathematical Logic
Advanced Deductive Logic
Theories of Truth
Human Cognition
Children's Thinking: The Nature of Cognitive Development
Social Psychology
Two additional courses outside the main focus that satisfy the Linguistics AB requirement, such as: 2
Linguistic Field Methods
Linguistic Variation and Universals
Sociolinguistics, Discourse and Dialogue
Sociolinguistics (with Case Studies on the Former USSR and Eastern Europe)
Or many others (see Linguistics AB for examples)
One additional class in linguistics (related or unrelated to the focus area), such as:1
Information Theory in Language
Language Processing
One independent study / capstone requirement1
Directed Reading in Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences
Directed Research in Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences
Total Credits16

Honors (17 courses)

The Honors program requires one additional elective, which will typically be a second CLPS 1980 Directed Research course during the senior year (thus leading to a full year of Directed Reading or Directed Research). Admission to the honors program requires a majority of A grades in the concentration. The student’s work will culminate in an Honors’ thesis on an approved topic (see Departmental regulations regarding Honors’ theses, which can be found at https://www.brown.edu/academics/cognitive-linguistic-psychological-sciences/honors) written under the direction of one or more faculty members, and read by a committee of at least two faculty members (one of whom may be from another department).

NOTE:  Please refer to the Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences undergraduate Linguistics concentration page for updates not listed here.