College of Arts & Science & University Studies
What Can I Do With a Major in Linguistics?
Linguistics is the study of the nature and structure of language. Rather than learning to speak and write specific languages, linguists address more general and theoretical questions about how language works, how languages arise, develop, and change over time, and how children learn to speak their native languages. Linguists also want to know how language functions in society.
In the scholarly field of linguistics, we see language as a system of interacting semantic, grammatical, phonological, social, and pragmatic rules and principles to study, describe, and ultimately understand. The kinds of questions we ask about language call on methods that connect linguistics to a range of other disciplines, so that linguistics is, in a broad sense, a truly interdisciplinary field. Thus, while many of the courses in our program are linguistics courses taken in the English department, about half of the courses that linguistics majors take are from other departments, such as anthropology, psychology, communication, theater, philosophy, and foreign languages.
Students of linguistics are interested in learning about the structure of language — the kinds of rules involved in forming words, sentences, and sequences that count as discourse. They want to know, as well, about the cognitive processes involved in creating, learning, and implementing these rules. Linguistics majors are also interested in language as it relates to issues of globalization and diversity. They want to know how language functions in society. What are dialects and how are they formed? How can language contribute to constructing the identity of an individual, as well as a social group?
Many students have linguistics as their only major, while others choose it as a second major because it is an excellent complement to so many fields of study. In the humanities, it is a good complement to a major in English, since it addresses social aspects of language that concern students of literature and of writing. Students of foreign languages find linguistics useful because it enhances their understanding of the structure, history, and use of the language they are studying, especially in comparison with their native tongues. Linguistics can also enhance the study of philosophy, since it addresses issues in semantics and logic. Students of theater find linguistics useful for the attention it gives to language structure, speech production, and dialects.
In the social sciences, linguistics is connected to almost every field. There is a strong relationship between linguistics and anthropology, studies in communication, and also sociology. The syntax of Noam Chomsky asks questions about language as an innate capacity. His theory contributed greatly to the development of the field of cognitive psychology, and linguistics is sometimes thought of as a branch of cognitive science. Here, as below, the connections with pedagogy are obvious.
The study of linguistics also greatly enhances the studies in the sciences. Students of speech pathology find that linguistics courses complement the applied linguistics courses of their major in speech pathology. Linguistics also complements study in math and the sciences, since it makes use of scientific method to study natural phenomena.
The study of linguistics is an invaluable asset to a teacher, in virtually every area. It is especially helpful as background for reading, writing, and grammar. Study of linguistics is important for developing skills to teach English as a Second Language, as well as for teaching foreign languages.
- Writing translations
Describing formal/informal languages
Clarifying others' thoughts and ideas
Generating new ideas, thinking independently
- Interpersonal interactions
Understanding of language-related issues in education
Awareness of language as a symbol of social identity
Understanding of language structure
Analyzing and describing language and the role of language in human experience and culture
Knowledge of phonetics/phonology/grammar/communicative principles
Historical/comparative linguistics knowledge
Familiarity with syntax and semantics
Group presentations/public speaking
Sensitivity/empathy with other cultures
Knowledge of cross-cultural issues
Knowledge of social factors in language
- Thinking Critically
- Adapting ideas/values
- Gathering information
Analyzing complex ideas
Analyzing statistical information
Transcribing an International Phonetic Alphabet
- Reading for tone/attitude/ideas
Interpreting instructions/confused language
Because of its interdisciplinary nature, the major in Linguistics can lead to careers in many fields.
— English as a Second Language
— Business English
— Scientific English
— Linguistics in high school/college
International student adviser
Researcher/preparation of teaching materials and dictionaries
Adviser/consultant/administrator, language programs
Coordinator for teacher training programs
Coordinator for revitalization work in minority language communities
Language Arts teacher
- Cross-cultural communication specialist
Training materials writer
Public relations material writer
Computer language designer/specialist
Computer system analyst and related fields
Foreign purchasing agent
Management trainee/international business
Public relations agent
Speech recognition specialist
Speech synthesis specialist
Voice of America announcer/commentator
U.S. information agency program specialist
Press release writer
Personnel and labor relations specialist
Secret code analyst
Peace Corps volunteer
Minority programs coordinator
Literacy programs coordinator
Computer software documentation specialist
Public opinion analyst
Public relations/consumer liaison specialist
Business communication, in-house publications specialist
Book publisher's representative
Educational TV writer
Note: Some of the listed career options may require additional education and/or training beyond the bachelor's degree.
Opportunities - Graduate/Professional School
Students majoring in linguistics may of course go on to graduate school, in linguistics, or some related field such as English, anthropology, speech pathology or audiology. In addition, linguistics majors, because of their analytic bent, are often welcomed into graduate programs in schools of business or into law schools.
Opportunities - Experiential
Summer, volunteer, or part-time work in human services, governmental agencies, or businesses, and independent study or student associate with a faculty member.
- Linguistics Program (166 Irvin Hall, 529-1852)
- * Curriculum Requirements
* Career Opportunities
- Career Services (200 Hoyt Hall, 529-3831)
- * Career Resource Center
* Career Counseling
* Career Assistance Center
* Computerized Career Development Program
* Dictionary of Occupational Titles
* Occupational Outlook Handbook
- Arts and Science Academic Advising (146 Upham Hall, 529-3031)
- * Miami Plan & College of Arts and Science Requirements
- * Course Selection
* Career Decision Making
Developed by the College of Arts and Science Advising Office and the academic departmental offices with adaptations from Liberal Arts and Sciences - Skills - Career Opportunities, Career Planning and Placement Office, University of Michigan.