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University of Pittsburgh    
2021-2022 Undergraduate Catalog 
  Jun 25, 2024
2021-2022 Undergraduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Department of Linguistics

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Linguistics is concerned with the study of language as a core property of human cognition and interaction. It is a broad field that straddles the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Major areas of study in linguistics include the following fields:

  • Applied linguistics: second-language learning theory, literacy, bilingual education
  • Computational linguistics: natural language generation, knowledge representation and artificial intelligence, recognition of systems
  • Theoretical linguistics: development of psychologically plausible models of language sound systems, word structure, sentence and discourse structure, meaning
  • Historical and comparative linguistics: study of language history, both language change and relationships among languages
  • Descriptive-anthropological linguistics: documentation and analysis of languages, especially little-known languages through field work
  • Psycholinguistics: research on such topics as sentence processing, problems in reading, how children acquire their first language (childhood language acquisition)
  • Sociolinguistics: study of language use and socially controlled variation in form, conversation and narrative discourse, social trends reflected in language use, political aspects of language use

Careers in linguistics include teaching English as a second language and other languages including American Sign Language; computational linguistic research in industry and public agencies; field research on endangered languages and cultures; research and teaching at the university level; careers in publishing and advertising; speech pathology and rehabilitation; translation and interpreting; law; and governmental consulting on language policies. Most careers in linguistics require graduate training.

Many, but certainly not all, people come to linguistics through a love of languages. However, love of languages itself is not sufficient to ensure success and happiness as a linguistics major. The student must also enjoy analytical thought, as linguists employ analytical tools in the study of human languages. Students considering a major in linguistics should take the introductory linguistics course (LING 1950 - INTRODUCTION TO LINGUISTICS ) at their earliest opportunity to help gauge if the major is right for them. The linguistics major gives students a solid foundation in the central areas of linguistic theory and analysis. The structure of human language (its sounds, word structures, and syntax) is the focus of the linguistics courses required for the major. In addition, the major’s language requirement is designed to make sure students acquire a perspective on linguistic structures besides those of their native language and at least some exposure to one language that is structurally very unlike English. For more information on the major or the Department of Linguistics, see




      American Sign LanguageArabicEnglish Language InstituteHindiHungarianIrishLess Commonly Taught LanguagesLinguisticsModern GreekPersian (Farsi)Quechua/KichwaSwahiliSwedishTurkishVietnamese

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