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Overview Language is central to virtually all human activity—indeed, many argue that language was the single most important factor in the differentiation of the human species from other hominids. Linguists study language as a specialized communicative system with its own distinctive principles of structure and patterning. Apart from the traditional subfields of phonology (the patterning of speech sounds), morphology (word-building processes), and syntax (rules of phrase and sentence formation), there are a number of research areas that are interdisciplinary in nature: semantics and discourse analysis, with connections to philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and literature; sociolinguistics; psycholinguistics; linguistic anthropology; and others.
Faculty The linguistics faculty are housed in several University departments, including anthropology, psychology, and various language departments. Their research interests span all the subfields mentioned above, and their publications range over a wide number of languages and language families, including Romance, Slavic, Germanic, Sanskrit, Chinese, Arabic, African and Native American languages, and American Sign Language.
Students There are usually fewer than ten linguistics majors in a given year. Many combine linguistics with a major in a related field such as a foreign language, psychology, or anthropology. Linguistics classes generally are small, with an emphasis on class participation and problem-solving. All courses in the program are taught by faculty members.
Graduates with a B.A. in Linguistics pursue a variety of careers. Although some go on to do graduate work in a related field, such as language and literature, language teaching, or speech pathology; others become involved in non-academic pursuits, ranging from law to computer programming. Yet even those who do not continue in linguistics find the analytical skills and knowledge acquired in the major to be relevant and useful.
Interdepartmental Major in Linguistics A major in linguistics permits a student to explore both the independent and the interdisciplinary aspects of the study of human language. Courses give attention to both historical and synchronic analysis, and cover several modern approaches to data.
Requirements for Major The major program consists of 30 credits. The following courses, yielding 12 credits, are required of all majors: LNGS 325; LING 502; a course in the structure of a language (note: this must be a linguistics course); and a course in theoretical linguistics. A maximum of three credits of study of an ancient language (e.g., Sanskrit, Old Icelandic, etc.) may be counted toward the major. The major program is to be chosen in consultation with an advisor (Contini-Morava, Elson, Rini, Saunders).
Requirements for Minor The minor is the same as the major with respect to required courses. Two electives are required in addition, for a total of 18 credits.
Distinguished Majors Program in Linguistics Students with superior academic performance are encouraged to apply to the Distinguished Majors Program (DMP) in which they write a thesis demonstrating original research. Requirements for admission to the DMP are as follows:
After being admitted to the DMP, the student enrolls in three credits of LING 498 (Independent Research) in the first semester of the fourth year. During this time, the student does background reading and/or data collection under the supervision of the thesis supervisor, and begins writing the thesis. In the second semester of the fourth year, the student signs up for LING 499 (Senior Thesis), in order to finish writing and revision. The first draft of the thesis must be submitted to readers by March 1, and the final draft by April 15.
Additional Information For more information, contact Gladys E. Saunders, Chair, Program in Linguistics, Department of French, 302 Cabell Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903; (804) 924-7044.
Continue to: Course Descriptions
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