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Major in Linguistics

The undergraduate major stresses the study of language both as a fundamental human faculty and as a changing social institution.  At the core of the program is a set of departmental courses on the nature of human language; in addition, the major draws on courses offered by other departments and programs. 

Core Course Requirement

1-unit gateway course, 196, to be taken in autumn of junior year.

1-unit capstone course, 197A, to be taken in winter of senior year.

LINGUIST 105, Phonetics, or LINGUIST 110, Introduction to Phonology.

Breadth Requirement

To ensure breadth, students must take either one course each from four of the areas below or one course each from three of the areas below plus LINGUIST 1.  (LINGUIST 1 can count towards the major only if taken before the senior year.).

  • Language Change or Typology: 160, 162, 167
  • Morphology and Syntax: 116, 120, 121A, 121B, 184, 222A, 222B
  • Semantics and Pragmatics: 130A/230A, 130B, 230B, 232A
  • Sociolinguistics: 150, 250
  • Psycholinguistics: 140/240, 141, 144, PSYCH 131
  • Computational Linguistics: 180/280, 183, 188, 278

Other Course Requirements

Requirements for the BA include at least 50 units of course work; at least 28 of these units must be in Linguistics.  The remaining units may be in Linguistics or in related fields, with approval from the Undergraduate Adviser.  Of the 50 units required for the major, no more than 12 may be below the 100 level.  All required courses must be taken for a letter grade of C- or better.  No more than two other courses used towards the 50 units of course work may be taken on a credit/no credit basis (CR/NC).

Of the courses that fulfill the 50 units, one should be Linguistics 196, Introduction to Research for Undergraduates, taken in Autumn Quarter of the Junior year.  This course introduces students to research being conducted within the department by graduate students and faculty.  It also introduces students to other opportunities such as honors work, and independent research in the senior year.

Of the courses that fulfill the 50 units, at least two must be 200-hundred level courses, i.e. graduate level courses.  If they are cross-listed at the 100 and 200 levels, be sure to enroll at the 200 level if you wish the course to count for this requirement.  The requirement is designed to introduce students to advanced work in the area of concentration.  In planning their courses, majors should think of the requirement as offering an opportunity for another capstone experience, in many cases including an opportunity to read original articles by leading linguists, and ideally providing a way of synthesizing the various courses taken.

Language Requirement

Majors must have competence in at least one language other than English as part of their understanding of the field of linguistics and its study.  This requirement is fulfilled by completion of six quarters of study of a language or the equivalent.  The requirement may be fulfilled by coursework at Stanford or at a community college, or by certification of proficiency through the Language Center (see University requirements).  The Language Center is responsible for certifying whether a student has achieved the requisite proficiency in a foreign language.  Majors may petition to be exempted from the language requirement if they have grown up speaking a language other than English and can use it for everyday purposes and for linguistic analysis.  Language course units do not count towards the major. 

Wherever possible, students should seek to use data from the language in coursework or in research.

Sample Program Scenario

Some students take courses in Linguistics during their freshman and sophomore years, and declare in Spring quarter of the sophomore year.  A typical plan for a major under this scenario would include:

Freshman and Sophomore Years

  • An SIS seminar on a linguistic subject
  • 1 Introduction to Linguistics
  • 105 Phonetics or 110 Introduction to Phonology
  • 156 Language and Gender
  • And/or 65 African American Vernacular English
  • One or more breadth courses
  • Foreign language courses (as needed)

Junior Year

  • Remaining breadth courses, including a WIM course
  • 196 Introduction to Research for Undergraduates

Senior Year

  • More advanced Linguistics courses
  • Two 200-level Linguistics courses
  • 197A Undergraduate Research Seminar
  • Honors or other senior research project if appropriate

Another Sample Program Scenario

Some students come to Linguistics fairly late because they have discovered it late.  Such students have typically become enthusiastic because of an SIS course on a linguistic subject or a couple of courses that can count toward the major.  Some transfer from another institution.  It requires dedication to do honors in this scenario, but is certainly feasible (and has been done very successfully).  A typical plan under this scenario would include:

Freshman and Sophomore Years

  • Ideally an SIS course, Introduction to Linguistics, or other courses

Junior Year

  • As many of the breadth courses as possible; a WIM course is strongly advised
  • 105 Phonetics or 110 Introduction to Phonology
  • 196 Introduction to Research for Undergraduates
  • At least two more Linguistics courses
  • Foreign language courses (as needed)

Senior Year

  • Remaining breadth courses
  • Additional advanced Linguistics courses
  • Two 200-level Linguistics courses
  • Foreign language courses (if needed)
  • 197A Undergraduate Research Seminar
  • Honors or other senior research project if appropriate