Go to content

Undergraduate Catalog 2014-2015

Linguistics (LING)

College of Arts and Humanities
1401 Marie Mount Hall, 301-405-7002
Chair: W. Idsardi
Professors: N. Hornstein, H. Lasnik (Dist Univ Prof), J. Lidz, C. Phillips, P. Pietroski, P. Resnik, J. Uriagereka, A. Weinberg
Associate Professors: V. Hacquard
Assistant Professors: N. Feldman, E. Lau, A. Williams
Instructors: A. Zukowski (Asst Res Sci)
Lecturers: M. Antonisse (Senior lecturer), T. Bleam (Senior lecturer)

The Major

The Linguistics Department offers courses on many aspects of the scientific study of language and an interdisciplinary major leading to a Bachelor of Arts. 

Work on language has provided one of the main research probes in philosophy and psychology for most of the last century.  Language research has proven to be a fruitful means to cast light on the nature of the human mind and on general cognitive capacity.  Courses in the major allow students to investigate the species-specific characteristics of human language.  Research in linguistics aims to discover how a person's linguistic capacity is represented in the mind, how that knowledge is acquired, what aspects are innate, and how language is processed in the mind and brain.  Students learn how to address these questions through various sources of evidence, such as descriptions of individual languages, patterns of grammatical variation and invariance, the development of language in children, the mental processes of language in use, computational models of acquisition and processing, and patterns of physiological activity in the brain.

The major in Linguistics is designed for students who are primarily interested in human language per se, or in describing particular languages in a systematic and psychologically plausible way, or in using language as a tool to reveal some aspect of human mental capacities.  Such a major provides useful preparation for further research in linguistics and cognitive science, as well as for professional programs in foreign languages, language teaching, communication, psychology, speech pathology, and artificial intelligence. Because of the emphasis placed on analytic thinking, scientific reasoning, and evidence-based argumentation, the linguistics major also prepares students for a broad range of careers outside of the language sciences.

Program Learning Outcomes

The Department of Linguistics B.A. program seeks to expose majors to fundamental questions about the nature of the human mind, using Language as a vehicle for examining this issue.  The program aims to cultivate strong empirical research skills, data analysis, application of scientific methodology, and the ability to communicate clear, logical arguments.

  1. Students can analyze a sentence from English or another language, providing a syntactic parse tree and evidence for their analysis.
  2. Students can provide a phonological analysis of any language given a sufficient data set (including data from non-Western languages).
  3. Students understand and can reproduce arguments for the existence of mental grammar.
  4. Students understand and can reproduce arguments for a genetic component of human language.
  5. Students can apply the scientific method to data analysis.  Specifically, they can formulate generalizations, specify the predictions of a hypothesis with respect to independent generalizations, and test predictions.

Academic Programs and Departmental Facilities

Students can become involved in a wide range of research activities including computer programming and experimental projects in language acquisition , psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics .  Selected undergraduate students work alongside faculty and graduate students—learning to design, execute, and analyze experiments—within our Language Acquisition Lab and our Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Laboratory .  For more information about ongoing research, lab facilities, and opportunities for undergraduate involvement, go to the following web pages:




Requirements for the Major

A grade of at least "C-" is required in all major courses.  An overall GPA of 2.0 in the major is required for graduation.

  Core required of all majors:  15
LING240Language and the Mind 3
LING311Syntax I 3
LING321Phonology I 3
 Two from: 6
LING312Syntax II  
LING322Phonology II  
LING330Historical Linguistics  
LING410Grammar and Meaning  
LING420Word Formation  
HESP403Introduction to Phonetic Science  
  Grammars and Cognition Track  24
LING350Philosophy of Language 3
PSYC100Introduction to Psychology 3
PSYC341Introduction to Memory and Cognition 3
 One from: 3
PHIL170Introduction to Logic  
PHIL271Symbolic Logic I  
 Linguistics Electives 6
LINGtwo upper level LING electives 
 Electives 6
ELECT two electives in LING, PSYC, HESP, PHIL, or CMSC
  Language Track  24
LANG15 credits of a single chosen language 15
LANG3 credits in structure or history of the language 3
 Linguistics Electives 
LINGtwo upper level LING electives 6

There are no requirements for support courses for the Linguistics major.

Other Requirements for the Major

  • LING240 must be taken before any other courses in the major; this course serves as a gateway to the major.  A grade of "C-" or better is required in this course before taking further courses in Linguistics.  However, a grade of "B" or higher in LING240 is a relatively good predictor of continued success in the rest of the major (as courses become more difficult). LING 240 is offered every semester.
  • After LING240, students should take LING311 (Syntax I) and LING321 (Phonology I), as they are prerequisites for other required courses.  These courses can be taken together in the same semester.
  • LING312 (Syntax II) and LING322 (Phonology II) are generally only offered in the Spring.
  • LING410 (Grammar and Meaning) is only offered once per year.
  • Optional courses for the major are not necessarily offered on a regular basis.  Students should check with the undergraduate advisor to find out which courses will be offered and when.
  • A grade of "C-" or better is required in prerequisite courses.
  • For the Language Track, the "15 credits of a single chosen language" must be courses that focus on language (and not, for example, history, literature or culture taught in the language).
  • The "structure or history of the language" course is a linguistics course that focuses on the chosen language.  This course must be approved by the linguistics advisor.  If no such course is offered by the language department, the linguistics advisor will suggest a substitute.
  • Regular substitutions: (a) we will also accept LING440 and LING444 as choices in the category of "2 of upper level Ling Core".  (b) In the Cognition track, you may substitute an upper-level Ling course for PSYC341. 
  • Note that courses cannot be double-counted for different requirements in the major.  All of the "boxes" must be filled in by different courses such that you reach the required number of credits with all of the categories fulfilled.
  • Electives for the Cognition Track must be approved by the linguistics advisor.

Requirements for the Minor

15 credit hours: LING200, 240, 321, 311, and one upper level linguistics elective.
All courses presented for the minor must be passed with a grade of "C-" or better.  An overall GPA of 2.0 in the minor is required for graduation.

To make an appointment to explore or declare a minor, go to www.arhu.umd.edu/undergraduate/academics/minors


Linguistics majors have a dual system of advising.  The department advisor is a faculty member in the Linguistics department and advises students about major requirements and courses.  For more general advising (about general education requirements, ARHU requirements, etc), students will go to their college (ARHU) advisor.  Students may choose to make appointments every semester with either or both advisors, but will have mandatory advising at both the departmental and college level at three different points:

  • first semester matriculated in the major
  • between 45-55 credits 
  • between 90-100 credits 

Failure to meet with both advisors for mandatory advising will result in being blocked from registering for classes for the following semester.

Undergraduate Research Experiences

There are opportunities in the department for undergraduate students to get involved in doing research. Students interested in research in linguistics should submit a resume and/or project proposal to the undergraduate advisor or to an appropriate faculty member.  Attempts will be made to match students with appropriate faculty advisors.  The possibility of doing research is not guaranteed for every student, but will depend on the student's skills and the availability and willingness of a faculty member to direct the project.
In addition to opportunities during the regular semester to receive course credit for research assistantships, students can also apply for funding to work as a research assistant during the summer through the Linguistics Department Baggett Scholarship program. (More information about the Baggett summer program can be found on the website at: www.ling.umd.edu/baggett/ ).

Honors Program

Academically talented Linguistics majors with junior standing may petition to become honors candidates in Linguistics.  Honors students work on a research project under a faculty advisor, write an honors thesis, and present the work in a public forum.

Student Societies and Professional Organizations

The UMD undergraduate linguistics club is called the Association of Student Linguists.  Information can be obtained by emailing:   asl.linguists@gmail.com

Scholarships and Financial Assistance

The Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) administers all types of federal, state and institutional financial assistance programs and, in cooperation with other university offices, participates in the awarding of scholarships to deserving students.  For information, visit: www.financialaid.umd.edu .

Also, students can apply for a Linguistics Department Baggett Scholarship to work (in a paid position) as a research assistant during the summer.

Awards and Recognition

The Department of Linguistics offers several Baggett Summer Scholarships every year.  These are paid, faculty-mentored summer research positions open to UMD undergraduate students with training in linguistics or cognitive science.

More information can be found on the website at:   www.ling.umd.edu/baggett/ .

Return to top