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Undergraduate Catalog 2015-2016

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, O. Preminger, 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 Labs ( EEG/ERP Lab , the Maryland-KIT MEG Lab , and the  Maryland Neuroimaging Center ).  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.  The Linguistics major consists of 39 credits: 24 credits of Linguistics Core classes plus 15 credits from one of the Tracks, as specified below.

  Core required of all majors:  24
LING240Language and the Mind 3
LING311Syntax I 3
LING321Phonology I 3
 Two from: 6
LING312Syntax II  
LING322Phonology II  
LING410Grammar and Meaning  
LING440Grammars and Cognition  
LING444Child Language Acquisition  
Three upper level LING electives 9
Choice of one Track: 
Grammars and Cognition Track  15
PSYC100Introduction to Psychology 3
PHIL170Introduction to Logic  3
LING350 (or PHIL360)Philosophy of Language 3
Two approved electives in LING, PSYC, HESP, PHIL, or CMSC 6
Language Track  15
15 credits of a single chosen language 15
At least 3 of the 15 credits must be at or above the 200 level.  

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

Students pursuing the major should review the academic benchmarks established for this program. See: www.4yearplans.umd.edu . Students will be periodically reviewed to insure they are meeting benchmarks and progressing to the degree. Students who fall behind program benchmarks are subject to special advising requirements and other interventions.

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.
  • A grade of "C-" or better is required in prerequisite courses.
  • 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.
  • No more than 1 independent study or lab course (3 credits) can be used towards the three upper-level LING electives (part of the LING core).
  • LING312 (Syntax II) and LING322 (Phonology II) are generally only offered in the Spring.
  • LING410 (Grammar and Meaning) is only offered once per year, currently in Spring.
  • 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.
  • 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 no longer required but such a course can be taken to count towards the 15 credits of the language.
  • 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.

For more details about the minor, please see chapter 8 of the Undergraduate Catalog.

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 Student Linguist Association at Maryland (SLAMD or SL@MD). There is an active facebook page and also an orgsync page for the organization; links for these are given below. More information can also be obtained by emailing the linguistics advisor. 




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/ .

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