Major: The Bachelor of Arts degree in Linguistics is housed in the Dornsife College of Letters Arts and Sciences. A minor in Linguistics is also available for students from all majors at USC, and requires just five additional courses. The USC Department of Linguistics enjoys a national and international reputation for excellence in the scientific study of language. The major is open to both applying first-year and transfer students.
Overview: Linguistics is the scientific study of language and its structure, focusing on how the human mind organizes, processes, and acquires language. It also examines how similar communication goals are met by diverse means in the languages of the world. While many linguists are polyglots (individuals who speak multiple languages), linguistics is not the study of different languages – rather, it is the study of the science of language itself. It can include topics such as how children acquire language, the unconscious knowledge of language that humans have, and how language influences the way we interact with one another and the world.
Notable Research: The range of research that linguists conduct is vast- from analyzing how computer systems such as Google Translate model natural language (computational linguistics), to how words give language meaning (semantics). A group of PhD students in our Linguistics department conducted research on the science of beatboxing by utilizing MRI scanners. They have recruited five different beatboxers to produce sounds while an MRI machine recorded their heads and mouths. With this research, they are interested in studying the intersection of language and music, and how the sounds produced in beatboxing might help understand the limits of what humans can accomplish linguistically!
Notable Info: Linguistics is a highly interdisciplinary field. At USC we offer several combined programs in Philosophy, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Cognitive Science, and Computational Linguistics. We also offer a minor in Linguistics, which is valuable for all students interested in language. A major or minor in Linguistics can be a great starting point and foundation for students interested in pursuing careers in diverse areas, such as education, law, government, computer science, anthropology, business, and more.
Unique Academic Opportunity: The field of Linguistics is incredibly broad and diverse, but is central is learning about different cultures and languages around the world. As a result, there are a multitude of study abroad opportunities that Linguistics students can take advantage of during their time at USC. One of our Linguistics students who is passionate about studying endangered languages went abroad to Santiago, Chile, where they took a course on Mapuche language from a Mapuche professor! They were able to learn more about the endangered language, known as Mapudungun. Fieldwork is vital in linguistics, and USC invites all of our students to participate in hands-on cultural experiences abroad.
Want to Learn More?
To learn more about Linguistics at USC and the Dornsife College of Letters Arts and Sciences, register for one of our ongoing Virtual Programs! The Dornsife department session as well as the live virtual tours and student panels provide more insight into the major and school.
Written by: Rachel Cho – Assistant Director, USC Office of Undergraduate Admission