For Majors

The major in Linguistics offers a program of study leading toward an understanding of phonological, grammatical, and semantic structure and of various approaches to descriptive, experimental, and historical linguistics.

Majors may concentrate on theoretical, experimental, or computational linguistics, on various aspects of comparative grammar, or on a particular family of languages. The study of language builds on a range of disciplines that Linguistics majors are encouraged to explore. Interested students should consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Courses in anthropology, biology, cognitive science, computer science, mathematics, philosophy, and psychology can inform and contribute to a student’s major program.

Course requirements

Linguistics majors must fulfill all Yale College requirements for the undergraduate curriculum. In addition, majors must complete 12 term courses in Linguistics and related majors (including the senior requirement), with the following distribution.

Breadth requirement (four courses)

The department has courses in eight core areas of linguistics. All majors must take a specific 200-level course in two of these core areas (Phonology and Syntax).

  1. Phonology (Ling 232 required)
  2. Syntax (Ling 253 required)

In addition, at least one course must be taken in any two of the six remaining core areas of linguistics.

  1. Computational linguistics
  2. Historical linguistics
  3. Language and mind/brain
  4. Morphology
  5. Phonetics
  6. Semantics/pragmatics

Depth requirement (two courses)

In one of the eight core areas of linguistics listed above, students must take two additional courses beyond the introductory level.

For example, if a student wants to focus on Historical Linguistics, they would take LING 112 “Historical Linguistics” to fulfill the breadth requirement. This course is taught at an introductory level. To fulfill the depth requirement, they might take LING 212 “Linguistic Change” or LING 219 “Evolution of Language and Culture”, and a seminar in Historical Linguistics.

Electives (four courses)

Four additional courses relating to linguistics are required, at least one of which must be at the 200 level or above. Electives may be chosen from courses offered by the Linguistics department or, with approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies, from courses in related programs such as Anthropology, Classics, Cognitive Science, Computer Science, English, Philosophy, Psychology, or Languages Other than English.

Senior Requirements (two courses)

The Linguistics major also has a Research Requirement and a Senior Requirement. Typically, Linguistics majors enroll in two courses in their final year, which respectively fulfill these two requirements.

  • LING 490 (Research Methods in Linguistics; offered in Fall)
  • LING 491 (The Senior Essay; offered in Spring)

Taken together, both courses help senior students in developing their senior thesis, which is the capstone requirement of the major. 

Get involved!

Undergraduate students are welcome to join all departmental events. Attending colloquia, lunch talks, and other research events is a good way to learn more about the field and topics you may not have studied in class. There are many student-specific research opportunities. Occasionally we have department-wide social events, which students are also invited to.

Combined B.A./M.A. degree program

Exceptionally able and well-prepared students may complete a course of study leading to the simultaneous award of the B.A. and M.A. degrees after eight terms of enrollment. See “Simultaneous Award of the Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees” under “Special Arrangements” in the Academic Regulations of the Yale College Programs of Study. Interested students should consult the director of undergraduate studies prior to the sixth term of enrollment for specific requirements in Linguistics.

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Any questions about the undergraduate program can be directed to the DUS below.

Veneeta Dayal's picture
Dorothy R. Diebold Professor of Linguistics