Linguistics is the scientific study of human language, a broad definition under which language is studied as a formal system and in its historical, social, cultural, and cognitive contexts.
Studying linguistics allows us to learn about the physical properties of human sounds and how they pattern in different languages (phonetics and phonology), how words are formed (morphology), how sentences are structured (syntax), and how meaning of linguistic utterances emerges (semantics and pragmatics). Linguists also study language development and change (historical linguistics), geographical and social linguistic variation (dialectology and sociolinguistics), the relation between language and culture (linguistic anthropology), how language is acquired by children and adults (first and second language acquisition), how it is perceived, produced, and represented in the mind (psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics), how it is taught (applied linguistics), and how it can be modeled for use by machines (computational linguistics).
The Linguistics Program at Middlebury offers a variety of courses that introduce students to many of the sub-areas of modern linguistics (e.g., Introduction to Linguistics; Phonetics and Phonology; Language, Culture and Society; Syntax and Morphology; to name a few). In addition, many students also take courses that focus on the linguistics of specific languages (e.g., Hispanic Linguistics, Chinese Sociolinguistics, German Linguistics, among several others). This has the great advantage of allowing students to have knowledge of both general linguistic analysis as well as the linguistics of specific languages of their interest.
In addition, given the interdisciplinary nature of the field, linguistics courses are typically cross-listed with other disciplines such as sociology/anthropology, philosophy, education studies, and the division of languages, literatures, and cultures. This allows students to choose from a variety of approaches to the study of language, all of which are mutually supportive.