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 Department 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; and 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, and 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 and can count as electives for majors such as neuroscience. This allows students to choose from a variety of approaches to the study of language, all of which are mutually supportive.
How do I study linguistics at Middlebury?
Many students chose to minor in linguistics (5 courses). Others that wish to major in linguistics have done so through the Independent Scholar Program, which allows them to focus on their specific interests within linguistics. If you are interested in either, please reach out any linguistics professor.
What can you do with linguistics?
Linguistics provides students with many skills beyond just languages, including critical thinking, problem solving, pattern finding, work with data sets, etc. Our professors work on different areas that range from inclusive pedagogy in public schools to the revitalization of indigenous languages. Our students have gone on to many careers, such as the following:
- Senior Computational Linguist- Verbio
- Immigration Lawyer- Brooklyn Defender Services
- Assistant Director of Admissions- Wellesley College
- Content Designer- M&T Bank
- Linguistic Research Manager- Ellipsis Health
- Elementary School Teacher- Exeter, New Hampshire
- Translator- Texan Translation
- Analytical Linguist- Microsoft
- AI Specialist- Appen
- UI Engineer- Mixmax
- Strategy Analyst- National Life group
- Investing Banking Analyst- Wells Fargo Securities
- Senior technology Specialist- Middlebury College
- ESOL Instructor- International Institute of New England
- HR Leader- Johnson & Johnson
- Natural Language Engineer- Google