The Linguistics Program at Northeastern is one of the smaller majors, with around 80 students pursuing a major or minor in Linguistics. Our students have the advantage of generally smaller class sizes than the larger majors, with typical class sizes of 10 to 20 students. Additionally, our students get to know their fellow students and faculty members more easily than in the larger majors. The Linguistics club is also very active, and is always looking for new members. They hold regular “Game nights” with pizza, as well as sponsoring events, like organizing invited speakers, and attending linguistics events around Boston.
The courses offered in Linguistics at NU focus on both the structural side of language, and the socio-cultural side. Courses that focus on the structure of language include morphology (words and their structures), phonetics and phonology (sounds and sound structures), syntax (sentence structures), and semantics (meanings of words and sentences). Courses focusing on the socio-cultural use of language include Language and Culture, Sociolinguistics, History of the English Language, and Language and Gender. Further elective courses draw from a wide range of topics: language acquisition, bilingualism, field methods, historical linguistics, psycholinguistics and psychology of language, philosophy of language, among others. And of course, our students study other languages! Northeastern’s World Languages Center offers a wide range of modern languages, including Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Hebrew, American Sign Language, and others.
We also emphasize a hands-on approach to learning at NU. In the classroom, we emphasize doing linguistics: our instructors include lots of opportunities for students to analyze actual linguistic data. Our courses frequently require students to engage in all levels of linguistic work, from data collection and analysis to presenting their findings in written and oral form. To highlight the research efforts of students in their courses, the Linguistics Program hosts a Linguistics Research Poster Session at the end of every fall and spring term, where undergraduates present their work and practice their professional presentation skills. The Poster Session is open the public, so students need to practice fielding questions from attendees from a range of backgrounds, from professors with PhDs in the field to laypeople with no background in linguistics.
And we don’t want our students to just have in-class experience; we encourage them to gain real-world experience through experiential education (co-op) and research. Students choosing to go out on co-op are able to select from a wide range of job opportunities, ranging from jobs where the relationship to language and linguistics is obvious (working in a psycholinguistics lab, a school teaching English as a Second Language, a speech pathology office, or a software firm developing a new speech recognition app) to those where the links to linguistics are less clear (working in a law office, marketing firm or publishing company). The degree in linguistics, with its emphasis on developing strong analytic and clear presentation skills, serves students to find and build professional opportunities both in and out of the field. Additionally, because our program is small, we are often able to help students find a position that truly matches their interests in the field.
Our commitment to seeing our students engage with linguistics is also demonstrated through the wide range of research opportunities that are available. And because the Linguistics Program Northeastern focuses on undergraduates, our faculty welcome working with undergraduates on research, whether that means working on their research with an undergraduate research assistant or helping a student develop their own research project. Research opportunities can also be organized one-on-one with a faculty member (for example, as a directed research project) or can be taken as a course (for example, with a Research Seminar, which allows a small group of upper-level students to pursue their own research projects under the guidance of one of our faculty members). And while most students engage in projects that last a single semester, students pursuing the distinction of Honors in the Discipline engage in research that spans a full year. Most recently, we have begun the publication of the Northeastern University Working Papers in Linguistics, which seeks to provide a place for our students to share their research with the wider community.
Lastly, we encourage our students to take advantage of Northeastern’s extensive travel abroad programs. Students have traveled around the world on Dialogues of Civilizations, the university’s summer programs that are led by Northeastern faculty, lived for a full semester abroad while attending courses at a foreign university, or completed a six month international co-op working in a different culture.
We welcome you to find out more about the Linguistics Program at Northeastern on these pages, and please feel free to contact us if you have questions.