Linguistics is the science of language. Language is at once the most diverse and the most clearly structured aspect of human behavior. It distinguishes humans from other species and much of human culture depends on it. Understanding the nature of human language is therefore a key to understanding human nature. Linguistics seeks to discover the common features of the languages of the world's peoples, to understand how languages change over time, and how language relates to other aspects of human society.
The major in Linguistics is designed to provide graduates with a set of skills and a body of knowledge. A graduate will have the skills to analyze the most important features of language: sounds, words, sentences, and conversation, using both formal and experimental methods. Students will also learn what linguists know about the languages of the world, their history and structure, and how language interacts with many facets of all cultures.
The Department also prepares its majors for provisional certification as Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages in New York State (TESOL) from kindergarten through grade 12. Candidates for TESOL certification must follow a specific track within the major, which includes a semester of student teaching. Approximately one-quarter of Linguistics majors elect this track in the major. It is also common for Linguistics majors to have a second major, either in a language or in an adjacent field such as psychology or computer science.
Options for further education that are taken by graduates include professional school in such areas as speech pathology and law, and graduate school in linguistics, philosophy, psychology, and computer science. A few graduates have gone on to technical positions in industry that involve speech engineering.
Instruction in uncommonly taught languages not offered elsewhere in the University is provided by the Department of Linguistics.