Linguistics Major and Minor

The Tri-co (Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore) linguistics program brings together students and faculty interested in the scientific study of human language. Drawing on a broad range of faculty from three institutions, our program examines the structural components of sound, form, and meaning and the interplay between them. We are committed to giving our majors a strong foundation in the field and opportunities to explore its interdisciplinary aspects and promise in connection with areas such as psychology, philosophy, mathematics, computer science, sociology, and anthropology. The breadth of academic resources we offer is complemented by our strong emphasis on close student/faculty relationships; our dedication to both is one of the program’s most distinctive attributes.

Curriculum & Courses

We offer two majors: a Linguistics major and a Linguistics and Language major. The Linguistics and Language major requires students to study two languages in addition to their linguistics work.

Students in both majors pursue a curriculum that includes foundation courses, synthesis courses, and elective courses. Designed to provide a grounding in linguistics theory and methodology, foundation courses cover sounds, forms, and meanings. In our synthesis courses, majors examine the structure of a non-Indo-European language, putting the analytical tools they’ve learned to use in classes such as Structure of Chinese, Structure of Colonial Valley Zapotec, and Structure of American Sign Language. Through elective courses, majors explore linguistics in more detail and as it intersects with other areas. Computational Linguistics, The Psychology of Language, and The Politics of Language in the Spanish-Speaking World are just a few of the cross-disciplinary classes available.

Students majoring in Linguistics and Language must also study two distinct languages at the intermediate/upper levels.

  • Major

    The Tri-Co Linguistics Department offers two major tracks: (i) Linguistics and (ii) Linguistics & Language (often called Ling/Lang). Students complete either of these majors with a total of eight credits. 

    Mandatory Foundation Courses (three credits)

    Students in both major tracks must complete one course from each of the following categories:

    • Forms: LING H113 or LING S050 (Introduction to Syntax)
    • Meanings: LING H114 or LING S040 (Introduction to Semantics)
    • Sounds: LING H115 or LING S045 (Phonetics and Phonology)

    Structure of a Non-Indo-European Language Courses (one credit)

    Students in both major tracks much complete one course from the Structure of a Non-Indo-European Language series, which include the following classes, among others:

    • LING H215 (Structure of Colonial Valley Zapotec)
    • LING H282 (Structure of Chinese)
    • LING S060 (Structure of Navajo)
    • LING S062 (Structure of American Sign Language)
    • LING S064 (Structure of Tuvan)

    Elective Courses (LING majors only, three credits)

    Three elective courses in linguistics or related fields are required for Linguistics majors. (Ling/Lang majors are not required to take elective courses, but have an additional language requirement, see below.) Electives include the following courses, among others:

    • LING B101 or LING H101 (Introduction to Linguistics)
    • LING H104 (Topics in Introductory Programming: Language and Computation)
    • CMSC/LING H208 (Speech Synthesis and Recognition)
    • LING/ENGL H213 (Inventing [the] English)
    • LING/PSYC H238 (The Psychology of Language)
    • PHIL H253 (Analytic Philosophy of Language)
    • PHIL H260 (Historical Introduction to Logic)
    • ANTH B281 (Language in the Social Context)
    • LING/CMSC H325 (Computational Linguistics)
    • LING/SPAN H365 (The Politics of Language in the Spanish-Speaking World)

    Language Courses (LING/LANG majors only, six credits)

    This requirement applied only to Linguistics and Language majors, not Linguistics majors. 

    • Ling/Lang majors must study two different languages with three credits from each, with at least one credit at the third-year level for each of the two languages.

    Thesis (one credit)

    A one-credit senior thesis in the fall semester of the senior year is required for majors in both tracks. The thesis constitutes the comprehensive requirement for the major.

    Note: Majors in the Tri-Co Linguistics Department can receive up to two elective credits for pre-approved courses taken outside the Tri-Co. Interested students should seek consultation with, and approval from, the Bi-Co chair of the department prior to enrolling in the courses, and be ready to provide course descriptions during consultation and transcripts afterwards for proper credit counting towards the major.

  • Minor

    Students may minor in linguistics through Haverford by completing six credits in the following three areas:

    Mandatory Foundation Courses (three credits)

    • Forms: LING H113 or LING S050 (Introduction to Syntax)
    • Meanings: LING H114 or LING S040 (Introduction to Semantics)
    • Sounds: LING H115 or LING S045 (Phonetics and Phonology)

    Structure of a Non-Indo-European Language Courses (one credit)

    • LING H215 (Structure of Colonial Valley Zapotec)
    • LING H282 (Structure of Chinese)
    • LING S060 (Structure of Navajo)
    • LING S062 (Structure of American Sign Language)
    • LING S064 (Structure of Tuvan)

    Elective Courses (choose two from the following sample of relevant courses among many others):

    • LING B101 or LING H101 (Introduction to Linguistics)
    • LING H104 (Topics in Introductory Programming: Language and Computation)
    • CMSC/LING H208 (Speech Synthesis and Recognition)
    • LING/ENGL H213 (Inventing [the] English)
    • LING/PSYC H238 (The Psychology of Language)
    • PHIL H253 (Analytic Philosophy of Language)
    • PHIL H260 (Historical Introduction to Logic)
    • LING/ANTH B281 (Language in the Social Context)
    • LING/CMSC H325 (Computational Linguistics)
    • LING/SPAN H365 (The Politics of Language in the Spanish-Speaking World)

    The Tri-Co Linguistics Department accepts all linguistics courses offered at Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford for credit in their appropriate category.  

    Note: Minors in the Tri-Co Linguistics Department can receive up to two elective credits for pre-approved courses taken outside the Tri-Co. Interested students should seek consultation with, and approval from, the Bi-Co chair of the department prior to enrolling in the courses, and be ready to provide course descriptions during consultation and transcripts afterwards for proper credit counting towards the minor.

Research & Outreach

All majors produce a thesis—a work of original research—over the fall semester of their senior year. Students select their topic at the beginning of the fall semester, then are assigned to a particular faculty advisor and Thesis Seminar, held at Swarthmore or Haverford. In the Seminar, majors hone their research and writing skills, while working one-on-one with their advisors to develop their theses.

After Graduation

Because our majors are interested not only in language but also the human mind, they go on to pursue a wide range of interests and fields.

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