Linguistics is the study of language, its structure, functions, relationships, and evolution. It differs from foreign language majors in that rather than learning how to speak, read, and write in a specific language, students learn about the science of language itself. Those who major in linguistics study language structure, including its grammar, syntax, and phonetics, examine how people learn to read and write in a specific language, and learn about the science and of speech and sounds.
Related majors include anthropology, the study of humans and how they evolve, communicate, interact, and live, as well as neuroscience, which uses disciplines like psychology and chemistry to study the brain and nervous system.
Linguistics majors will likely take courses in these two subjects to learn about topics like the origins of words, word formation and sentence structure, regional variations in speech, and neurology of speech. Students are also likely to take courses in cultural anthropology, psychology, English, and communications.
Linguistics courses focus on areas such as historical linguistics, philosophy of language, semantics, pragmatics, phonology and phonetics, syntax and morphology, linguistic analysis, and sociolinguistics. Students will also take courses in which they will learn and apply research methodologies such as laboratory and experimental methods, quantitative analysis of linguistic data, and fieldwork and linguistic data elicitation. Some linguistics programs may allow students to choose a concentration like cognitive linguistics, applied linguistics, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, second language acquisition, and more.
Overall, linguistics majors gain a broad knowledge of multiple languages, language acquisition, and language variance. They become effective communicators, skilled critical thinkers and problem solvers, and trained researchers. This allows them to enter a variety of career fields as linguists, interpreters, speech-language pathologists and audiologists, translators, and educators.