Linguistics-Department of Philosophy - Carnegie Mellon University

The Major in Linguistics

Tom Werner, Director
Office: Baker Hall 155F

Linguistics is the study of human language, and it encompasses a broad spectrum of research questions, approaches and methodologies. Some linguists are concerned with the cognitive aspects of language learning, production and comprehension; some are concerned with language as a social and cultural phenomenon; others engage in the analysis of linguistic form and meaning, some from a functional and others from a formal perspective. There are also computational approaches to linguistics with both applied and theoretical goals.

The major in Linguistics reflects the multidisciplinary character of the field and of the Linguistics faculty here at Carnegie Mellon, offering a program which provides students with the fundamental tools of linguistic analysis while maintaining a focus on the human context in which language is learned and used. The major is available as either a primary major or an additional major. It is an ideal choice for students with a general interest in their own or other languages, and combines well thematically with studies in any of the departments represented in the major.


The Linguistics major requires a total of 12 courses, which includes 2 semesters of language study. In addition, primary majors in Linguistics are required to write a Senior Thesis in their final year. At least three courses (not including specific language courses) must be at the 300-level or higher. All courses counted towards the major must be taken for a letter grade and passed with a grade of "C" or above. For Dietrich College students, up to 2 of these courses may be counted also as satisfying the college's general education requirements (as long as the double-counting maximum established by the college is not exceeded), with permission of the major director. Students from other colleges may fulfill their Humanities requirements using courses taken towards the Linguistics Major. However, no courses may be counted simultaneously towards the Linguistics Major and any other major.

Introductory Course

80-180 Nature of Language 9

Fundamental Skills

Take one course from each of the following core subject areas:

Sounds 80-282 Phonetics and Phonology I 9
Structure 80-280 Linguistic Analysis 9
  80-285 Natural Language Syntax 9
Meaning 80-381 Meaning in Language 9
  80-383 Language in Use 9
  76-385 Introduction to Discourse Analysis 9


Take one course from each of the following breadth subject areas:

Area 1: Language Learning and Language Cognition

  76-420 Process of Reading and Writing 9
80-281 Language and Thought 9
  82-280 Learning about Language Learning 9
  82-383 Second Language Acquisition: Theories and Research 9
82-388 Understanding Second Language Fluency 9
  82-585 Topics in Second Language Acquisition 9
  85-354 Infant Language Development 9
  85-421 Language and Thought 9

Area 2: Discourse, Society and Culture

  76-385 Introduction to Discourse Analysis 9
  76-386 Language and Culture 9
80-283 Syntax and Discourse 9
80-383 Language in Use 9
  82-273 Introduction to Japanese Language and Culture 9
82-283 Language Diversity & Cultural Identity 9
  82-333 Introduction to Chinese Language and Culture Var.
82-388 Understanding Second Language Fluency 9


Take four additional electives. These can be additional courses from the Fundamental Skills courses or Breadth courses listed above, or any other course which is approved by the Director as a linguistics elective. Listed below are the additional electives taught on a regular basis. Additional appropriate courses are offered irregularly or on a one-off basis. The Director will provide students with a list of possible electives each semester, and will assist students in selecting electives which are consistent with their goals and interests.

  76-378 Literacy: Educational Theory and Community Practice 9
  76-451 Topics in Language Study 9
  76-476 Rhetoric of Science 9
80-284 Invented Languages 9
80-286 Words and Word Formation: Introduction to Morphology 9
80-287 Historical and Comparative Linguistics 9
  80-380 Philosophy of Language 9
80-382 Phonetics and Phonology II 9
80-384 Linguistics of Turkic Languages 9
  80-385 Linguistics of Germanic Languages 9
  82-373 Structure of the Japanese Language 9
  11-411 Natural Language Processing 12
  11-716 Graduate Seminar on Dialog Processing 6
  11-721 Grammars and Lexicons 12
  11-722 Grammar Formalisms 12
  11-761 Language and Statistics 12
  11-762 Language and Statistics II 12

Language Requirement

Students must successfully complete two semesters of consecutive language courses. (Note that students may not 'test out' of this requirement. However, language courses taken at other institutions or as part of a study abroad program will typically substitute for a semester of language study.)

Senior thesis [primary majors only]

Primary majors must complete a senior thesis (a workload equivalent to a 12-unit course) during their senior year. Topics must be approved by an advisor, who will work with the student and guide the thesis project.


  • Course number 82-373 is taught in the language of analysis.
  • All 11-xxx courses have significant Computer Science prerequisites. Interested students should check with the course instructor before registering.
  • Language specific "Language and Culture" courses may be taken either as electives or towards the second breadth area. However only one such course per language area may be counted towards the major.