Linguistics is a coordinated program with department of Linguistics and Cognitive Science at Pomona College.

How many languages are there? What does knowing a language entail? How do people develop this ability? How is language stored in the brain? Why don’t we all speak the same? Why do languages change over time? How different is human language from forms of animal communication? Questions such as these are studied systematically in the field of linguistics.

The linguistics major/minor allows students to study the mental structures of language (phonology, syntax, semantics) and how people use language in everyday life to organize their social worlds. In doing this, our major provides training in qualitative and quantitative data analysis, writing and argumentation, and a variety of methods for rigorous investigation.

Students participate in research both inside and outside classes, including documentation and analysis of understudied and endangered languages, computational analysis of large data sets, and investigation of the social impacts of language use.

Pitzer Advisers: C. Fought, C. Strauss.

Student Learning Outcomes

(The learning objectives for the linguistics major at Pitzer are closely coordinated with those of the Pomona department of Linguistics and Cognitive Science, with which we have a joint program.)

By the time of graduation, Pitzer linguistics majors will:

  1. Have an understanding of how to approach the study of language scientifically; be able to use linguistic data effectively to test a hypothesis, or to construct an argument;
  2. Question assumptions about language, and be able to think critically about what constitutes ‘knowledge of language’;
  3. Understand the arguments and evidence in favor of our innate language faculty;
  4. Be able to articulate the difference between studying language as an internal object in the mind (i.e., our linguistic competence) vs. as an external one (i.e., language use in society);
  5. Understand how social ideologies about languages and dialects play a role in the power dynamics of society (including intersectionality with race, class, gender and other identity practices)
  6. Have knowledge of the core subfields in linguistics (syntax, semantics, sociolinguistics and phonology);
  7. Develop an in-depth understanding of one subfield of linguistics (syntax, semantics, phonology, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, or psycholinguistics);
  8. Have practice in conducting independent research of a theoretical and/or empirical nature, focused on language.