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.

There are many sub-fields of linguistics. Phoneticians study how sounds are produced and perceived. Phonology is the study of how sounds are organized into unique systems for different languages. The structure of words is examined in morphology. The organization of words into larger units is called syntax. Meaning is studied in the sub-fields of semantics and pragmatics. In these sub-fields linguists are creating models of the structural features of language, in order to identify the defining characteristics of human language. Other linguists study the ways in which language is used. Some study the language development of children. Others the ways in which the form of language we use may vary according to social categories such as gender, social class and ethnicity. Some linguists study the ways in which languages have evolved over time and attempt to identify general principles of language change.

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.