Linguistics

Website

Neal J. Pearlmutter, PhD
Associate Professor, Psychology, and Program Director

545 Nightingale Hall
617.373.4553
linguistics@northeastern.edu
Neal J. Pearlmutter, Associate Professor and Program Director, n.pearlmutter@northeastern.edu
Heather Littlefield, Associate Teaching Professor and Assistant Director, h.littlefield@northeastern.edu

Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. A growing and exciting field, it has links to diverse fields including psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, computer science, artificial intelligence, sociology, language teaching, anthropology, and education. Linguistics is a key component of the field of cognitive science, the study of the structure and functioning of human cognitive processes.

How do children learn to speak? How is language represented in the mind? What do all languages, including sign languages, have in common? How is language different from the communication systems used by whales, bees, and chimpanzees? What linguistic information do computers need in order for us to converse with them? What are the neurological tie-ins of language disorders such as aphasia or Williams Syndrome and what can such impairments tell us about the brain mechanisms for language? These scientific and technological questions lead us to ask other questions about language and society: How might we think about linguistic controversies, including debates about official languages, Black English, gender bias, and bilingualism in education? Linguistics attempts to answer each of these questions and covers a surprisingly broad range of topics related to language and communication. Cutting-edge work in cognitive science investigates how natural languages are learned and processed. Grammar checkers and translation programs use language parsers; search engines, browsers, and editors apply the results of linguistic theory and computational linguistics. Linguistics is behind every application that recognizes or synthesizes speech. To work in a field that involves language in any way, you will need to know how language works, the core of the field of linguistics.

Linguistics at Northeastern offers courses in the theory and structure of language (such as phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics); the sociocultural nature of language (such as language and culture, language and gender, and sociolinguistics); the psychology of language (offered by the Department of Psychology); and applications to related domains (such as language acquisition, language change, and historical linguistics) that cross into the humanities and social sciences.

Students can pursue a major in linguistics as well as four combined majors: linguistics and psychology, linguistics and cultural anthropology, linguistics and English, and computer science and linguistics. A minor in linguistics is also available.

Linguistics offers a variety of co-ops, including positions at local and national companies involved in speech recognition and production, as well as at Northeastern’s own speech perception and language processing labs in the Department of Psychology. Linguistics majors can also participate in international co-ops—for example, working with research teams at the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany.

Students with backgrounds in linguistics have pursued advanced degrees in fields including law, cognitive science, education, English, interpreting, business, speech pathology, computer science, developmental psychology, sociology, and linguistics itself. Other graduates have gone on to work in neurological research, computational linguistics, translation, language software, education, dictionary publishing, robotics, and criminal justice.

Academic Progression Standards

Same as college standards.

Linguistics Courses

LING 1000. Linguistics at Northeastern. 1 Hour.

Introduces first-year linguistics majors to the discipline, the department, and the University as a whole; offers students an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the skills needed for success as a university student. Prereq. Linguistics majors and combined majors only.

LING 1150. Introduction to Language and Linguistics. 4 Hours.

Introduces students to their tacit linguistic knowledge of word structure (morphology), sentence structure (syntax), meaning (semantics), and speech sounds (phonetics and phonology). This structural knowledge is the basis for exploring the social dimensions of language: geographic dialects (e.g., Boston speech), Black English (Ebonics), men’s and women’s language, as well as biological questions of nature vs. nurture, language acquisition, and animal communication.

LING 1449. English Now and Then. 4 Hours.

Introduces the linguistic study of the English language from current and historical perspectives. Topics include the Latin and Greek etymology of English words; the linguistics of modern English dialects; English as a global language; and the origins of English as a Germanic language, closely related to German and Dutch. Prereq. Not open to linguistics majors or combined majors.

LING 1990. Elective. 1-4 Hours.

Offers elective credit for courses taken at other academic institutions.

LING 2350. Linguistic Analysis. 4 Hours.

Offers a workshop that focuses on the three core areas in the study of language: syntax, morphology, and phonology. Examines the regularities that lie inside each language user’s mind, with a slant toward “doing” linguistics: playing with data, analyzing it, and ultimately explaining it. Prereq. LING 1150 or ENGL 1150.

LING 2990. Elective. 1-4 Hours.

Offers elective credit for courses taken at other academic institutions.

LING 3402. African-American English. 4 Hours.

Addresses topics in the study of African-American English or Ebonics. Investigates the hypotheses about the origins of African-American English as well as arguments about the relation of the dialect to English and other languages. Considers issues regarding the use of the dialect in schools. Prereq. LING 1150 or ENGL 1150.

LING 3412. Language and Culture. 4 Hours.

Explores the complex, often inexplicit relationship between language and culture, using a variety of methods drawn from the fields of anthropological linguistics and sociolinguistics. Questions may include: How do language and thought interact? How is language used to create and maintain social institutions and individual personae? How is language used differently by and across gender, ethnicity, and social class? Prereq. (a) LING 1150, ENGL 1150, or permission of instructor and (b) ENGW 1111, ENGW 1102, ENGL 1111, ENGL 1102, or permission of instructor.

LING 3422. Phonetics and Phonology. 4 Hours.

Surveys phonetics and phonology from both descriptive and theoretical perspectives. Phonetic topics include types of consonant and vowel articulations found crosslinguistically, aerodynamics of speech production, and the phonetics of supersegmentals. Basic approaches to phonology include underlying and surface representations, phonological rules, derivational vs. constraint-based explanation, and the interplay between phonetics and phonology in syllables and prosody. Offers students an opportunity to acquire practical skills in broad and narrow phonetic transcription, as well as phonological analysis. Prereq. LING 2350, ENGL 2350, or permission of instructor.

LING 3424. Morphology. 4 Hours.

Introduces morphology, the study of the structure, distributional behavior, and use of words. Covers descriptive methods of analysis, hierarchical word structure, morphological processes and rules, productivity, morphological change, and the interaction of morphology with phonology and syntax. Introduces major contemporary theories, including split morphology and single-component architecture. Prereq. LING 2350.

LING 3428. African Languages. 4 Hours.

Seeks to prepare students for serious theoretical and practical study of the West African language and literature known as Kwa, the largest language subgroup in the Niger-Congo family. Students explore the classification of African languages, the application of basic linguistics, and the history of these languages in Africa and the Western hemisphere, all leading to an introduction to spoken Yoruba and Igbo. Prereq. LING 1150 or ENGL 1150.

LING 3430. Applied Linguistics. 4 Hours.

Explores the solution of language-based real-world problems. Solutions to these problems depend on information not only from linguistics but also from a variety of other disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, education, ethnic and area studies (including literature), and public administration. Studies the relationship of linguistics to applied linguistics; second language acquisition; second and foreign language teaching; language policy and planning; and the linguistic aspects of multiculturalism. Prereq. LING 1150 or ENGL 1150.

LING 3432. Romance Linguistics. 4 Hours.

Provides a general linguistic introduction to one of the most important language families. Discusses the structural characteristics of several Romance languages. Includes defining a language family, how and why languages change, and the relationship of standard and nonstandard linguistic varieties. Studies contemporary theoretical issues in Romance linguistics including object-pronoun placement, word order, creolization, and subject-pronoun use. Conducted in English. Prereq. (a) LING 1150 and (b) reading knowledge of one Romance language or permission of instructor.

LING 3434. Bilingualism. 4 Hours.

Focuses on the fact that half of the world’s population is bilingual, that is, uses two or more languages on a regular basis. Also explores the fact that bilingualism remains a poorly understood phenomenon surrounded by a number of myths: those that hold that bilinguals are found in bilingual countries and are equally fluent in both languages; that bilingual children suffer from cognitive impoverishment; and that bilingual education hinders the assimilation of minority groups. Reviews all aspects of bilingualism (in the world, in society, in the child, and in the adult). Discusses topics such as biculturalism and language change. Prereq. LING 1150 or ENGL 1150.

LING 3436. Structure of Spanish. 4 Hours.

Considers the Spanish language from a linguistic point of view, focusing on elements of Spanish phonology (sound system), morphology (word structure), and syntax (sentence structure). Topics include how Spanish compares with other Romance languages, as well as with non-Romance languages like English.

LING 3438. Structure of French. 4 Hours.

Considers the French language from a linguistic point of view, focusing on elements of French phonology (sound system), morphology (word structure), and syntax (sentence structure). Topics include how French compares with other Romance languages, as well as with non-Romance languages like English.

LING 3442. Sociolinguistics. 4 Hours.

Focuses on why people choose to say things in different ways in different situations. Examines language behavior in its social context and outlines the linguistic constructs that allow conversation to occur, the types of variation that can occur in registers and dialects, and the possible reasons for choosing different linguistic varieties. Also explores linguistic variation in relation to social context, gender, socioeconomic class, race, and ethnicity. Prereq. (a) LING 1150 or ENGL 1150 and (b) ENGW 1111, ENGW 1102, ENGL 1111, or ENGL 1102.

LING 3444. Linguistics in Education. 4 Hours.

Explores the role that language plays in education. Topics include the role of language acquisition in psychological development and the implications for formal education; literacy (what does it mean to be literate, how is literacy acquired, and the role that literacy plays in education); the role that language and discourse patterns play in the classroom, in student learning, and in testing; and multilingualism in the classroom. Prereq. LING 1150 or ENGL 1150.

LING 3448. Issues in Linguistics. 4 Hours.

Examines an issue in linguistics in which there are theoretical debates in one of a range of areas, including syntax, semantics, morphology, prescriptive/descriptive grammar, Ebonics, and others. Prereq. LING 1150 or ENGL 1150.

LING 3450. Syntax. 4 Hours.

Introduces syntax, the theory of sentence structure. Explores how to do syntactic analysis using linguistic evidence and argumentation. Focuses primarily on English, with some discussion on the syntax of other languages. Other topics include syntactic universals and the relation between syntax and semantics. Prereq. LING 2350, ENGL 2350, or permission of instructor.

LING 3452. Semantics. 4 Hours.

Focuses on meaning and how it is expressed in language—through words, sentence structure, intonation, stress patterns, and speech acts. Considers how content, logic, and speakers’ and listeners’ assumptions affect what sentences can mean and how linguistic meaning is determined by one’s perceptual system or culture. Prereq. (a) LING 1150 or ENGL 1150 and (b) completion of the mathematical/analytical thinking level 1 requirement of the NU Core.

LING 3454. History of English. 4 Hours.

Surveys the linguistic and social history of the English language from its Indo-European beginnings to the present. Examines the changes that have occurred in the sound system, word and sentence structures, vocabulary, semantics, and spelling from a formal linguistic perspective. Considers issues in language change—the influence of foreign invasion and migration, differences in dialect, and the emergence of English as a “world” language. Prereq. LING 1150.

LING 3456. Language and Gender. 4 Hours.

Investigates the relationship between language and gender. Topics include how men and women talk; the significant differences and similarities in how they talk, why men and women talk in these ways, and social biases in the structure of language itself. Prereq. (a) LING 1150 or ENGL 1150 and (b) ENGW 1111, ENGW 1102, ENGL 1111, or ENGL 1102.

LING 3458. Topics in Linguistics. 4 Hours.

Focuses on one of a range of topics from the perspective of current linguistics, such as American dialectics, contemporary syntactic theory, language and law, women’s and men’s language, words and word structures, or issues in linguistics and literature. Prereq. LING 1150 or ENGL 1150.

LING 3460. Historical Linguistics. 4 Hours.

Introduces diachronic linguistics, the study of language change over time. Surveys common changes in the areas of sound systems, word and sentence structure, and semantic meaning. Introduces methodologies to access earlier stages of language, including the comparative method and internal reconstruction. Other topics include linguistic borrowing, analogical change, linguistic paleontology, and areal diffusion. Prereq. LING 2350.

LING 3990. Elective. 1-4 Hours.

Offers elective credit for courses taken at other academic institutions.

LING 4654. Seminar in Linguistics. 4 Hours.

Explores a topic in current linguistics research. Prereq. (a) LING 2350 and (b) either two 3000-level LING courses or one 3000-level LING course and permission of instructor and (c) junior or senior standing.

LING 4891. Research Seminar in Linguistics. 4 Hours.

Offers individualized research experience on a chosen topic under the direction of a faculty member. Also includes group meetings of students and the faculty member to study relevant research methods, to discuss relevant research literature, and to present research progress and results. Research content and requisites depend on the instructor, and prior arrangements should be made with the faculty member well in advance of registration.

LING 4970. Junior/Senior Honors Project 1. 4 Hours.

Focuses on in-depth project in which a student conducts research or produces a product related to the student’s major field. Combined with Junior/Senior Project 2 or college-defined equivalent for 8-credit honors project.

LING 4971. Junior/Senior Honors Project 2. 4 Hours.

Focuses on second semester of in-depth project in which a student conducts research or produces a product related to the student’s major field. Prereq. LING 4970.

LING 4990. Elective. 1-4 Hours.

Offers elective credit for courses taken at other academic institutions.

LING 4991. Directed Study Research. 4 Hours.

Offers individualized research experience on a chosen topic under the direction of a faculty member. Research content and requisites depend on the instructor, and prior arrangements should be made with the faculty member well in advance of registration.

LING 4993. Independent Study. 1-4 Hours.

Offers independent work under the direction of members of the department on a chosen topic. Course content depends on instructor.

LING 4994. Internship. 4 Hours.

Offers students an opportunity for internship work.

LING 4996. Experiential Education Directed Study. 4 Hours.

Draws upon the student’s approved experiential activity and integrates it with study in the academic major. Fulfills the college’s experiential education requirement.