What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the systematic study of human language. It covers a wide range of topics, including: language in society, language variation and what happens when languages come into contact with one another (Sociolinguistics); language change (Historical Linguistics); how meaning is conveyed (Semantics and Pragmatics); how sounds are produced and perceived and what speech looks like when it is subjected to acoustic analysis (Phonetics); and what ‘goes wrong’ when speakers produce speech errors, someone suffers a form of language impairment, or children are deprived of the language input they require to acquire language successfully (Psycholinguistics).

This variety is what makes Linguistics fascinating – one moment you might be poring over a medieval text for evidence of how the grammar of a language has changed, and the next, learning about how the larynx creates sound energy for speech.

Discover more about the undergraduate course on the departmental website.

Linguistics at Corpus

Linguistics is a relatively small Department but Corpus admits one or two undergraduates in most years.  The Director of Studies in Linguistics is Dr Theresa Biberauer, with Corpus Fellow and Classicist Dr Jo Willmott having research interests in the area.

biberauert Dr Theresa Biberauer Director of Studies
Willmott Dr Jo Willmott Fellow – Greek and Latin

What do we look for in applicants?

The main requirement for studying Linguistics is a lively curiosity about the nature of language.  Linguistics is interdisciplinary, so there is no specific A Level (or equivalent) requirement; the Department welcomes applicants with an outstanding academic profile, regardless of whether this happens to be Science-oriented or Arts-centred. Some formal study of language – through learning languages and/or English Language A-level – does, however, serve as good preparation.

After Corpus

Linguistics graduates find employment in a wide range of professions. Its broad interdisciplinary training, which develops the ability to analyse data, construct abstract (grammatical) models, and test alternative hypotheses, means that Linguistics graduates emerge with the kind of transferable intellectual skills that are highly sought after by employers. Careers for which Linguistics provides a particularly good and specific preparation for vocational training include speech therapy, teaching (especially of languages), translation and interpreting, speech & language technology (developing and improving computer-based applications such as speech recognition and translation software), journalism, publishing, and even forensic linguistics. Familiarity with the range and essence of human languages is a huge advantage in careers where the rapid learning of unfamiliar languages may be involved, such as the Diplomatic Service. The ability to construct and express logical arguments, together with the more general sensitivity to language that studying Linguistics entails, means that linguists also do very well in law.

Combining Linguistics with other Triposes

Students who take another subject at Part I may switch to Linguistics. If your Part I was a one-year course, you would take Linguistics Part IIA and IIB, with IIA adapted to include some of the “foundation” elements from Part I. If you change after a two-year Part I, you can complete your undergraduate degree by taking just Part IIA; if you have funding, though, you can progress to Part IIB as part of a four-year degree. There are a range of entry routes into Linguistics, the most common being via Modern & Medieval Languages. In recent years, however, the Department has also attracted successful linguists from, amongst others, English, Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic, Classics, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, Philosophy, History, Music, Education, Law, Social & Political Sciences, Maths, Biology, Computer Science and Engineering. Linguistics papers can also be borrowed by certain Triposes (Modern & Medieval Languages, English, Classics and Asian & Middle Eastern Studies), allowing students to pursue their specific language interests whilst learning more about language more generally.




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