Published annually, the Course Catalog sets out the requirements of the academic programs--the majors, minors, and concentrations. Each Bryn Mawr student must declare her major before the end of her sophomore year. Students may also declare a minor or a concentration, but neither is required for the A.B. degree. Students must comply with the requirements published in the Course Catalog at the time when they declare the major, minor and/or concentration.

The Course Catalog also sets out the College requirements. Students must comply with the College requirements published at the time they enter Bryn Mawr College.

For more information, visit the Catalog Homepage to view the current content. To view Catalogs from previous academic years, visit the Catalog Archives page.

Learning Goals

  • Examine the structural components of sound, form, and meaning, and the precise interplay between them.
  • Interact with the field of linguistics through a series of foundation courses in linguistics theory and methodology.
  • Hone analytical and argumentation skills, and prepare for future pursuits in any field to which such skills are essential, including psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, mathematics, computer science, computational linguistics, sociology, and anthropology.
  • Apply theoretical and methodological tools to the analysis of linguistic data, particularly in forming and testing hypotheses, and arrive at conclusions that the data and arguments support.
  • Understand how language influences the way we interact with each other and with the larger world around us.
  • Investigate how people acquire their knowledge about language, how this knowledge interacts with other cognitive processes and how it varies across speakers and geographic regions.

Major Requirements

The Tri-Co Linguistics Department offers two major tracks: (i) Linguistics and (ii) Linguistics & Language (often called Ling/Lang). Students complete either of these majors with a total of eight credits. 

Mandatory Foundation Courses (three credits)

Students in both major tracks must complete one course from each of the following categories:

  • Forms: LING H113 or LING S050 (Introduction to Syntax)
  • Meanings: LING H114 or LING S040 (Introduction to Semantics)
  • Sounds: LING H115 or LING S045 (Phonetics and Phonology)

Structure of a Non-Indo-European Language Courses (one credit)

Students in both major tracks much complete one course from the Structure of a Non-Indo-European Language series, which include the following classes, among others:

  • LING H215 (Structure of Colonial Valley Zapotec)
  • LING H282 (Structure of Chinese)
  • LING S060 (Structure of Navajo)
  • LING S062 (Structure of American Sign Language)
  • LING S064 (Structure of Tuvan)

Elective Courses (LING majors only, three credits)

Three elective courses in linguistics or related fields are required for Linguistics majors.  (Ling/Lang majors are not required to take elective courses, but have an additional language requirement, see below.) Electives include the following courses, among others:

Language Courses (LING/LANG majors only, six credits)

This requirement applied only to Linguistics and Language majors, not Linguistics majors. 

  • Ling/Lang majors must study two different languages with three credits from each, with at least one credit at the third-year level for each of the two languages.

Thesis (one credit)

A one-credit senior thesis in the fall semester of the senior year is required for majors in both tracks. The thesis constitutes the comprehensive requirement for the major.

Note: Majors in the Tri-Co Linguistics Department can receive up to two elective credits for pre-approved courses taken outside the Tri-Co. Interested students should seek consultation with, and approval from, the Bi-Co chair of the department prior to enrolling in the courses, and be ready to provide course descriptions during consultation and transcripts afterwards for proper credit counting towards the major.

Senior Project

Majors in our department are recommended to take the Junior Seminar LING S090 (Advanced Research Methods in Linguistics), in the spring term of their junior year. This course is designed to expose students to the classic literature on the major subfields in linguistics, familiarizing them with theoretical frameworks, methodologies, and bibliographies, culminating in the selection of a potential thesis topic, working and reworking on a thesis abstract with references. Students are also encouraged to take an upper level seminar course in the subfield where they will most likely choose a thesis topic.

Linguistics majors write their thesis in the fall semester of their senior year. All Bi-Co linguistics majors should pre-register for LING H399 in the spring of their junior year. They will be assigned an appropriate faculty advisor once they choose a thesis topic and the topic is approved. In the topic proposal, students need to list at least two relevant courses related to the topic. (LING S090 could be listed as one of the two.) If their assigned faculty advisor is from Swarthmore, majors will then switch to the appropriate senior seminar section of LING S100, which can be done in the beginning of the fall semester of their senior year.

Senior Project Learning Goals

There are multiple acceptable approaches to a linguistics thesis, and our learning goals reflect these possibilities. 

All students will: 

• Make considered choices on style, formatting, and citation practices in consultation with their advisor; 

• Gain familiarity and meaningfully engage with the essential foundational and advanced literature relating to their topic; 

• Select and correctly implement appropriate methods, formal theories, and technologies; 

• Produce insights into their topic. 

Where appropriate, students will: 

• Demonstrate an understanding of appropriate methods for gathering data; 

• Understand the best practices for responsible and ethical gathering, archiving, and use of data in ways that respect the relevant speakers/signers and their communities and cultures; 

• Be able to organize data and observe patterns, puzzles, etc. in that data; 

• Construct and articulate clear hypotheses and analyses for the observed patterns in the data; 

• Evaluate hypotheses and convincingly argue why a chosen hypothesis is superior to plausible alternatives.

Senior Project Assessment

Faculty members are assigned as first and second readers to each thesis after the senior major has decided on a topic in the beginning of the fall semester.

The senior thesis is evaluated on the following criteria:

Fundamentals:

  • Does the student demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of elementary concepts in linguistics, such as the underlying goals of linguistic inquiry, basic units of linguistic analysis (phonemes, morphemes, constituency, entailment, etc.), and distinctions important to linguistics (prescriptive/descriptive, competence/ performance, phoneme/allophone, form/function, etc.)? Does the student demonstrate familiarity with essential literature?

Tools and Methods:

  • Does the student select and correctly implement methods and formal theories appropriate for their work? Does the student correctly use standard, professional linguistics formatting and notation for transcriptions, glosses, OT tableaux, syntactic structures, semantic interpretations, citations and references, etc.? Does the student correctly use standardly accepted technical jargon (“allomorph,” “adjunct,” “implicature,” etc.) rather than vague descriptions or nonstandard terminology? Does the student correctly use appropriate linguistics technology (Praat, ELAN, etc.)? At the level of technical details, does the student’s work look like it was written by a linguist (rather than, say, by a historian or chemist)?

Ethics:

  • Does the student demonstrate a full understanding of best practices for responsible and ethical collection, storage, and use of data in ways that respect the relevant speakers and their communities and cultures? Does the student demonstrate a commitment to appropriate collaboration with speakers and communities?  (N.B. This learning outcome may not be relevant to work that does not use primary data, in which case, this should normally be assessed as “N/A”.)

General Scientific Methodology:

  • Data Collection and Presentation
    Does the student demonstrate an understanding of proper scientific methodology for collecting data (survey design, selection of participants, establishing controls, eliciting useful contrasts and paradigms, etc.)? Does the student organize data in meaningful ways that clearly demonstrate important patterns (minimal pairs, morphological paradigm tables, logical blocks of related utterances, etc.)?
  • Analysis
    Does the student construct useful, appropriate hypotheses to explain the observed patterns in the data? Are these hypotheses rigorously and clearly formulated? Does the student sufficiently explore logically plausible alternative hypotheses? Does the student convincingly argue for why their hypotheses are superior to the logical alternatives?

Critical Thinking Skills:

  • Advanced Literature
    Does the student draw upon relevant advanced literature in meaningful ways? Does the student demonstrate an understanding of crucial data, analyses, results, models, predictions, etc. from this advanced literature?
  • Innovation
    Is the student’s work innovative in some way that makes it stand out as more than just superficial description and/or straightforward application of tried-and-true analytical tools?  Does the student articulate novel and insightful claims about a specific language, language itself, or linguistics more broadly? Is the student’s work noteworthy, at least in part, because of the student’s particular insights?

Quality of Prose:

  • Coherence, Structure, Fluidity, etc.
    Is the student’s prose professional and polished, in line with general standards of academic writing? Is the student’s prose clear and logically structured? Are individual sentences coherent and grammatical? Do sentences and paragraphs flow fluidly from one to the next?  Does the student’s prose strike an appropriate balance between being concise and being sufficient? Would the student’s prose pass muster for publication in a journal?

Requirements for Honors

Honors will be granted, at the discretion of the faculty members, to those senior majors who have consistently distinguished themselves in major-related course work (typically with a GPA of 3.7 or higher), active and constructive participation in the intellectual life of the department, and an outstanding senior thesis. A senior major may receive high honors if deemed exceptional in all three areas.

Minor Requirements

Students may minor in linguistics through Haverford by completing six credits in the following three areas:

Mandatory Foundation Courses (three credits)

  • Forms: LING H113 or LING S050 (Introduction to Syntax)
  • Meanings: LING H114 or LING S040 (Introduction to Semantics)
  • Sounds: LING H115 or LING S045 (Phonetics and Phonology)

Structure of a Non-Indo-European Language Courses (one credit)

  • LING H215 (Structure of Colonial Valley Zapotec)
  • LING H282 (Structure of Chinese)
  • LING S060 (Structure of Navajo)
  • LING S062 (Structure of American Sign Language)
  • LING S064 (Structure of Tuvan)

Elective Courses (choose two from the following sample of relevant courses among many others):

The Tri-Co Linguistics Department accepts all linguistics courses offered at Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford for credit in their appropriate category.  

Note: Minors in the Tri-Co Linguistics Department can receive up to two elective credits for pre-approved courses taken outside the Tri-Co. Interested students should seek consultation with, and approval from, the Bi-Co chair of the department prior to enrolling in the courses, and be ready to provide course descriptions during consultation and transcripts afterwards for proper credit counting towards the minor.

Study Away & Study Abroad

Majors in the Tri-Co Linguistics Department can receive up to two elective credits for pre-approved courses taken at departments on the College’s list of study away or study abroad programs. Interested students should seek consultation with, and approval from, the Bi-Co chair of the department prior to studying abroad, and be ready to provide course descriptions during consultation and transcripts afterwards for proper credit counting towards the major.

Prizes

The Tri-Co Department of Linguistics may, at its discretion, award the following prizes.

The "Best Theoretical Linguistics Thesis Prize" is awarded to the senior whose thesis exemplifies outstanding work in area of theoretical linguistics.

The "Best Descriptive Linguistics Thesis Prize" is awarded to the senior whose thesis exemplifies outstanding work in area of descriptive linguistics.

The "Best Applied Linguistics Thesis Prize" is awarded to the senior whose thesis exemplifies outstanding work in area of applied linguistics.