What is Linguistics?

Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It attempts to answer fundamental questions such as,

  • What is language?
  • How does it work?
  • How is it represented in the mind?
  • What features do all human languages share in common?
  • How do languages change over time?

Within universities, linguistics is often grouped together with other social and behavioral sciences such as anthropology and sociology. However, the concerns of linguistics also overlap with those of English, philosophy, and other humanities, with certain physical sciences such as acoustics, and computer science. And because language is ultimately situated in the brain, linguistics is sometimes considered one of the "cognitive sciences," along with psychology, philosophy, and artificial intelligence.

For more information on the field of linguistics, please visit the web page of the Linguistic Society of America.

The linguistics faculty at SJSU offers expertise in many areas within linguistics, including

  • Computational linguistics (computer processing of language)
  • Morphology and syntax (the structure of words and sentences)
  • Phonetics and phonology (the sounds of language)
  • Psycholinguistics (language and the brain)
  • Semantics (meaning)
  • Sociolinguistics (language and society)

Academic Degrees and Certificates in Linguistics at SJSU

Goals, Objectives, and Assessment

Note: As of 2008, it is possible to work on Master's degrees simultaneously in both our Linguistics and M.A. in TESOL programs; some course work may be applied to both. Interested students should contact the Coordinators of both programs, early in their studies, for more information and degree planning.

Who's Hiring Linguistics Majors?

Some graduates of the SJSU Linguistics program go on to pursue advanced degrees, while others enter the job market. Many of our students pursue internship opportunities at local Silicon Valley companies in order to gain valuable work skills while pursuing their studies. Examples of the kinds of jobs open to linguists are listed here:

Declare Your Major

Download the form below to declare your major. Download it, write "Linguistics" in the space for "New Major Objective," and call (408) 924-4413 to make an appointment for the department chair's signature.

Download Major Declaration Form [pdf]

Linguistics Coordinator

The coordinator of the Linguistics program is Dr. Julia Swan.

Julia SwanDr. Julia Swan
Assistant Professor