Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It addresses questions relating to the structure of language, how and why languages differ and change, how humans acquire and process language, the relationship between language and society, and the systems of speech sounds that underlie the words and utterances that we speak and hear.
For example, studying linguistics can help us to understand how children can easily learn to speak both English and Māori, why New Zealanders sound different from Australians, why the words ‘air’ and ‘ear’ rhyme for some people but not for others, and why ‘sweet as’ isn’t just ‘slang’.
Given the unique nature of language, Linguistics is an inherently interdisciplinary field that bridges the sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. It has links with, among other fields, Anthropology, cognitive science, Computer Science, Education, Engineering, evolutionary biology, language study, neurology, Philosophy, Psychology and Sociology. It is therefore an ideal complementary field of study.
- UC is ranked in the top 200 universities in the world for Linguistics (QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2017).
- Many disciplines are represented at UC’s New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour, where researchers study the foundations of language as an integrated, multimodal, statistical system operating in a social, physical and physiological context.
Linguistics is not taught in schools, so no specific school background is needed in order to begin it at university. The main requirements are curiosity and a desire to improve one's ability to think and express oneself clearly. Some knowledge of a language or languages other than English is desirable but not essential.
You must take the following courses in first year if you intend to major in Linguistics:
- LING 101 The English Language
- LING 102 Language and Society in New Zealand and Beyond or LING 103 Basics of Language for Language Learners.
LING 101 and LING 102 are also prerequisites for 200-level Linguistics courses.
Linguistics majors need to include one course in a language other than English (or have equivalent language ability). This can be taken any year during the degree. UC students can choose from:
200-level and beyond
At 200 and 300-level more specialised courses explore a variety of topics including forensic linguistics, sociolinguistics, syntax, phonetics and phonology, morphology, New Zealand English and the history of English.
At 200-level the following are the core courses required for anyone to major in Linguistics:
- LING 215 The Sounds of Speech
- LING 216 Systems of Words and Sounds in Language
- LING 217 Sentence Structure
At postgraduate level, there are a raft of arts and science qualifications in the area of Linguistics — from taught programmes to those requiring in-depth independent research.
Linguistics provides the foundation for a wide range of jobs and careers including teaching, education, translation/interpreting, marketing, publishing, journalism, law, medicine, information technology, speech and language therapy, social research and international relations. In fact, studying Linguistics will help prepare you for any profession that requires skills in analytical thinking, problem solving, argumentation, critical thinking, data collection and analysis, and written and oral expression.
Naturally, you will also become familiar with many different languages and cultures, and as a result, develop important cross-cultural skills.
Linguistics is often a training ground for those who end up teaching English as a second language, which is a popular career and offers excellent travel opportunities.
Find out more about what you can do with a degree in Linguistics.
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