About Linguistics

Blake Hall

The Linguistics Department 

The first linguistics courses at KU were offered in 1957. In 1968, Linguistics became a department and was authorized to offer a Ph.D. degree. Today, the unique strength of the Linguistics department is the systematic pairing of theoretical and experimental investigations of linguistic knowledge.

The department offers a broad range of courses that provide a basic understanding of human language and communication. Linguistics courses examine features of language that underlie the human capacity to express concepts and communicate ideas. They address the connections between language, brain, culture, mind, and history.  Students also receive a basic understanding of the human capacity to acquire, perceive, and produce language and of language’s role in contemporary society.

Linguistics is a superb preparation for careers that require expertise in the use of language as a means of communication, e.g., business, communications, personnel administration, teaching, health care, and social service. Many majors pursue graduate study in education, law, psychology, computer science, speech and hearing sciences, and languages.

Areas of special strength in the graduate program include Phonetics, Phonology, Syntax, First and Second Language Acquisition, Psycholinguistics, Neurolinguistics, Semantics and Indigenous Languages. The department also cooperates with other departments, such as Speech-Language-Hearing, Child Language, Indigenous Nations Studies, Anthropology, Education and Psychology.

What is Linguistics?

Linguists explore the nature of human language and the human capacity for acquiring and using language. Linguistics is one of the core branches of cognitive science. Linguists study how children and adults acquire language and how people use language. Linguists hope to identify the universal features of language that make it possible to express any concept. They also strive to document each of the world’s 3,000 endangered languages before they disappear completely. Language makes possible the uniquely human ability to record and communicate discoveries. Linguists address the connections between language, brain, culture, and mind.

Is studying Linguistics for me?

Am I fascinated by language and the way people use it? Am I curious about the origin of words and how languages have evolved and changed? Am I intrigued by the sounds and structure of language? Am I interested in how children acquire language so effortlessly, while students in foreign language courses have much more difficulty and computer programs cannot recognize or produce language the way native speakers do? Would I like to know what makes people sound different or how language is instantiated in the brain?