Students of linguistics study the cognitive acquisition, formation, and structure of language. The ways in which language interacts with psychology, sociology, biology, and neuroscience are key elements to a concentration in linguistics.
Emphasis is placed on the development and completion of original research and scholarship in this field. Students may focus on language development, the structure of language, perform cross-cultural comparisons, or relate linguistics to another field of interest such as literature, child studies, or computer science.
Sample First-Year Course
The Nature of Language
There are more than 6,000 languages in the world, and in many ways they are extraordinarily diverse. Underneath their differences, though, languages resemble each other in fundamental ways. Identifying similarities among the world’s languages leads to a range of other observations about language: spoken and signed languages have deep grammatical similarities, the ways in which very young children might mispronounce words can be predicted, and more. These similarities therefore reveal important truths about how languages are structured. But while languages can be extremely similar, there is a great deal of debate as to whether anything is universally true of all languages. This class will explore similarities among languages (and also the ways in which languages can vary), consider the source of these similarities, and wrestle with questions about true linguistic universals.
Sample Courses at Hampshire
Apes & Language
Language & the Mind
Meaning & the Philosophy of Language
Minds, Brains & Machines: The 50 Key Ideas
Minority Languages: Linguistic, Legal & Political Issues
The Nature of Language
Psychology of Language
Sound Patterns of Language: Phonetics & Phonology
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Theory of Language
The West of Ireland: Land & Language Through the Consortium
Controlling the Discourse (UMass)
Generative Phonology (UMass)
Intro to Linguistic Theory (UMass)
Intro to Phonetics for Linguists (UMass)
Intro to Syntax (UMass)
Language Change & Language Typology (UMass)
Language Processing & the Brain (UMass)
People & Their Language (UMass)
Semantics & Generative Grammar (UMass)
Speech, Sounds & Structure (UMass)
Facilities and Resources
For students interested in the intersections between cognitive and cultural development of language, the Foundation for Psychocultural Research-Hampshire College Program in Culture, Brain, and Development (CBD) provides a great resource. CBD is an interdisciplinary effort to reconceptualize the intersections of neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, psychology, and related fields, sponsoring seminars, lectures, research grants, and cross-school courses.
Hampshire’s own event-related potential (ERP) laboratory, an electrophysiological data collection and brainwave-imaging facility, is available for use by students looking to conduct original, participatory research in the fields of linguistics and cognition.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, Hampshire’s “Inquiry-Based Learning: Cognitive Measures and Systems Support” grant group has developed a software program called CHAT (Computational Human Articulatory Theory). Developed by both students and faculty, CHAT is used for inquiry-based education in linguistics. The program is based on a variant of the Turing test and provides students with lexicon and grammatical rule-building tool kits based on current Chomskyan minimalist syntactic theory, in order to create and refine a formal theory of syntax. Instead of simply presenting students with the “correct” model of English, the program provides a framework, or a “language lab,” within which students can create and experiment with their own models.
The Linguistics Department at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst is a world-renowned program at the graduate and undergraduate levels, recently ranked first in quality of education by the National Research Council. This resource is open to Hampshire students through the Five College consortium, and many linguistics concentrators have taken graduate-level courses as part of their Hampshire education.