Courses of Study 2012-2013 
    Jul 04, 2022  
Courses of Study 2012-2013 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


In the College of Arts and Sciences .

Course Offerings 

Why Linguistics?

Linguistics, the systematic study of human language, lies at the crossroads of the humanities and the social sciences. Much of its appeal derives from the special combination of intuition and rigor that the analysis of language demands. The interests of the members of the Department of Linguistics and colleagues in other departments span most of the major subfields of linguistics: phonetics and phonology, the study of speech sounds; syntax, the study of how words are combined; semantics, the study of meaning; historical linguistics, the study of language change in time; and computational linguistics, the modeling of natural language in all its aspects from a computational perspective.

Studying linguistics is not a matter of studying many languages. Linguistics is a theoretical discipline with ties to such areas as cognitive psychology, philosophy, logic, computer science, and anthropology. Nonetheless, knowing particular languages in some depth can enhance understanding of the general properties of human language. Not surprisingly, then, many students of linguistics owe their initial interest to a period of exposure to a foreign language, and those who come to linguistics by some other route find their knowledge about languages enriched and are often stimulated to embark on further foreign language study.

Students interested in learning more about linguistics and its relationship to other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences are encouraged to take LING 1101 , a general overview, which is a prerequisite for most other courses in the field, or one of the first-year writing seminars offered in linguistics (on topics such as metaphor, language processing and disorders, English outside the box, and the language instinct). LING 1101  and our other introductory courses fulfill various Arts College distribution requirements. Most of our 1100- and 2200-level courses have no prerequisites. These cover various topics in linguistics (e.g., LING 1109 - English Words: Histories and Mysteries , LING 2221 - [Language and Society] , LING 2285 - Linguistic Theory and Poetic Structure ) or focus on the linguistics of a particular geographic region or historical development of particular languages (e.g., LING 2217 - History of the English Language to 1300 , LING 2218 - [History of the English Language since 1300] , LING 2241 - Yiddish Linguistics ).

Talks and discussions about linguistics are organized by Cornell’s Undergraduate Linguistics Organization (the Underlings) and the Linguistics Colloquium (organized by the Cornell Linguistic Circle and the department). These meetings are open to the university public, and anyone wishing to learn more about linguistics is most welcome to attend. Information about such events is posted on the department website.



D. Zec, chair; M. Diesing, director of graduate studies; W. Harbert, director of undergraduate studies; D. Abusch, J. Bowers, W. Browne, A. Cohn, M. Despic (visiting), J. Hale, S. Hertz, S. Murray, A. Nussbaum, M. Rooth, S. Tilsen, M. Weiss, J. Whitman.

The Linguistics Major:

For questions regarding the linguistics major, contact Professor W. Harbert, 210 Morrill Hall, (607) 255-8441, (

A. Prerequisites:

D. Elective Courses:

Majors must complete three elective courses chosen in consultation with their advisors. These can be selected from among the remaining courses listed in the Core Courses category, or other courses in linguistics or another department with a substantial linguistic content, including courses on the linguistics of specific languages. Two of these must be at the 2200-level or higher. One must be at the 3300-level or higher.

E. Ancillary Skills Courses:

Majors must complete two semesters of study in one or more of the following areas, selected in consultation with their advisors. This requirement is intended to equip them with practical skills relevant to their particular interests in linguistics.

  • Statistics
  • Logic
  • Computer programming
  • Two semesters of study of a non-European or non-Indo-European language
  • Language teaching methodology
  • Two semesters of study beyond the level required by the Arts College of a language relevant to the student’s particular areas of interest

The Ancillary Skills Course requirement may be waived for students who are majoring in more than one field.

F: Substitutions

Some substitutions to these standard requirements are possible after consultation with your advisor and approval by the director of undergraduate studies. The minimum grade for courses applied to the linguistics major is C.


Honors in Linguistics are awarded for excellence in the major including overall GPA and completion of an honors thesis. Applications for honors should be made at the end of junior year or by the start of fall term of the senior year.


Admission to the honors program requires an overall GPA of at least 3.3 and a GPA in the major of at least 3.5. A student may be admitted provisionally in the honors program at the discretion of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.


In addition to the regular requirements of the major, the candidate for honors will complete an honors thesis. Writing an honors thesis is typically a two-semester project involving eight credits of coursework conducted during the senior year. During their first semester of honors work, students typically register for (1) LING 4493 - Honors Thesis Research  (with their thesis advisor); and (2) LING 4491 - Honors Research Workshop I . During their second semester of honors work, students are required to register for (1) LING 4494 - Honors Thesis Research  (with their thesis advisor); and (2) LING 4492 - Honors Research Workshop II .

Upon completion of the thesis, the student takes a final oral examination defending the thesis. The oral examination will be conducted by the honors committee, consisting of the thesis advisor and at least one other faculty member in linguistics. Members of other departments may serve as additional members if the topic makes this advisable. Honors students are also required to deposit a copy of the final thesis with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Linguistics and are expected to give an oral presentation on their thesis topic during the department’s year-end undergraduate honors colloquium. Honors are awarded by a departmental committee based on the thesis and overall academic record, guided by honor committees’ recommendations.

First-Year Writing Seminars:

Consult the John S. Knight website for times, instructors, and descriptions.