Is Linguistics an easy specialization or is it considered more rigorous?

Updated on : January 17, 2022 by Alisha Webb



Is Linguistics an easy specialization or is it considered more rigorous?

It depends on your school and your level of comparison.

At UCLA (which has one of the best linguistics programs in the world), linguistics is in the Humanities Division. Many of our college students found it significantly more difficult than any of their other courses.

At Northwestern, Linguistics was much more affiliated with the interdisciplinary Cognitive Sciences programs and was in the Division of Social Sciences. Many of our students come from elite backgrounds and transferred to Linguistics after taking first-year courses in STEM or psychology. These students found t

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It depends on your school and your level of comparison.

At UCLA (which has one of the best linguistics programs in the world), linguistics is in the Humanities Division. Many of our college students found it significantly more difficult than any of their other courses.

At Northwestern, Linguistics was much more affiliated with the interdisciplinary Cognitive Sciences programs and was in the Division of Social Sciences. Many of our students come from elite backgrounds and transferred to Linguistics after taking first-year courses in STEM or psychology. These students found the linguistics curriculum quite easy (and were following it due to their intellectual interest).

Ultimately, whether or not the specialty is difficult depends on you and the department where you take the courses. If you are coming from an elite background with many prior analytical courses, and the department is not extremely rigorous, it will probably be easy for you. If you come from a disadvantaged background, were educated primarily in qualitative and humanities courses, and are taking tough teacher courses, you will definitely find linguistics challenging.

Is Linguistics an easy specialization or is it considered more rigorous?

Linguistics is very rigorous, except when it isn't.

I still find the semantics to be soft; One of the most annoying classes I took in graduate school was Rulon Wells's on "historical semantics": I was educated at the generative semantics school of Saddock, McCawley, Zwicky, Geis, and Dowty, and Jeffers' neogrammatic historical linguistics. , Callaghan, Lehmann and Cowgill. This was neither.

When I did phonology, it was introspective, the natural phonology of Stampe and Donegan Stampe. When I did phonetics, it was hard science fr

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Is Linguistics an easy specialization or is it considered more rigorous?

Linguistics is very rigorous, except when it isn't.

I still find the semantics to be soft; One of the most annoying classes I took in graduate school was Rulon Wells's on "historical semantics": I was educated at the generative semantics school of Saddock, McCawley, Zwicky, Geis, and Dowty, and Jeffers' neogrammatic historical linguistics. , Callaghan, Lehmann and Cowgill. This was neither.

When I did phonology, it was introspective, the natural phonology of Stampe and Donegan Stampe. When I did phonetics, it was hard science from Lehiste and Terbeek.

Then it is up to you.

The difference between taking college courses that you really enjoy and the ones you're doing just because they seem like an easy option can be huge.

So give linguistics a try and decide if you like it. A good introductory linguistics class will show you several very different ways of thinking and studying the language. None of them are exactly easy, but you may find that one or more of them really suits you and gets you excited about learning more.

There is no easy specialization. However, there are specializations that are tailored to your skills and specializations that interest you. If you find one where these two overlap, go for it. There will be rigor, but all the greats have it.

For me, the experience was incredible.

In my freshman year I entered Stanford University thinking that I wanted to major in biochemical engineering. I was studying chemistry and also signed up for a little introductory linguistics seminar (with Tracy Chou actually!) Taught by one of our assistant professors from the department. I already knew I didn't like chemistry, but that kind of introduction convinced me that I couldn't get through years of chemistry and o-chemistry. On the other hand, I loved my linguistics sem intro. An article, by someone named Lera Boroditsky on psycholinguistics, particularly fas

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For me, the experience was incredible.

In my freshman year I entered Stanford University thinking that I wanted to major in biochemical engineering. I was studying chemistry and also signed up for a little introductory linguistics seminar (with Tracy Chou actually!) Taught by one of our assistant professors from the department. I already knew I didn't like chemistry, but that kind of introduction convinced me that I couldn't get through years of chemistry and o-chemistry. On the other hand, I loved my linguistics sem intro. An article by someone named Lera Boroditsky on psycholinguistics particularly fascinated me. Several studies were discussed that focused on the effect that linguistic conventions (specifically, grammatical gender) could have on the perception of the object, subconsciously. I was captivated.

I signed up for another linguistics class, called Language and Gender, taught by one of the best sociolinguists of our time, Penelope Eckert, next term. In it, Lera Boroditsky came to talk to us, apparently she was a professor in our psychology department and I didn't know it! I spoke to her after her guest lecture, as awkwardly as only a star-blown freshman can be, and she agreed to let me investigate with her. After that, it was practically decided: I would specialize in linguistics.

The linguistics core isn't that bad - we had to take something like 5 of the 7 main classes, including phonetics and phonology, morphology, linguistics 1, syntax, semantics, etc. The syntax was very difficult for me, but I found my best friend (Joachim D) in it, it is worth it.

Although linguistics was a small specialization, our classes were never too small. All of our teachers have done incredible research and were very good teachers. This is an advantage that I think the social sciences and humanities have over engineering departments: our professors are creme de la creme masters. Because they have fewer opportunities to enter the industry, permanent and teaching positions are pretty much the pinnacle of a career as a social scientist. Therefore, universities can be incredibly selective about who they offer positions to, and as students we really benefit.

Linguistics was one of the only departments I knew of that had a "sophomore job" to do, basically a baby version of a senior thesis. It sucked. None of my friends were doing it and it was because of the quarter I was abroad, not that I or any of the other linguistics majors I knew got it on time;)

Some of the other students in the department were a bit strange, but they were all really passionate about what they were doing. We weren't a tight-knit community, nobody got together outside of class.

At Stanford, each department has a separate graduation ceremony. In mine, I was literally the only student to graduate that year, so it was more like a celebration of mine, oddly enough. I didn't tell my parents that it was just me who was graduating and as we ran out of the main ceremony for the entire university, my mother was freaking out, worried that I would be late and not get my diploma. I have to admit I was a bit cocky when I told him not to worry ... My "ceremony" basically consisted of my top advisor in the department toasting me, everyone drinking champagne and getting my diploma. They also had a full lunch, for the 10 of us who were there. Afterwards, I went to the EE ceremony to see my friends.

I liked that linguistics was something that almost everyone is interested in, but sometimes it can get tedious when someone who heard that I studied linguistics asked me:

  1. How many languages ​​did I speak.
  2. What was linguistics Or, what was more annoying, he assumed it was the study of languages.
  3. What was she going to do with him in the future.

Also, almost everyone had a question about some random linguistic question: ("Why does Russian do x?") or less they had nothing to do with it. ("Oh, the relationship between language and thought? So do you know if it's easier to write poetry in Turkish?" Or worse yet, "Psycholinguistics huh? So does that mean you can read my mind? "-> What ?!) So, it was a shame that hardly anyone really knew what linguistics was and instead had the wrong view of the field. The worst people were those who were sure that, by speaking a language, they understood linguistics as a field. You would not do that

I consider myself fortunate that Stanford had one of the best linguistics departments in the country, especially since I came to Stanford with no idea of ​​its existence as a specialty or intention to specialize in it. When all is said and done, I do not regret majoring in Linguistics. I knew there was a good chance I could end up living in a box because of it, but I did it anyway.

Unless you graduate from one of the top ten universities, most degrees have little value in the job market. I mean, you will look better than someone who just graduated from high school, but that doesn't say much. It is?

It is the skills that count. A degree in petroleum engineering is not as valuable as the skills a student acquires by earning the degree. Where else is a student likely to get those skills if not in college? I don't know of any linguistics skills taught to you that puts you in a high-demand position in any company or in government.

If you are worried about your future

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Unless you graduate from one of the top ten universities, most degrees have little value in the job market. I mean, you will look better than someone who just graduated from high school, but that doesn't say much. It is?

It is the skills that count. A degree in petroleum engineering is not as valuable as the skills a student acquires by earning the degree. Where else is a student likely to get those skills if not in college? I don't know of any linguistics skills taught to you that puts you in a high-demand position in any company or in government.

If you are worried about your future, I suggest that you start developing business skills. You can always take the academic route: go for the doctorate; To do investigation; teaching. I imagine there is not a great demand for linguistics teachers, so you will have to go wherever you find work. The advantage is that you can continue to focus on the abstract parts of the language and someone else will pay you for it. It's not a bad deal.

Applying linguistic knowledge more broadly is also a way to go. Learn to speak a language like Farsi, Urdu, Pashto or Arabic and getting a job in the government will not be terribly difficult: the State Department, the CIA, the NSA, take your pick. Learn a language like German, Japanese, Chinese or Korean and it will appeal to companies doing business in those countries.

However, you will also need to develop other skills. For a corporate job, an advertising specialization, business, or sales experience are great combinations with language skills. International relations degrees are nice, but not necessary. If you want to go the government route, look for internships. They often care less about the title and more about their experience (i.e. internships) and skills. Work with an NGO or the Peace Corps if you can't get an internship.

In short, marketable skills are the path to a good career. Don't worry too much about your degree, especially your bachelor's degree. Focus on ways to develop marketable skills to get you the job you want.

It depends a lot on what you mean by "worth it." If you are working towards a PhD in almost any field, the main reason for doing so is that you love and are obsessed with the subject and want to learn all you can about it and eventually add to the field of knowledge. If you want to have an academic job in this field and you want to have it as your career, then it is an absolutely necessary (but not sufficient) step. In that sense, "it's" worth it. If you love the field and want to spend a lot of time learning it in depth and you have a good deal (free ride, stipend, etc.) then you could b

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It depends a lot on what you mean by "worth it." If you are working towards a PhD in almost any field, the main reason for doing so is that you love and are obsessed with the subject and want to learn all you can about it and eventually add to the field of knowledge. If you want to have an academic job in this field and you want to have it as your career, then it is an absolutely necessary (but not sufficient) step. In that sense, "it's" worth it. If you love the field and want to spend a lot of time learning it in depth and you have a good deal (free ride, stipend, etc.) then it could be a very satisfying way to spend 6 years. You will likely be personally changed and enriched by the experience. If you mean "worth it" In the common American way (that is, you will finish it and get a permanent upper-middle-class professional job outside of academia), then the answer is definitely no. But if you can get a permanent job and you like to teach, think, write, research, debate, have really smart colleagues, good benefits and a job for life, then it is "worth it." Of course, tenure in such a field is very difficult to come by, so you better love what you are doing while doing it. good benefits and a job for life, then it is "worth it". Of course, tenure in such a field is very difficult to come by, so you better love what you are doing while doing it. good benefits and a job for life, then it is "worth it". Of course, tenure in such a field is very difficult to come by, so you better love what you are doing while doing it.
I disagree with Nizamova's other answer, if you want to teach a language, then a higher degree in linguistics is a waste of time. Teaching a language is a very different set of skills and interests than higher-level linguistics. Knowing a little about the linguistics of the language you teach can help, but it's a very different matter from that. There is the sub-discipline of applied linguistics, but most programs are much more theoretical and abstract.
If you are interested in linguistics and computer science or neurobiology, there may be non-academic jobs in the future.

One of my proudest moments as a linguistics tutor, while still doing my PhD, was when my brightest student in the undergraduate subject I was teaching asked me this question.

I was still doing my PhD, but I was already aware of how few jobs there were. How you had to step on people's bodies and endure 10 years of postdoctoral work to get an academic position. And that's without even considering the academic experience of the USA, where you will end up condemned for life to be a teaching adjunct, because it is more difficult to get an academic job than to be one of Calvin's chosen ones.

And i told him

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One of my proudest moments as a linguistics tutor, while still doing my PhD, was when my brightest student in the undergraduate subject I was teaching asked me this question.

I was still doing my PhD, but I was already aware of how few jobs there were. How you had to step on people's bodies and endure 10 years of postdoctoral work to get an academic position. And that's without even considering the academic experience of the USA, where you will end up condemned for life to be a teaching adjunct, because it is more difficult to get an academic job than to be one of Calvin's chosen ones.

And I said to my brightest student: just do a Ph.D. in linguistics, if you can't imagine doing something else.

She thanked me. And I ended up doing psychology instead.

And I work in IT.

And you, OP, you are 15 years old and you are in no condition to make that call. Of course, read about linguistics and take some subjects in college. But, especially if you are in the US, and really, these days, even if you are not (I see you are in Ireland): do not go to a bachelor's degree committed to doing a PhD in linguistics. Of course, take linguistics subjects in its minor, maybe even major in it. Don't commit beyond that. You have a lot to discover, both about yourself and the workforce. And where your passions reside. You can certainly decide that after your Introduction to Linguistics course in your freshman year of college. (Or earlier, going to your library and reading some linguistics textbooks now.)

I would link to the answers I have already written about my experience of not ending up becoming a professional linguist; But I have enough to be depressed these days. My answers are searchable ...

Keep in mind that linguistics has a reputation among art students for being unexpectedly difficult. I think that's true whether I am in a Chomskian or non-Chomskian department: linguistics has much more in common in methodology with the soft sciences than it does with the humanities.

You have to enjoy analyzing things and using computers (for most linguists, using cmoputers is a daily chore).

To anyone thinking of specializing in linguistics, I would suggest a double major ...

linguistics + mathematics

linguistics + computing

linguistics + language / literature

are some suggestions. If that sounds too difficult, then linguistics is certainly not the most important thing to you. You can also choose to combine linguistics with psychology, sociology, archeology, etc., but for archeology and sociology at least, you will tend to work in those fields with the advantage of having a linguistics expert.

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You have to enjoy analyzing things and using computers (for most linguists, using cmoputers is a daily chore).

To anyone thinking of specializing in linguistics, I would suggest a double major ...

linguistics + mathematics

linguistics + computing

linguistics + language / literature

are some suggestions. If that sounds too difficult, then linguistics is certainly not the most important thing to you. You may also choose to combine linguistics with psychology, sociology, archeology, etc., but for archeology and sociology at least, you will tend to work in those fields with the advantage of having a background in linguistics.

Consider how you will use the title after graduation. “Loving the language (s)” is important, but linguists, like most people in their work, cannot do the things they love most of the time. Loving things doesn't always help you find a job, it doesn't pay the bills, it doesn't get grants, and it doesn't necessarily interest anyone else.

If you want to pursue field linguistics or language development, remember that money will be difficult to come by and you may have to spend long periods of your life in a foreign culture. If that doesn't bother you or sounds interesting, linguistics is something you might consider.

In my opinion, linguists who have never studied anything but linguistics are seriously deficient in their skills. Yes, they can analyze language, but they can't do much else. Consider broadening your horizons.

One idea to consider is studying another subject as an undergraduate, but taking linguistics courses as a prerequisite (perhaps as a minor or concentration). Then take a two-year master's degree in linguistics after you have completed your bachelor's degree. You may even be able to start work on a master's degree while you are a college student (summer courses, etc.). I have many linguist friends with a BA in linguistics but a completely different BA.

A few more things: Linguistics is a human science, which means it has scientific components but also complex human dynamics. If you like listening to people and discovering new things about them, and if you are open to changing your previous beliefs based on new information, you can enjoy linguistics. Linguistics is not for closed-minded people, because new theories come up all the time, and if you can't adapt to them, you won't survive.

Linguists can use their craft to serve themselves or to serve others. But if you study other people just to enjoy something for yourself (like getting a job as a college professor), what's the point? I would suggest that linguists see themselves as servants of language communities and of the people in those communities.

If you publish academic writings in linguistics, there are likely to be people who disagree with you, and even criticize you in your writing or in person. Be prepared for that. Linguistics can be a bit fierce. I have read or heard some criticisms like, “Dr. Bartleby claims that this phenomenon occurs in the Tawlikiliki language of Beyond Your Vegonistan, but does not provide supporting evidence, and a simpler analysis shows that phenomenon x does not exist at all. "You may spend years of your life working on something, come up with something that you think brilliant and a smarter linguist can knock down your whole argument in 5 minutes. One of my favorite article titles: “Mirativity” doesn't exist …. This was written in response to linguists who spent years describing the mirativity.

Of course, there are other academic fields like that, and there is also no mandate to publish theoretical papers as a linguist.

If the things I have said make sense to you and seem interesting and challenging, it is good for you to study linguistics. However, you must realize that you will probably have to decide very early in your career what type of work you are going to do: computational, descriptive, etc. Some linguists end up working on various types of translation.

Most linguistics is much more scientific and mathematical than a person who simply "loves language" and wants to study it suspects.

Linguistics often uses mathematics to study and model the phenomena of language. That said, however, the usefulness and type of mathematics will vary greatly depending on your concentration within linguistics. Here are some types of mathematics that are commonly used in linguistics:

  • Statistics - You will probably need statistics if you ever want to be able to publish, as statistical methods are needed to validate research results. Additionally, you'll want to have a mastery of summary statistics to help you better describe and understand observations and trends within your area of ​​study.
  • Discrete Math: Useful i
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Linguistics often uses mathematics to study and model the phenomena of language. That said, however, the usefulness and type of mathematics will vary greatly depending on your concentration within linguistics. Here are some types of mathematics that are commonly used in linguistics:

  • Statistics - You will probably need statistics if you ever want to be able to publish, as statistical methods are needed to validate research results. Additionally, you'll want to have a mastery of summary statistics to help you better describe and understand observations and trends within your area of ​​study.
  • Discrete Mathematics - Useful in language modeling, including formal grammars, language representation (FSM, graph theory, etc.), and historical linguistic trends. Discrete math doesn't really look like math to outsiders as it is mostly Greek letters, pictures, and descriptions in English. But once the language needs to be computed, we tend to rely on these discrete models
  • Differential Equations, Multivariate Calculus - Every time you go into signal processing (advanced phonetics, speech recognition), you'll need to be able to use techniques like Fast Fourier Transform, Kalman filters, and automatic coding. This tends to be quite specialized as it starts to deal with the acoustics of human speech and involves a lot of number processing.
  • Basic Algebra: I can't think of a field of linguistics that doesn't use algebra. From the corpus linguist who seeks to add placed to the German linguist who seeks to describe the subsets of populations that modify the final voiced consonants of syllable.
  • Machine Learning, AI: Sentiment analysis, isogloss description, and vowel limits tend to be very fuzzy problems that have a large amount of data, but no clear mathematical function to describe it. Linguists use neural networks, support vector machines, and Bayesian functions to describe these limits and maximize predictive accuracy.

For most non-linguists, linguistics seems like an exotic subject and also quite mysterious. And people have pretty funny ideas about linguistics too. Sometimes students join a linguistics course with their own ideas and expectations about linguistics and are frustrated, while others enjoy the subject.

There are some things that students wishing to pursue a career in linguistics should be prepared for. They have to give up certain old ideas and notions about languages. They also have to face some hard facts and realities. Are here;

Ideas to quit:

  1. If you have those fun ideas like
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For most non-linguists, linguistics seems like an exotic subject and also quite mysterious. And people have pretty funny ideas about linguistics too. Sometimes students join a linguistics course with their own ideas and expectations about linguistics and are frustrated, while others enjoy the subject.

There are some things that students wishing to pursue a career in linguistics should be prepared for. They have to give up certain old ideas and notions about languages. They also have to face some hard facts and realities. Are here;

Ideas to quit:

  1. If you have funny ideas like 'xxx is the oldest language' or weird notions about the 'origins' of the language, you will be disappointed. Linguistics takes a scientific view on these issues.
  2. Do you think 'French is a beautiful language, but xxx is an ugly language'? Sorry. You will learn things that may not be to your liking.
  3. Any ideas like "They speak poor English in Texas" and "Australians speak English with an accent"? A big no for such notions. Linguistics considers all dialects and languages ​​on an equal footing.
  4. Are you planning to join Linguistics in order to 'improve' your English (sorry, this is what they do in India)? No. If you are a native English speaker, you already speak English just like any other native speaker, and if you are not, then sorry, linguistics does not teach you English, although it gives you very good insights into its structure. .

Well the list can go on. But now the second part.

Facts you will notice:

  1. A career in linguistics with only a degree in linguistics can be a bit difficult. It is always wise to combine it with some other theme.
  2. Linguistics demands your full-time attention and rigorous logical thinking. Be prepared to face challenges.
  3. Lately, linguistics has become something of a garden with multiple paths. Make sure which one to follow and do your best. You will get the benefits.

I assure you that linguistics can be very intellectually satisfying, but at the same time very challenging!

Good luck!

If by 'linguist' you mean a linguistics scholar, the only language you need to know is your native language, assuming that is the language in which your degree will be taught, but if you mean a person with a knack for languages , which was the original meaning of the term, as many as you want.

The Spectator, J. and R. Tonson, 1739, page 231

Far from people 'muddying the waters' by using the term 'linguist' to include a translator, interpreter or language teacher, this usage is correct, as the words 'linguist' and 'linguistic' predate the term 'linguistics', that only dates from the early

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If by 'linguist' you mean a linguistics scholar, the only language you need to know is your native language, assuming that is the language in which your degree will be taught, but if you mean a person with a knack for languages , which was the original meaning of the term, as many as you want.

The Spectator, J. and R. Tonson, 1739, page 231

Far from people 'muddying the waters' by using the term 'linguist' to include a translator, interpreter or language teacher, this usage is correct, as the words 'linguist' and 'linguistic' predate the term 'linguistics', It only dates back to the early 20th century, as this magazine shows.

International Journal of American Linguistics, Volume 1, Douglas C. McMurtrie, 1920, page 183

In fact, the Institute of Linguists in the UK, now called the Chartered Institute of Linguists, was founded in 1910, so the term was used in British English to refer to translators, interpreters or language teachers, all of whom are qualified professionally, but not exclusively to scholars of linguistics.

International Management Dictionary, Hano Johannsen, G. Terry Page, Springer, 1980, page 169

And it was also used in American English around the same time, to refer to interpreters, again illustrating that `` linguist '' was used to refer to someone skilled in a language other than their own, as philology was then the main related academic discipline. with the language.

The Classical Weekly, Volumes 7-8, Classical Association of the Atlantic States, 1914, page 63

However, given the negative reaction of linguistics scholars to the use of the word 'linguist' to mean 'multilingual person', it is better to use the term 'polyglot' instead, although a scholar of linguistics may be at the same time, as the late linguistics professor Einar Haugen explained.

Einar Haugen Studies: Presented on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, April 19, 1971, Evelyn S. Firchow, Walter de Gruyter, 2012, page 390

Haugen's rejection of the term 'linguist' on the basis of its similarity to 'pseudo-professional' terms such as 'beautician' is just as important as Jean Aitchison's claim that it is 'too tongue twister to be generally accepted', but it is too late. to change things.

Personally, I have no problem with the term 'linguist' being used exclusively to mean 'scholar of linguistics', as 'polyglot' is a much better word for 'speaker of many languages', but I find it ironic that linguists who attack others, for their linguistic pedantry and intolerance, should surrender themselves.

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