Skip to Navigation
    Macalester College
   
 
  Sep 25, 2017
 
 
    
College Catalog 2017-2018

Linguistics


Linguistics Steering Committee:

Christina Esposito (Chair; Linguistics), John Haiman (Linguistics), Cynthia Kauffeld (Hispanc and Latin American Studies), Brooke Lea (Psychology), Satoko Suzuki (Asian Languages and Cultures)

The interdisciplinary major in linguistics focuses on the human capacity for language, and the way in which this capacity provides a window on the mind. Fundamental to this study are the acquisition and the structure of natural languages, as well as the increasingly complex and sophisticated artificial languages which have been constructed by researchers in logic and computer science. Accordingly, the major, while presupposing a framework of study which is language-centered, integrates this study with progress in related fields, among them psychology, computer science, and philosophy.

As far as we know, language is unique to the human species. It is by far the most complex behavior of which human beings are capable. But at the same time, unlike the ability to play master chess or perform on the parallel bars, it is democratically distributed among all human beings.

Both philosophical speculation on language (e.g. Plato’s Cratylus), and the scientific study of its form (e.g. Panini’s Astadhyayi) are very old. With fitful interruptions, the study of language has been pursued by philosophers and grammarians for well over two millennia. In the nineteenth century, linguistic science became the indispensable adjunct of prehistory and archaeology, while in the first part of the twentieth century, it became one of the branches of ethnography as well. Within the last half century, the formal study of language structure initiated by Noam Chomsky has made linguistics a central discipline, together with computer science and psychology, of cognitive science. The study of meaning, and its relationship to linguistic form, have made linguistics, together with rhetoric and literary theory, the major discipline in semiotics. Finally, the study of language in its social context, revolutionized by the work of William Labov, has made linguistics a branch of quantitative sociology as well.

Linguistics therefore has a vital relation not only to all the humanities and social sciences, but also to branches of mathematical theory, physics, and evolutionary biology. It is the cross-roads discipline par excellence. The raw data of linguistics-spoken and written language-are all around us. Moreover, as native speakers of at least one language, all human beings are expert on language(s). Yet paradoxically, the interpretation and analysis of these data are still a matter of invigorating controversy. The last word has not been spoken on the issues raised in the Cratylus, and the ideal grammar of any language is no closer to our grasp than it was to Panini, whose Sanskrit grammar is still recognized as “one of the greatest monuments of the human intellect.”

In addition to its contribution to a humanistic and scientific education, the interdisciplinary nature of linguistics offers students a chance to see the ways in which modern sciences are informing the traditional concerns of philology.

General Distribution Requirement

All linguistics courses count toward the general distribution requirement in social science except for LING 236 , LING 309 , LING 311 , LING 435 , LING 436 , LING 437 , and LING 488 , which count toward humanities.

General Education Requirements

Courses that meet the general education requirements in writing, quantitative thinking, internationalism and U.S. identities and differences will be posted on the Registrar’s web page in advance of registration for each semester.

Additional information regarding the general distribution requirement and the general education requirements can be found in the graduation requirements  section of this catalog.

Honors Program

The linguistics department participates in the honors program. Eligibility requirements, application procedures and specific project expectations for the linguistics department are available from either the department office or the Director of Academic Programs or Department webpage.

Topics Courses

LING 194 , LING 294 , LING 394 , LING 494  

Past offerings include: Time and Space in Language; The Human Voice; Southeast Asian Linguistic Typology; Computational Methods in Linguistics.  To be announced at registration.

Independent Study

The department offers independent study options in the form independent projects, internships, preceptorships and Honors independent projects. For more information contact the department and review the Curriculum  section of the catalog.

Programs