Linguistics (BA)

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Program Description

Linguistics is the science of human language. It seeks to determine that which is necessary in human language, that which is possible, and that which is impossible. While linguists work to determine the unique characteristics of individual languages, they are constantly searching for linguistic universals—properties whose explanatory power reaches across languages. The discipline of linguistics is organized around syntax (the principles by which sentences are organized), morphology (the principles by which words are constructed), semantics (the study of meaning), phonetics (the study of speech sounds), phonology (the sound patterns of language), historical linguistics (the ways in which languages change over time), sociolinguistics (the interaction of language with society), psycholinguistics, and neurolinguistics (the representation of language in the brain). Current research by faculty members extends across the field, including topics in the interaction of syntax and semantics, phonetics and phonology, languages in contact, language change, urban sociolinguistics, and computer analogies of syntactic processes.

New York University's Department of Linguistics has established itself as a top linguistics program in the United States and the world, covering an extensive range of subfields including: phonetics/phonology, syntax, semantics, sociolinguistics, morphology, neurolinguistics, language acquisition, and computational linguistics.

The Linguistics Department has eighteen core faculty members, one Global Distinguished Professor, and several visiting professors and scholars each year, with eight laboratories and research groups.

Recommended Work Outside of the Department 

To meet standards currently set in the field of linguistics it is suggested to gain competence in one or more of the following areas during one’s undergraduate studies: (1) a foreign language; (2) psychology, for issues of language and the mind, and anthropology, for issues of language and culture; (3) mathematics or logic, for an understanding of modern algebra and mathematical logic; (4) philosophy of language; and (5) one or more computer languages for computational linguistics. Majors and minors in linguistics should avail themselves of NYU study away programs where appropriate. Note that any course substitution or transfer credit toward a required course for the major must be approved by the director of undergraduate studies.

Honors in Linguistics

The Department of Linguistics offers an honors track. The requirement for graduation with honors in linguistics is an honors thesis of 40 to 50 pages, typically the culmination of a year’s work, and two advanced courses chosen with the honors thesis adviser.

Students who are excelling in the linguistics major are highly encouraged to develop an honors project as early as the second semester of their sophomore year. It is expected that students who pursue honors work in the Department of Linguistics have sufficient preparation and background (i.e., high-level coursework) in a field of linguistics, which is not always the case for students in the joint majors with French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Admission to the honors program is by application in the second semester of junior year. To be eligible, a student must have a GPA of 3.65 overall as well as in linguistics. Applications are due to the director of undergraduate studies by April 15 and must include a one- to two-page description of the topic that the student wishes to investigate in the senior thesis. The student must identify a faculty member in the Department of Linguistics who has agreed to supervise the project, and the description of the thesis is written in consultation with this faculty adviser.


New York University's Office of Undergraduate Admissions supports the application process for all undergraduate programs at NYU.  For additional information about undergraduate admissions, including application requirements, see How to Apply