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Students sitting in Professor Jay Garfield's class


Linguistics is the science of human language: what is common to the languages of the world and how they can best be described. The study of linguistics addresses questions concerning how languages diversify and what the connections are among them. It also asks: What do humans know when they know a language?

The minor in linguistics allows students to explore some of these questions, making it a useful complement to several majors, including a major in a language, philosophy, education, logic, psychology, computer science or anthropology.

Requirements & Courses

Linguistics Minor 


Six courses

  1. Basis: PHI 236
  2. Four electives selected from the crosslisted courses on the Courses tab. One year-long college course in a foreign language may substitute for one of these four. 
  3. One seminar or other advanced work, approved by the minor adviser

Crosslisted Courses

ANT 225 Language and Culture (4 Credits)

This course surveys the social and cultural contexts of languages throughout the world. It examines the ways in which a human language reflects the ways of life and beliefs of its speakers, contrasted with the extent of language's influence on culture. The course focuses on topics such as identity, social factors of language use, language vitality, language politics and issues of globalization. Each language is a repository of history and knowledge, as well as the culture, of a group of speakers. Languages and cultures from around the world are discussed, with special focus on endangered languages. Enrollment limited to 40. (E) {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

CLS 150 Roots: Greek and Latin Elements in English (2 Credits)

Sixty percent of all English words are derived from Greek and Latin roots, yet most speakers of English are unaware of the origins and true meaning ("etymology") of the words they use to communicate with others every day. This course aims to fill that gap, with an eye to sharpening and expanding English vocabulary and enhancing understanding of the structures of language in general. Combines hands-on study of Greek and Latin elements in English with lectures and primary readings that open a window onto ancient thinking about language, government, the emotions, law, medicine and education. S/U only; one evening meeting per week. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

EAL 240 Japanese Language and Culture (4 Credits)

This course introduces the historical, social and ideological background of "standard Japanese" and the Japanese writing system. The course looks at basic structural characteristics of the language and interpersonal relations reflected in the language, such as politeness and gender. The course also addresses fluidity and diversity of linguistic and cultural practices in contemporary Japan. This course is suitable for students with little knowledge about the language as well as those in Japanese language courses. All readings are in English translation. Enrollment limited to 30. {S}

Fall, Spring, Variable

EDC 212 Linguistics for Educators (4 Credits)

Knowledge of linguistics is a valuable tool for educators. Understanding the linguistic underpinnings of language, variation between spoken and written language, and sociolinguistic variation that exists in the classroom is beneficial in teaching reading and writing to all students and in understanding classroom discourse. Knowing how language works allows educators to recognize the linguistic issues they may encounter, including delays in reading; the effects of multilingualism on writing, speaking, and reading; and differences due to dialectical variation. This course provides a basic understanding of linguistic concepts, how written and spoken language interact and vary, and sociolinguistic variation in the classroom. Strand Designation: International/Global. Enrollment limited to 35. {S}


EDC 311 Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners (4 Credits)

Students who speak languages other than English are a growing presence in U.S. schools. These students need assistance in learning academic content in English as well as in developing proficiency in English. This course is designed to provide an understanding of the instructional needs and challenges of students who are learning English in the United States. This course explores a variety of theories, issues, procedures, methods and approaches for use in bilingual, English as a second language and other learning environments. It also provides an overview of the historic and current trends and social issues affecting the education of English language learners. Priority given to students either enrolled in or planning to enroll in the student teaching program. This course requires weekly fieldwork in public school classrooms. Enrollment limited to 35.


EDC 331 Seminar: The Stories Children Tell (4 Credits)

This course focuses on examining children’s social and moral development through the use of narrative methodology. Students examine how the use of cultural tools such as narratives and social media allow them to investigate how contexts, such as schools and youth organizations, influence children’s understanding of and response to (in)justice. In particular, the class focuses on the role of teachers and peers as agents of socialization by examining children’s stories about their experiences in classrooms. Enrollment limited to 15. Juniors and seniors only. Instructor permission required.

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

EDC 338 Children Learning to Read (4 Credits)

This course examines teaching and learning issues related to the reading process in the elementary classroom. Students develop a theoretical knowledge base for the teaching of reading to guide their instructional decisions and practices in the classroom setting. Understanding what constitutes a balanced reading program for all children is a goal of the course. Students spend additional hours engaged in classroom observations, study-group discussions, and field-based experiences. Prerequisite: EDC 238. Juniors, seniors and graduate students only. Instructor permission required. {S}


ENG 170 History of the English Language (4 Credits)

An introductory exploration of the English language, its history, current areas of change and its future. Related topics such as how dictionaries are made and the structure of the modern publishing industry. Students learn about editing, proofreading and page layout; the course also entails a comprehensive review of grammar and punctuation. WI {L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

ENG 207/ HSC 207 The Technology of Reading and Writing (4 Credits)

Offered as ENG 207 and HSC 207. An introductory exploration of the physical forms that knowledge and communication have taken in the West, from ancient oral cultures to modern print-literate culture. The main interest is in discovering how what is said and thought in a culture reflects its available kinds of literacy and media of communication. Discussions to include poetry and memory in oral cultures; the invention of writing; the invention of prose; literature and science in a script culture; the coming of printing; changing concepts of publication, authorship and originality; movements toward standardization in language; and the fundamentally transformative effects of electronic communication. {L}

Fall, Spring, Alternate Years

ENG 210 Old English (4 Credits)

A study of the language of Anglo-Saxon England (ca. 450-1066) and a reading of Old English poems, including The Wanderer and The Dream of the Rood. We also learn the 31-character Anglo-Frisian futhorc and read runic inscriptions on the Franks Casket and Ruthwell Cross. {F}{L}

Fall, Spring, Variable

FRN 299/ ITL 299/ POR 299/ SPN 299 Teaching Romance Languages: Theories and Techniques on Second Language Acquisition (4 Credits)

Offered as FRN 299, ITL 299, POR 299 and SPN 299. The course explores the issues in world language instruction and research that are essential to the teaching of Romance languages. Special focus will be on understanding local, national and international multilingual communities as well as theories, methods, bilingualism and heritage language studies. Topics include the history of Romance languages, how to teach grammar and vocabulary, the role of instructors and feedback techniques. The critical framing provided will help students look at schools as cultural sites, centers of immigration and globalization. Class observations and scholarly readings help students understand the importance of research in the shaping of the pedagogical practice of world languages. Prerequisite: At least 4 semesters (or placement to equivalent level) of a Romance language taught at Smith (Italian, Portuguese, Spanish or French). Enrollment limited to 25. {F}{S}

Fall, Spring, Annually

FYS 174 Merging and Converging Cultures: What Is Gained and Lost in Translation? (4 Credits)

By reaching across linguistic and cultural barriers, this course fosters understanding of different worldviews and introduces students to the varied field of translation in order to develop their critical thinking skills and broaden their intercultural awareness. Translation is a fundamental human activity; the way individuals perceive the world influences their interpretation and understanding of all communication. Traditional forms of translations and interpretation will be studied along with adaptation/ transformation of literary texts into films and different art forms. Topics studied include: translation, theories, ethics of translation, invisibility/visibility of translators, transculturation, subtitling and dubbing, machine translation and globalization. Competence in a language other than English or enrollment in a foreign language course is not required, but highly recommended. Enrollment limited to 16 first years. WI

Fall, Spring, Variable

PHI 102 Valid and Invalid Reasoning: What Follows From What? (4 Credits)

Formal logic and informal logic. The study of abstract logic together with the construction and deconstruction of everyday arguments. Logical symbolism and operations, deduction and induction, consistency and inconsistency, paradoxes and puzzles. Examples drawn from law, philosophy, politics, literary criticism, computer science, history, commercials, mathematics, economics and the popular press. Discussion section enrollments limited to 15. {M}

Fall, Spring, Variable

PHI 213/ PSY 213 Colloquium: Language Acquisition (4 Credits)

Offered as PSY 213 and PHI 213. A detailed examination of how children learn their language. Theories of acquisition of word meaning, syntax and pragmatics are examined, as well as methodology for assessment of children’s knowledge. Cross-linguistic and cross-cultural data and perspectives are considered, as well as applications in language therapy and education. Students undertake an original research project using transcript analysis, and read original research literature. Background in linguistics or child development is necessary. Prerequisites: PHI 236 or EDC 235. Enrollment limited to 25. {N}

Fall, Spring, Annually

Additional Programmatic Information

The following curriculum is similar to proposals that have been accepted before and acknowledges the desirability of both logic (which counts toward the mathematics/analytical philosophy requirement) and another language (which counts toward the language requirement).

There has been an average of one or more linguistics majors a year for several decades. A typical self-designed linguistics major requires two sponsoring departments and advisers chosen according to the student's interests. A good guide for planning is the following*:

  • One introductory course in linguistics
  • One logic course
  • One year of a language
  • At minimum, two more core courses in linguistics (syntax, semantics, phonetics, phonology, field methods)
  • Six optional courses from an array of possible courses
  • At least one of these courses should be a seminar or 400-level work, or a thesis

*Depending on how the student satisfies the requirements, this will be a total of eleven or twelve courses. See this pdf for a sample proposal: SampleLinguisticsMajor

Learn more about crafting a student-designed interdepartmental major on the class deans website.

Five College Courses

It will be necessary to take courses off campus in the Five Colleges, especially at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, which has a world-class linguistics department.

Junior Year Abroad

Students often take courses in their Junior Year Abroad that satisfy the major. Learn more on the Study Abroad website.


Craig Davis

English Language & Literature

Professor of English Language & Literature

Professor Craig Davis

Jay L. Garfield


Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, Logic and Buddhist Studies

Jay Garfield

Lucy Mule

Education & Child Study

Professor of Education & Child Study

Lucy Mule

Douglas Lane Patey

English Language & Literature

Sophia Smith Professor of English Language & Literature

Doug Patey

Contact Linguistics

401 Bass Hall

Smith College

Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3907

For questions regarding the linguistics minor at Smith College, please contact the director of the minor, Jill de Villiers.

Individual appointments can be arranged directly with the faculty.