Linguistics Concentration

Introduction | Requirements | Honors | Independent Study | Do Foreign Language Courses Count?

Concentration Advisor: Prof. Pauline Jacobson


Adult human beings have the ability to speak and understand at least one language.  And while languages can vary considerably, all are intricate, complex, rule-governed systems. Humans use language with little or no conscious awareness of the underlying system(s) that they have (unconsciously) learned, and which enables them to communicate and interact with others.  Linguistic theory seeks to understand the nature of these sytems: the sound systems (phonetics and phonology), the grammatical and meaning systems (syntax and semantics), and the interactions of these.  The field addresses a variety of further questions including: How do these systems interact with communicative goals (pragmatics and discourse analysis)? How are these systems acquired by children (child language acquisition)?  How do people actually produce and understand sentences in real time (language processing)?  What are the neural systems underlying speaking and understanding (neurolinguistics)? How do the systems change over time, and how do these changes interact with and illuminate language structure (historical linguistics)?  How do people use these systems for social identity (sociolinguistics)?  How does language interact with culture (anthropological linguistics)?  Fields as diverse as anthropology, legal reasoning, language pathology, technical writing and editing, speech recognition, automatic machine translation, and natural language user interfaces all rely heavily upon methods and models developed in linguistics.

The linguistics concentration at Brown is designed to give students a background in the basic “core” areas concerned with the structure of language (phonetics, phonology, syntax, and semantics) and to allow students to concentrate more heavily in these areas of theoretical linguistics and/or to build on these areas to concentrate on areas such as child language acquisition, language processing, neurolinguistics (among others).  Other areas such as historical linguistics or applications of linguistic theory to the study of the structure of various languages can also be pursued in conjunction with offerings in other departments. The electives (listed below) include a number of courses in related departments, and the breadth of the field offers students flexibility in designing their concentration.

AP and Transfer Credits: Please refer to our departmental policy on applying AP and transfer credits.

All courses with CLPS/LING designations are listed below both with the CLPS/LING numbering system and the previous COGS numbering system. 

Requirements (10 Courses)

Prerequisite Course (1)

  • CLPS 0030 (LING 0030) Introduction to Linguistic Theory (formerly COGS 0410)
    (may be waived in special instances)

Required Courses (4)
It is recommended that students take CLPS 1310 and CLPS 1330 before Semester 7, and before higher level courses.

  • CLPS 1310 (LING 1310) Introduction to Phonological Theory(formerly COGS 1210)
  • CLPS 1330 (LING 1330) Introduction to Syntax (formerly COGS 1310)
  • One additional course in phonetics, phonology, syntax or semantics. Any of:
    CLPS 1340 (LING 1340) Introduction to Semantics (formerly COGS 1110)
    CLPS 1341 (LING 1341) Lexical Semantics (fomerly COGS 1120)
    CLPS 1342 (LING 1342) Formal Semantics (formerly COGS 1130)
    CLPS 1320 (LING 1320) The Production, Perception and Analysis of Speech (formerly COGS 1230)
    CLPS 1381 (LING 1381) Topics in Phonetics and Phonology (formerly COGS 1630)
    CLPS 1380  (LING 1380) Topics in Syntax and Semantics (formerly COGS 1640)
  • One course in psycholinguistics. Any of:
    CLPS 1800 (LING 1800) Language Processing (formerly COGS 1410)
    CLPS 1810 (LING 1810) Syntactic Theory and Syntactic Processing (formerly COGS 1420)
    CLPS 1650 (LING 1650) Child Language Acquisition (formerly COGS 1430)
    CLPS 1890 (LING 1890) Laboratory  in Psycholinguistics (formerly COGS 1450)
    CLPS 1820 (LING 1820) Language and the Brain (formerly COGS 1480)
    CLPS 1385 (LING 1385) Topics in Child Language Acquisition  (formerly COGS 1740)
    CLPS 1389 Topics in Language Processing

Electives (5)

The remaining 5 courses may be drawn from any of those courses listed above, or from the following courses in Linguistics and related disciplines, with the restriction that only 2 may be below 1000 level courses.   The listings here are not exclusive of the possible electives; students should consult with the concentration advisor about the appropriateness of other courses. 

  • CLPS 0800 Language and the Mind (formerly COGS 0450)
  • CSCI 1460 Introduction to Computational Linguistics
  • ANTH 1800 Sociolinguistics
  • EGYT 2310 Introduction to Ancient Egyptian
  • ENGL 1210 History of the English Language
  • HISP 1210C History of the Spanish Language
  • PHIL 1760 Philosophy of Language
  • SLAV 1300 Sociolinguistics

Courses above the 1000 level from other departments dealing with the history and structure of a language may also qualify, with the consent of the advisor. 
At least 3 of these courses must be at the 1000 level or above.  Other courses may be substituted at the discretion of the concentration advisor.


Candidates for Honors in Linguistics will take a minimum of 10 courses for the concentration which will consist of all requirements for the standard program plus 2 additional courses in Linguistics or related disciplines.  One of these courses will be an independent study project upon which the thesis is based.  Normally a 3.5 grade-point average in the concentration is required for admission to the honors program.  Honors candidates should formalize their projects in consultation with their advisors by the end of Semester 6.

Refer to the CLPS Honors Progam page for detailed information about the Linguistics honors program.

Independent Study

Independent study is encouraged for the A.B. degree. Students should sign up for COGS1980 with a faculty advisor who is a member of the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences.  Arrangements should be made in Semester 6 independent study during Semesters 7 and/or 8.

Do Foreign Language Courses Count?

Foreign language courses will generally not count towards the concentration requirements, except those that focus on the structure or history of the language. Students are, however, advised to gain familiarity with a foreign language, and are encouraged to take at least one course which deals with the structure of a language other than English.