Michael Becker

Formal linguistic theory, phonology, experimental and computational phonology, prosody, word- and phrase-level phonology, languages of the Middle East.

Stephen Hibbard

Sociocultural linguistics, language and state/nation, semiotic theory, historical linguistics, dialectology, the modern history of linguistics, prosody, Polish.

Matt Pearson

Formal linguistic theory, syntax, typology and language description, phonology, morphology, historical linguistics, the syntax-semantics interface, Austronesian. On sabbatical and leave 2008-09.

Joseph Sabbagh

Formal linguistic theory, syntax, morphology, Austronesian.

Linguistics is the study of human language: its form, variety, and social life. Human language may be studied from a variety of perspectives, whether as a complex social behavior, as a medium for creating and embodying social meaning, or as the instantiation of a highly structured system of knowledge within the mind of the language user (a mental grammar), which can be investigated empirically and modeled formally. Starting from the detailed description of phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic patterns in the world’s languages, linguists seek to discover general principles governing the structure and use of language. Research in linguistics encompasses theories of how languages vary (and fail to vary) across space and time, how grammar evolved in the species and develops in the individual, and how language is used to create and reinforce social relationships.

With its focus on language as a unique facet of human nature, linguistics bridges the divide between the cognitive sciences and the social sciences, and interfaces with the humanities, mathematics, logic, and philosophy. Linguistic concepts have contributed to the understanding of style and rhetoric, genre and register, poetic meter, trope, and metaphor, thereby enhancing our appreciation of literature. The techniques of linguistic analysis provide a window into the ideas of other cultures, distant in space and time or close to home, and thus contribute to the study of history and anthropology. Linguistic semantics has informed our understanding of the relationship of logic to language, and has influenced (and been influenced by) research in philosophy and mathematics. Finally, discoveries in linguistics have made major contributions to the development of cognitive science, and have applications in fields as diverse as neuroscience, evolutionary biology, speech and hearing technologies, and computer science and artificial intelligence research.

Reed offers a variety of linguistics and linguistics-related courses, listed below. In addition to an introductory course in general linguistics, more specific offerings deal with "core" areas of analysis (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics/pragmatics, and discourse), as well as historical linguistics, language typology, sociolinguistics, anthropological linguistics, and the psychology of language. Courses are also offered periodically on the structure of less familiar languages and language families (Algonquian, Austronesian, etc.). Linguistics at Reed has an interdisciplinary orientation: through the allied field and language requirements, students are encouraged to develop links to other fields, including anthropology, psychology, philosophy, mathematics, biology, sociology, and classical and modern languages and literatures. Students may also have the opportunity to engage in linguistic fieldwork, locally and abroad.

Admission to the Major

After passing Linguistics 311 (or an equivalent), the prospective linguistics major must present a plan of study to the department for approval.

Requirements for the Major

  1. Linguistics 311 and six additional courses in linguistics (or cross-listed in linguistics).
  2. Competence in two languages other than English, equivalent to second-year college-level proficiency in one language, and at least first-year college-level proficiency in the second.
  3. A total of four semester units in an allied field, none of which can be used to fulfill 1 or 2 above. Some representative examples are: a) Anthropology 211 plus three upper-division anthropology courses (including linguistics courses cross-listed with anthropology); b) four courses in psychology, including the introductory course; c) four courses from the Division of Literature and Languages; d) four courses in mathematics; e) four courses in philosophy. Other choices of allied field are also acceptable, as appropriate to the student’s needs and interests, and subject to the approval of the department.
  4. A junior qualifying examination in linguistic analysis, to be attempted after taking no fewer than five units of linguistics. An element of the examination will be a thesis proposal.
  5. Linguistics 470 (thesis), which may, as appropriate, be jointly supervised by faculty members from linguistics and an allied field.


  1. Further courses in the allied field and in linguistics.
  2. At least one classical language (Greek or Latin) or one non-Indo-European language (Chinese) as part of, or in addition to, the language requirement above. Additionally, more advanced competence in the languages used to meet that requirement.
  3. Courses in anthropology, psychology, literature, and/or philosophy, in addition to courses in the student’s chosen allied field, if it is not one of these. Students’ attention is particularly drawn to those courses dealing with poetry, prose style, and the grammars of individual languages, both modern and classical, in the Division of Literature and Languages; courses on logic and the philosophy of language; and courses on cognition, mental representations, and psycholinguistics.

Group and Division Applicability

Of the courses listed below, the following courses may be counted toward the Group D requirement: 296, 311, 312, 321, 323, 324, 326, 328, 329, 332, 334, 336, 338, 341, 344, 348, and 393. The following courses may be counted toward the Group B requirement: 296, 311, 312, 313, 332, 334, 348, 373, 393, 411, and 430. If taken as anthropology courses, the following courses count toward divisional requirements in History and Social Sciences: 311, 312, 313, 334, 348, 411, and 430.

Linguistics Course Descriptions

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