The Linguistics major consists of a five-course core and 10 upper division units of Electives. The five core courses are:

  • Linguistics 100 'Introduction to Linguistic Science' (Prerequisite for the major.  Students must complete Linguistics 100 with a grade of "C" or better to declare)
  • Linguistics 110 'Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology'
  • Linguistics 115 'Phonology and Morphology'
  • Linguistics 120 'Introduction to Syntax and Semantics'
  • Linguistics 130 'Comparative and Historical Linguistics'

Linguistics majors must pass all five core courses and maintain a C average overall in the major. Students who do not do so may be dropped from the major.

Ling 110, Ling 120, Ling 115 and Ling 130 are offered only once per year. Scheduling must, therefore, be done carefully. Students needing to complete the major in their last four semesters (the situation for most transfer students) are advised to follow this schedule:

Year 1 Year 2
Fall Spring Fall Spring
Ling 100 Ling 120 Ling 110 Ling 115
Ling 130

Transfer students who have taken linguistics courses at other institutions should consult the Undergraduate Advisors to see whether they can count towards the major. In any case, all Linguistics majors must take Ling 100, Ling 110, 115, 120 and Ling 130 at UC Berkeley.

In addition to the five core courses, 10 upper division units of electives, taken for a letter grade, are required. Five of the elective units must be selected from upper-division course offerings within the Linguistics Department; the remaining units may be courses from other departments, subject to the approval of the Linguistics Department. List of pre-approved courses in other departments that can count as electives towards the Linguistics Major.

As the range of possible electives is so wide, the focus of the major may vary considerably from student to student. Frequently chosen topical groupings of elective courses are: linguistic methods and theory; Indo-European studies; the structure of a language or language group; an area connecting linguistics with some related discipline such as anthropology, philosophy, psychology, sociolinguistics, computer science or rhetoric.

In concert with departmental undergraduate learning goals, students are strongly advised to include at least one writing-intensive course in their elective options. Examples of writing-intensive Linguistics electives include C105, 106, 123, 124, 142, 150, 151, and 181. It is usual for at least one of these courses to be offered each semester.


Freshmen and Lower-division students who want to explore the major are encouraged to take the following courses:

  • Linguistics 3 (Linguistics Diversity) An introduction to the scope of human linguistic diversity.
  • Linguistics 5 (Language and Linguistics) A general survey of the field of Linguistics.
  • Linguistics 24 (Freshman Seminar) Designed to give freshmen an opportunity to explore an intellectual topic with a faculty member in a small-seminar setting.

It is important that students plan their program of study with a departmental Undergraduate Advisor, who can assist in planning the timing of required courses and in the selection of electives.

Learning goals for Linguistics Majors

In addition to attaining a basic mastery of the field of linguistics, linguistics majors develop skills in critical thinking, in communication, and in the use of research methodologies. The array of courses offered by the Department includes both the required "core" courses in Phonetics and Phonology, Syntax and Semantics, Morphology, and Historical Linguistics, and a broad range of electives. The core courses allow linguistics majors to master the basics of the discipline, such as the nature of sounds and sound systems, the nature of word structures and syntactic structures, the interaction of syntax and semantics, and the nature of linguistic change, while the elective courses allow students to investigate areas of particular interest. Students learn to apply problem-solving skills in each of these areas. Perhaps more important, a linguistics major develops critical thinking skills. By graduation, linguistics majors can employ both theory and empirical evidence in order to evaluate different linguistic arguments, analyze complex linguistic patterns, and understand the role played by assumptions in argumentation. Further, linguistics majors develop advanced verbal skills; they are able to communicate effectively in oral and written form about specific linguistic issues, and they can produce well-organized oral presentations and original written reports supported by empirical evidence. These skills do not disappear at graduation; no matter what profession a linguistics major decides to pursue, throughout a lifetime s/he will possess a working knowledge of sources of reliable information about languages and linguistics and will be able to understand and evaluate current linguistic issues in the world at large. Below is a list of more specific goals, with information about which courses fulfil them. Courses shown in boldface are specifically devoted to the learning goal in question.

Critical Thinking Skills

These skills are introduced in Ling 5 and Ling 100 and reinforced in the core classes (Ling 110, 115, 120, 130) as well as in most upper division electives.

  • Apply linguistic analysis to evaluate specific theoretical proposals
  • Compare two or more arguments that have different conclusions to a specific issue or problem
  • Understand the role of assumptions in argumentation
  • Be able to analyze complex linguistic patterns

Research Methodologies

A goal of the linguistics major is for students to learn how to obtain and collect relevant data using specific qualitative and/or quantitative research methods. These goals are broken down further, and the classes in which they are reinforced are listed, below:

  • Laboratory and experimental methods are introduced in Ling 110 and reinforced in several electives, including Ling 105, Ling 113, Ling 122 and Ling 140.
  • Quantitative analysis of linguistic data is introduced in Ling 100 and reinforced in Ling 106, 110, 113, 120, 122, 124, 139, 150, 151, and 181. Ling 160 is dedicated specifically to this learning goal.
  • Fieldwork and linguistic data elicitation are introduced in Ling 110 and 115 and reinforced in electives Ling 113, 122, Ling 170 and 181; Ling 140 is dedicated specifically to this learning goal.

Mastery of linguistic knowledge

A learning goal of the major is for students to apply problem-solving skills to complex problems in a variety of subareas of linguistics. These goals are broken down further, and the classes in which they are reinforced are listed, below:

  • Acquire knowledge of traditional linguistic analysis in the core areas of linguistics. This goal is introduced in Ling 100 and reinforced in other core classes and electives: Phonetics and phonology (Ling 110 and 115, as well as Ling 113, 122, 130, 131, 139, 140, 148, 170, 175), Morphology (word structure) (Ling 115, as well as Ling 122, 139, 140, 170, 175), Syntax (sentence structure) (Ling 120, as well as Ling 104, 105, 122, 124, 140, 170, 175, 181), Semantics (meaning) (Ling 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 120, 122, 124, 139, 140, 155, 170, 175, 181), and Historical linguistics (language change) (Ling 130, as well as Ling 106, 122, 131, 139, 155, 170, 175, 181).
  • Acquire knowledge of language in its various contexts and interfaces. The various contexts of language, listed below, are introduced in Ling 100 and reinforced in several of the core courses, but are addressed most directly in electives: Pragmatics (language usage) (Ling 124, as well as Ling 100, 104, 105, 106, 108, 120, 123, 139, 155, 170, 175, 181)), Sociolinguistics and anthropological linguistics (language in its socio-cultural context) (Ling 150, as well as 100, 105, 110, 124, 130, 139, 151, 155, 170, 175, 181), Psycholinguistics (language and cognition, language acquisition) (Ling 11, 105, 110, 147, 148), Language and the natural sciences (neurolinguistics, language evolution) (Ling 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 110), Language and the humanities (Ling 105, 106, 107, 108, 123, 124, 131, 139, 155, 181).

Mastery of communication skills

A goal of the linguistics major is for students to communicate their knowledge effectively. The subgoals, listed below, are introduced in Ling 5 and 100, in the form of weekly written assignments and discussion sections where student participation is expected. The first two goals are reinforced in virtually every core and elective course. The second two vary by course and instructor and year. The last is reinforced in the writing-intensive electives, which include Ling 106, 123, 124, 142, 150, 151, and 181.

  • Communicate effectively in oral form about specific linguistics issues
  • Communicate effectively in written form about specific linguistic issues
  • Produce a well-organized oral presentation supported by evidence
  • Produce an original written assignment (term paper or shorter squib) supported by evidence

Lifetime learning skills

A goal of the major is for students to acquire knowledge and analytical abilities that they can transfer from the classroom to their broader life during and after their university career. This goal is not the dedicated topic of any one class; rather, it is a generalized aim of all classes in linguistics to relate the topics covered to students' lives in the world.

  • Possess a working knowledge of sources of reliable information about languages and linguistics
  • Understand and evaluate current linguistic issues in the world at large (social, political, educational, prescriptive)

Assessment of learning goals

Several capstone experiences are available to Linguistics majors, as a means of integrating the skills and knowledge gained in the major into a significant intellectual product or experience. Students may elect to write an honors thesis, in which they work with an advisor on a year-long research project which they write up in the form of a thesis. Students may participate in faculty research projects, ranging from laboratory experiments to fieldwork with a consultant. Certain classes (e.g. Ling 113, 140, 170) are routinely devoted to developing student-led research projects. Aside from capstone experiences, learning goals for the major are assessed in the classroom through regular written assignments. The core classes for the major all revolve around weekly homework assignments in which students solve complex problems and write up their solutions in a professional manner. Students receive feedback on their analyses and their presentation skills. Most electives require a term paper or similar assignment. Few linguistics classes use multiple-choice tests; by the end of the major, students have had significant experience at high-grade linguistic analysis, argumentation and exposition.