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Linguistics Major Guide for 2016-2017

What is Linguistics?

Language is the medium by which every fact, opinion, or belief is conveyed. Each language is a unique system for communicating such information.

Linguistics is the systematic study of human language systems, both as the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication and as a specific instance of such a system of complex communication, that is a particular language – such as English, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, American Sign Language, etc.  A language may be spoken, written, or signed.

The Program in Linguistics at The University of Tennessee is an Interdisci­plinary Program (IDP) in the College of Arts and Sciences. Faculty are located in Departments in The College of  Arts & Sciences and in The College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences.

The Linguistics concentration offers a broad exposure to the various areas of linguistics (including historical, descriptive, applied, and theoretical linguistics) and offers opportunities to study fields where linguistics overlaps with other disciplines such as psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, neurolinguistics, pragmatics, speech pathology, and forensic linguistics. It is designed to prepare a student for graduate work in linguistics or related areas, or to serve as an enrichment to the study of a particular language. It provides the additional possibility of emphasizing the teaching of English as a second language for the student interested in employment at the B.A. level.

Annual activities of the Program include invited speakers and participation in area, national, and international conferences. Past speakers include John Baugh, Washington University, “Linguistic Diversity and Discrimination in American Schools and Society”; Stephen D. Krashen, University of Southern California, “Free, Voluntary Reading: It Will Help First Language Acquisition, Second Language Acquisition, Make You Smarter, and Help You Sleep at Night”;  Aleka A. Blackwell, Middle Tennessee State University, “Early Lexical Development: Input, Semantic Transparency, or Cognitive Biases?”; Jeanette Allsopp, University of the West Indies, “An Introduction to Caribbean Languages”; Jeffrey Davis, University of Tennessee, “Native American Sign Language: A Historical and Linguistic Account”; Oleg Tarnopolsky, Dnipropetrovsk University of Economics and Law, “Creative Writing in EFL: Why and How?”; Phil Harrison, Georgia State University, “Voice IDs, forensic phonetics, and John Lennon”; Robert Fischer, Texas State University, “Is There a Place for Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) in Foreign Language Departments?”; and most recently, William A. Kretzschmar, Jr., University of Georgia, “Complexity Theory in Language Study: Corpus Linguistics, Lexicogrammar, and Variation” (April 2012).

Faculty and student participation in recent conferences includes presentations at the Linguistic Society of America, the American Dialect Society, NWAV (New Ways of Analyzing Variation), the American Association for Applied Linguistics, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, GURT (Georgetown University Roundtable on Linguistics), the Law & Society Association, and the SouthEastern Conference on Linguistics.

Career Opportunities in Linguistics

Graduates of our program are well prepared to pursue advanced study in linguistics. Past graduates of our program have entered a variety of language-related and applied professional fields (translation, audiology, speech pathology, and language teaching), as well as linguistics itself as an academic discipline.

How to Major in Linguistics

Students should consult a program advisor early in planning a Linguistics major or minor. Linguistics 200 (Language, Linguistics, and Society) is highly recommended. Other 300-level courses should, if possible, be completed before 400-level courses are begun. See the Program Chair for additional information.


Ready for the World logo

“Ready for the World” is part of a long-range plan to transform the UTK campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century.  Thus students are encouraged to actively participate in the diverse cultural programs offered on campus.  Some of these events include the guest lecture series, cultural nights at the International House, and international film screenings.  Visit the Center for International Education web site ( or the Ready for the World web site ( for more information on upcoming cultural programs and activities. Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Students are also encouraged to develop a global perspective within their academic program through study abroad. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers study abroad programs in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America. Program lengths vary from mini-term trips to the entire academic year, and students may choose to fulfill general education requirements, study a foreign language, or take courses within their majors. In addition, UTK offers students opportunities for international internships.

Students are highly encouraged to begin planning early in their academic career and to consult with an academic advisor about the best time to study abroad as well as what courses to take abroad. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website.

Experience Learning

Experience Learning LogoExperience Learning is a bold new initiative with the goal of transforming the educational student experience at the University of Tennessee. Over a five-year period, UT will transform our culture to give students more opportunities to be involved in civic engagement, solve complex real-world problems, and contribute to the welfare of their communities as part of their regular course work.

The purpose of Experience Learning is to help students apply the knowledge, skills, and values learned in the classroom to real-world challenges. Experience Learning also seeks to engage student learning through direct experience and intense reflection to increase knowledge, acquire lifelong learning and problem-solving skills, and elucidate values.

Learn more about Experience Learning.

Academic Plan and Milestones

Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. For first-time, first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, please visit the undergraduate catalog.

For More Information

Harriet W. Bowden
Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures
The University of Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-0430


The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.

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