IDM: Linguistics & Computer Science

In recent years, we have been witnessing exciting advances in the intersection of computing and linguistics, as well as growing interest in these disciplines among undergraduate students at Duke. We are happy to offer an inter-departmental major (IDM) that allows students to pursue their joint interests in Computer Science and Linguistics.  

We expect student interests to be diverse, some interested more in computer science, while others may be more interested in theoretical linguistics, neurolinguistics, or sociolinguistics. There is no one-size-fit-all. The requirements below accommodate all of these interests.  We have also annotated specific courses with their relevance to different tracks, and developed example semester-by-semester course plans for these tracks.  Because of the rapid developments in the field, course offerings related to this IDM will likely continue to evolve in the coming years. We will continue to revise the course plan to reflect any such changes.


Recall that an IDM must consist of a minimum of 14 courses, split evenly between the two departments (i.e., seven courses in each).

From Computer Science


  • COMPSCI 101, 102, 103, or 116

Core (5): at least 2 out of 5 must be 300-level or above.

  1. COMPSCI 201 (Data Structures and Algorithms)
  2. COMPSCI 230 (Discrete Math for Computer Science)
  3. COMPSCI 330 (Design and Analysis of Algorithms) or 334 (Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science)
    •   330 is recommended as it is a quintessential COMPSCI course (required by the COMPSCI BS/BA degrees), but 334 is also relevant because of its coverage of formal languages. If one of them is used to fulfill this bullet, we recommend taking the other as an elective.
  4. One of COMPSCI 250 (Computer Organization and Programming), 310 (Intro. Operating Systems), 316 (Intro. Databases), 351 (Computer and Network Security), or 356 (Computer Network Architecture)
    •   250 is recommended for its coverage of architecture and lower-level computer languages.
    •   316 is recommended for its coverage of various data query languages and data management/analysis techniques.
  5. One of COMPSCI 370 (Intro. Artificial Intelligence) or 371 (Elements for Machine Learning)
    •   370 is recommended for its coverage of knowledge representation and logic.
    •   371 is recommended for its coverage of data analysis techniques.

Electives (2): any COMPSCI courses at 200-level or above, besides the 5 used to fulfill the core requirement above. Here are some more recommended courses besides those already listed above:

  • COMPSCI 216 (Everything Data), for various aspects of text and data analytics
  • COMPSCI 570 (Artificial Intelligence) and 671 (Machine Learning), as more advanced versions of 370 and 371, respectively
  • COMPSCI 553 (Compiler Construction), for its coverage of the implementation of programming languages
  • COMPSCI 527 (Computer Vision)

From Linguistics

Required CORE (5) courses:

  1. LINGUIST 201 Introduction to Linguistics or LINGUIST 203 Elements of Linguistic Structure
  2. LINGUIST 202 Languages of the World (and we could add a section on computer languages)
  3. Sociolinguistic requirement  (1 course from following: LINGUIST 213FS, 217FS, 305S, 306S, 308S, 364, 396S, 409S, 451, 480S)
  4. Neurolinguistic requirement  (1 course from following: LINGUIST 216FS, 336S, 473S, 510, 595)
  5. LINGUIST 450S - Junior/Senior research seminar in Linguistics (or junior/senior seminar that includes CS +LIN

Plus Relevant Electives (2), including (but not restricted to) the following:

  • LINGUIST 204 English Historical Linguistics
  • LINGUIST 205 Law and Language
  • LINGUIST 207 Psychology of Language – language and cognition, biological bases, animal communication, language pathologies, nonverbal communication, bilingualism
  • LINGUIST 209  Philosophy of Language – theories of language, signs and symbols, theories of meaning, types of discourse (scientific, mathematical, poetic)
  • LINGUIST 213FS Politics of Language – political theory, sociology and sociolinguistics approaches to understanding how language policies reflect and produce sociopolitical realities (topics include migration, citizenship, nationalism and decolonization)
  • LINGUIST 216FS Neuroscience and Human Language – primary research in neuroscience, neurolinguistics, imaging and linguistic theory
  • LINGUIST 217FS Language, Thought and Culture
  • LINGUIST 250 Symbolic Logic – detailed analysis of deduction and deductive systems
  • LINGUIST 303 Fundamentals of Spanish Linguistics
  • LINGUIST 305S Italian Sociolinguistics
  • LINGUIST 306S Korean Sociolinguistics
  • LINGUIST 308S Bilingualism
  • LINGUIST 336S Issues in Language Development – topics include critical periods, role of ‘motherese’, infant speech perception, innovative word creation, telegraphic speech, bilingualism, second language learning, cognition and culture, language pathology, focus on methodologies and analysis
  • LINGUIST 364 Gender and Language – includes cognitive science, cultural anthropology/ethnographic and sociolinguistic research methods
  • LINGUIST 396S Language in Immigrant America – language in context of immigration to U.S. from 1900 to present, approaches informed by language policy, media studies, literature, memoirs, linguistic anthropology, topics include identity, assimilation, race, bilingual communities, bilingual education, foreign accents, language contact
  • LINGUIST 409S Identity and Linguistic Rights
  • LINGUIST 437S Language Development - unique human ability: learning language, how young children first learn language, including: 1) how children figure out what sounds their language includes; 2) how infants learn words & their meanings; and (3) what kind of processes help babies figure out the grammar of their particular native language. Methods and analysis based on primary research, experimental and observational data, and new research initiatives.
  • LINGUIST 451 Language and Society – language as social practice, including language and social identity (such as ethnicity, social class, age, gender), variation in language (including dialects, accents, registers), multilingualism, languages in contact (including pidgins, creoles), intercultural communication, language in education and media
  • LINGUIST 471S Language and Politics – examination of the interfaces between language, migration, and socio-political structures in the newly independent nations of Eurasia. While these interfaces have long historical antecedents in nation-state formations, their manifestations in the post-national, post-communist era are novel and complex. Understanding these new dynamics requires viewing language from a political-sociological perspective that takes into account the interplays between the local, the national and the global.
  • LINGUIST 473S  Neuroscience and Multilingualism – healthy subjects and lesion-deficit studies, imaging methods and analysis (including BOLD fMRI and resting state, PET, MEG, EEG/ERP, eye tracking studies, fundamentals of languages and linguistic theory
  • LINGUIST 480S Critical Discourse Analysis – central theories, frameworks and methodologies of CDA with analysis of real-world discourse and texts, ethical implications
  • LINGUIST 510 Brain and Language – focus on imaging studies (fMRI [including BOLD and resting state], PET, MEG, EEG/ERP), functional connectivity, analysis of data and methods, theory and controversies
  • LINGUIST 595 Music, Language and Dementia - neuroscience data on cognitive processing of languages and music in healthy subjects and pathology.  Specific attention given to the interaction of language(s) and music in the brain, music therapy and dementia, and multilingualism and dementia. Topics include the role of languages and music in building cognitive reserve, linguistic breakdown and cognitive decline in healthy aging and dementia, cross-cultural studies of pitch and timbre perception across languages of the world, possible benefits of multilingualism in healthy aging, interactions of singing and memory, integration of auditory and visual neural systems in language and music.

NOTE:  The Neurolinguistic courses are cross-listed with NEUROSCI. Other courses are often cross-listed with Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, English, Philosophy.