Major & Minor

From the earliest philosophers to modern neuroscientists, researchers from a wide range of disciplines have explored a diverse range of issues concerning the human capacity for language and the diversity of the world's languages. Linguists work at the intersection of these issues and define linguistics as the science of language and languages. During the last 150 years, linguists have developed a variety of theoretical paradigms to describe and explain language history, dialect variation, cross-cultural similarities and differences, the neurological processing and production of language, and the evolutionary emergence of language.

The linguistics major at Duke is unusual in its range of theoretical approaches coupled to the study of languages of the world. The required courses for the major stress empirical methods and the global data base; the theory courses expose the student to the perspectives offered by historical and comparative linguistics, structural linguistics, generative linguistics, sociolinguistics, semiotics, discourse analysis, philosophy, cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics. The major maintains the traditional and mainstream body of linguistic inquiry (general linguistic theory, sociolinguistics, cognitive linguistics, neurolinguistics) and, at the same time, encourages exploration of the most recent developments in language study that issue from cultural and literary theory and the biological sciences. 

For information on IDM in Linguistics and Computer Science Please click here

The Linguistics major is composed of ten courses, eight of which must be at the 200 level or above. The courses combine empirical methods with theory. They are devised to provide depth and breadth in linguistic theory, the different schools of linguistics, the history and development of linguistic thought, and the interdisciplinary aspects of linguistics in the context of languages and cultures.

Requirements: 10 Courses

  • Two courses taken from one of the following Disciplinary Areas OR within Linguistics:
  • Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
  • Cultural Anthropology
  • English
  • Germanic Studies
  • Linguistics
  • Neuroscience
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology and Brain Science
  • Romance Studies (including Italian and Spanish)
  • Slavic and Eurasian Studies
  • Spanish
  • Language Requirement: Two semester courses in a single language other than English at or above the 300 level.

Linguistic Theory Component

Linguistic Theory courses provide the theoretical and empirical constructs for the study of linguistics. The list given here is suggested courses, but there may be other course that are relevant. Contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies for more information.

Disciplinary Areas Component

No double counting LIN courses between the THEORY and DISCIPLINARY components. Qualifying courses include the units mentioned above. Students should work with the DUS in the process of selection of specific courses for this category.

Language Requirement

Students with advanced placement credits or other evidence of foreign language proficiency are not exempted from this requirement. Only languages taught at Duke or for Due credit (including Duke transfer credit) bearing the FL code may account. 

Below is a list of current languages taught at the 300-level and above: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Classical Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish.

Requirements: 5 Courses

You must take five courses from the Linguistics Program, three of which must be at the 200 level or above.  While there is flexibility allowed, most students will take the two core curriculum courses for the field:

Why minor in linguistics?

Personal Importance of a College Minor

Having a minor may be personally important to you if you minor in a subject that you are passionate about. You may also be personally interested in gaining skills and training in a certain field but not interested in pursuing the topic to the extent that a major would require.

Professional Importance of a College Minor

Professionally speaking, minors can be a great help. You may need additional training for a career path that a minor can provide. You may also want to improve your resume by taking courses and receiving training in a field you know employers are always interested in. You may want to complement one part of your academic training with another that will be provide both practical and theoretical knowledge. For example, you may be majoring in business management but minoring in women's studies if you want to work in a non-profit that focuses on women's issues. Additionally, you may be interested in teaching, in which case a minor can come in handy for expanding what subject areas you're allowed to teach.

Academic Importance of a College Minor

Your minor may also be important when it comes to applying to graduate school or other academic endeavors. Your minor can show that you have additional skills and interests while also showing a bit about who you are as a person. While your minor probably won't make or break your application, it can serve as an additional piece of information to make you stand out a bit from the rest of the academic crowd.

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.  This new IDM is available for declaration as of October 15, 2019.

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. LIN 201 Introduction to Linguistics or LIN 203 Elements of Linguistic Structure
  2. LIN 202 Languages of the World (and we could add a section on computer languages)
  3. Sociolinguistic requirement  (1 course from following: LIN 213FS, 217FS, 305S, 306S, 308S, 364, 396S, 409S, 451, 480S)
  4. Neurolinguistic requirement  (1 course from following: LIN 216FS, 336S, 473S, 510, 595)
  5. LIN 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:

  • LIN 204 English Historical Linguistics
  • LIN 205 Law and Language
  • LIN 207 Psychology of Language – language and cognition, biological bases, animal communication, language pathologies, nonverbal communication, bilingualism
  • LIN 209  Philosophy of Language – theories of language, signs and symbols, theories of meaning, types of discourse (scientific, mathematical, poetic)
  • LIN 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)
  • LIN 216FS Neuroscience and Human Language – primary research in neuroscience, neurolinguistics, imaging and linguistic theory
  • LIN 217FS Language, Thought and Culture
  • LIN 250 Symbolic Logic – detailed analysis of deduction and deductive systems
  • LIN 303 Fundamentals of Spanish Linguistics
  • LIN 305S Italian Sociolinguistics
  • LIN 306S Korean Sociolinguistics
  • LIN 308S Bilingualism
  • LIN 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
  • LIN 364 Gender and Language – includes cognitive science, cultural anthropology/ethnographic and sociolinguistic research methods
  • LIN 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
  • LIN 409S Identity and Linguistic Rights
  • LIN 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.
  • LIN 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
  • LIN 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.
  • LIN 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
  • LIN 480S Critical Discourse Analysis – central theories, frameworks and methodologies of CDA with analysis of real-world discourse and texts, ethical implications
  • LIN 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
  • LIN 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.

Example Semester-by-Semester Course Plans

Students in Cognitive Neurolinguistics

For the COMPSCI core requirement, this plan chooses 330, 316, and 371. Other alternatives are possible too. The plan includes prerequisite courses in MATH and STAT as well.

  Fall Spring
First Year
  • COMPSCI 116
  • LIN/NEURO 216FS or LIN/PSY 207
  • COMPSCI 201
  • LIN 201 or LIN 203
Sophomore Year
  • COMPSCI 230, MATH 218
  • LIN 473S
  • COMPSCI elective (e.g., 216 rec.), MATH 212
  • LIN 202
Junior Year
  • COMPSCI 316, STAT 230
  • LIN/NEURO 510
  • COMPSCI elective (e.g., 334 or 370 rec.), MATH 212
  • LIN 336S
Senior Year
  • COMPSCI 371
  • LIN 437S
  • COMPSCI 330
  • LIN/NEURO 595 or LIN 450S
Students in Sociolinguistics

For the COMPSCI core requirement, this plan chooses 334, 316, and 370; 330 is still recommended as an elective. Other alternatives are possible too. The plan includes prerequisite courses in MATH and STAT as well.

  Fall Spring
First Year
  • COMPSCI 116, MATH 112
  • LIN 217FS
  • COMPSCI 201
  • LIN 201 or LIN 203
Sophomore Year
  • COMPSCI 230
  • LIN 451 or LIN 250
  • COMPSCI elective (e.g., 216 recommended)
  • LIN 202
Junior Year
  • COMPSCI 316
  • LIN 308S or LIN 396S
  • COMPSCI 334
  • LIN 205 or LIN 471S
Senior Year
  • COMPSCI elective (e.g., 330 recommended)
  • LIN 364
  • COMPSCI 370
  • LIN 450S