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. 


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

  • LINGUIST 201 Introduction to Linguistics
  • LINGUIST 202 Languages of the World
  • LINGUIST 450S Junior/Senior Seminar in Linguistics - Offered every Spring
  • Three courses in linguistics theory. Here are some examples:
  • Two courses taken from one of the following Disciplinary Areas:
  • Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
  • Cultural Anthropology
  • English
  • German
  • Italian
  • Neuroscience
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology and Brain Science
  • Romance Studies
  • Slavic and Eurasian Studies
  • Spanish
  • Language Requirement: Two semester courses in a single language other than English at or above the 300 level, excluding languages in which the student possesses native proficiency in speech and writing. 

Linguistic Theory Component

Linguistic Theory courses provide the theoretical and empirical constructs for the study of linguistics. If you wish to count a course toward theory that is not listed here, you should speak with the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Disciplinary Areas Component

No course taken for credit as theory may be counted to fulfill the disciplinary concentration requirement. Qualifying courses are those taught by the Linguistics Program, unless you request prior approval from the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Language Requirement

Students with advanced placement credits or other evidence of foreign language proficiency are not exempted from this requirement. Advisor's approval is required in order to determine the language chosen for the major. The specific language courses are too numerous to list here. Advisors should also be consulted for specific approval of the language choice if it does not conform to the list below or in the case of a tri-lingual student: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, 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.