July 12, 2012 by Erin Battle
So … as you may have noticed, I’m a Linguistics major aaand I’m sure you immediately asked yourself: what exactly IS Linguistics? Even my parents (hi Mom and Dad!) have no idea what they’re actually paying for me to study. To put things basically, Linguistics is the study of language. Now, this doesn’t mean that I spend my time learning eighty million different languages or that I’m fluent in every language from here to Russia. Linguistics is actually more of a science than anything else. Merriam-Webster defines Linguistics as “n. the study of human speech including the units, nature, structure, and modification of language”. Pretty much this means that we get to study everything that language is made up of. We get to delve into the sound systems, common patterns, and culture behind all different languages and their families. There are so many different facets of Linguistics that are hard to understand unless you’ve been in the classes. Even I’ve been surprised with the things I’ve learned. For example, last semester I took a class on Native American languages. We learned about the different patterns in languages that occurred in different parts of all of the Americas and even got to debate on how we thought the Native Americans got to the Western Hemisphere. Instead of writing a paper at the end of the class or having a big test, our final consisted of us making a learner’s guide for a language that has been dead for generations. Now, I told this to my roommate and she responded with a drawn out, “Ewwwwww.” Hopefully your response is much more along the lines of, “that sounds AWESOME!” Anywho, I thought I’d spend the last part of this telling you some of the reasons that the Linguistics department is beyond amazing and why I’ve gotten to love it:
- The department is small. While there are definitely drawbacks to having a tiny department, the benefits are absolutely worth it. I know all of my professors really well and I’ve always felt comfortable going to them if I’m ever struggling in a class. This also means that students are much closer because we’ve been able to take so many classes together.
- We get to make ridiculous sounds without being embarrassed. In my Phonetics and Phonology class we got to explore every sound that is found in human language world-wide. Essentially, we were able to spend multiple class periods testing each other to see if we could make the sounds, from clicks to uvular trills (they may sound easy, but you’d be surprised). We knew we all sounded like crazies but nobody cared.
- It’s just so darn interesting! Being in the Linguistics department has taught me so much, not just about language but about culture and why languages are formed the way they are. Linguistics has encompassed so much more than I thought it would and it’s become such a huge part of my life in college that I’ve cherished. I’ve adored my time in the department and I love that I’ve found something that I’m truly passionate to study.
Hopefully that gives you a better idea of what Linguistics is all about and maybe even piques your interest in the subject. This was just a little peek into the department and I think (for my parents’ sake) that it shows you that Linguistics is a great major with a lot to offer. So with that I sign off by wishing you /hæpi ridiŋ/!