Concentration Advisor Prof. Scott AnderBois

Adult human beings have the ability to speak and understand at least one language. And while languages can vary considerably, all are intricate, complex, rule-governed systems. Humans use language with little or no conscious awareness of the underlying system(s) that they have (unconsciously) learned, and which enables them to communicate and interact with others. Linguistic theory seeks to understand the nature of these systems: the sound systems (phonetics and phonology), the grammatical and meaning systems (syntax and semantics), and the interactions of these. The field addresses a variety of further questions including: How do these systems interact with communicative goals (pragmatics and discourse analysis)? How are these systems acquired by children (child language acquisition)? How do people actually produce and understand sentences in real time (language processing)? What are the neural systems underlying speaking and understanding (neurolinguistics)? How do the systems change over time, and how do these changes interact with and illuminate language structure (historical linguistics)? How do people use these systems for social identity (sociolinguistics)? How does language interact with culture (anthropological linguistics)? Fields as diverse as anthropology, legal reasoning, language pathology, technical writing and editing, speech recognition, automatic machine translation, and natural language user interfaces all rely heavily upon methods and models developed in linguistics.

The linguistics concentration at Brown is designed to give students a background in the basic “core” areas concerned with the structure of language (phonetics, phonology, syntax, and semantics) and to allow students to concentrate more heavily in these areas of theoretical linguistics and/or to build on these areas to concentrate on areas such as child language acquisition, language processing, neurolinguistics (among others). Other areas such as historical linguistics or applications of linguistic theory to the study of the structure of various languages can also be pursued in conjunction with offerings in other departments. The electives (listed below) include a number of courses in related departments, and the breadth of the field offers students flexibility in designing their concentration.

AP and Transfer Credits: Please refer to our departmental policy on applying AP and transfer credits.


For an up-to-date list of concentration requirements, see here.

Courses in Other Departments Routinely Fulfilling Linguistics Concentration Requirement (in consultation with the Concentration Advisor):
NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list of courses that can be applied towards the Linguistics Concentration requirements.

CSCI 1460 - Introduction to Computational Linguistics
PHIL 0520 - Logic
SLAV 1300 - Sociolinguistics 
​ANTH 0080 - Signs and Symbols
​ANTH 1800 - Sociolinguistics, Discourse and Dialogue
ENGL 1210 - History and Structure of the English Language
​HISP 1210C - History of the Spanish Language
​EGYPT 2310 - History of the Ancient Egyptian Language


Candidates for Honors in Linguistics must meet all of the requirements above, write an Honors thesis, and take two additional courses. One course is normally CLPS 1980 (Directed Research in Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences) - intended for work on the Honors thesis.

Three of the total 12 courses must be drawn from the advanced list above (the Directed Research course counts as one of the advanced courses).

Normally a 3.5 grade-point average in the concentration is required for admission to the honors program. Honors candidates should formalize their projects in consultation with their advisors by the end of Semester 6.

Refer to the CLPS Honors Progam page for detailed information about the Linguistics honors program.

Independent Study

Independent study is encouraged for the A.B. degree. Students should sign up for CLPS 1980 with a faculty advisor who is a member of the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences. Arrangements should be made in Semester 6 independent study during Semesters 7 and/or 8.

Do Foreign Language Courses Count?

Foreign language courses will generally not count towards the concentration requirements, except those that focus on the structure or history of the language. Students are, however, advised to gain familiarity with a foreign language, and are encouraged to take at least one course which deals with the structure of a language other than English.