Language is a uniquely human capacity that enables us to communicate a limitless set of messages on any topic. While human languages can differ greatly in certain respects, all are intricate, complex, rule-governed systems. Linguistics is the scientific study of these systems, their use in communicative and other social settings, and their cognitive and neural underpinnings. The linguistics concentration at Brown gives students a background in the “core” aspects of the language system: phonetics/phonology (the study of speech sounds and their patterning), syntax (the study of combinatorics of words, phrases, and sentences), and semantics/pragmatics (the study of the meanings of words, sentences, and conversation). Beyond this, students may focus more heavily in one or more of these areas and/or explore related questions such as how children and adults learn language (language acquisition), how utterances are produced and understood in real time (psycholinguistics), or how speaking and understanding are anchored in underlying neural systems (neurolinguistics). Other areas such as historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, philosophy of language, and linguistic anthropology can also be pursued in conjunction with offerings in other departments.

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Student Goals

Students in this concentration will:

  • Develop fluency in the core areas concerned with the structure of language (phonetics, phonology, syntax, and semantics)
  • Gain a sense of the intricacies of natural language systems, including a sense of the ways in which different languages can vary and the ways in which they are similar
  • Gain some understanding of topics in psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics, such as the acquisition, comprehension and production of language and language and the brain
  • Gain an understanding of the relation between linguistic theory and other aspects of language such as those above or language change, sociolinguistics, computational linguistics, or other areas illuminated by an understanding of language structure
  • Get practice in problem solving and analyzing complex data from natural languages


Click here for a list of concentration requirements.

Honors and Capstones

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Concentrators are urged, but not required to take a seminar or independent study in their senior year, to integrate or deepen their concentration studies. In addition to fulfilling the requirements of the standard concentration, candidates for Honors complete two additional courses in Linguistics or related disciplines. One of these courses may be an independent study project upon which the thesis is based. Honors candidates should formalize their projects in consultation with their advisors by the end of the sixth semester. Only students with a strong academic record and an advisor willing to work with them will be allowed into the Honors Program. Please consult the department’s website for a complete description of admission procedures and requirements.

Liberal Learning

This concentration allows you to address the following Liberal Learning goals:

  • Collaborate fully
  • Engage with your community
  • Develop a facility with symbolic languages
  • Experience scientific inquiry
  • Evaluate human behavior

Download the full statement on Liberal Learning at Brown

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Affiliated Departments


Director of Undergraduate Studies

Graduating Class

Year Total Capstone Honors

Alumni Pathways

Linguistics alumni are now employed as software engineers, journalists and editors, and educators. Many have gone on to careers as university researchers and teachers.

See more details on the CareerLAB website.

Dept. Undergraduate Group

Student Leaders:

  • Anne Prusky
  • Chiara Repetti-Ludlow
  • Maksymilian Dabkowski

If you are an advisor and would like to make changes to the information on this page, contact, or email Dean Besenia Rodriguez.