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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 for communication in rich social settings, and their cognitive 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), semantics/pragmatics (the study of the meanings of both words and larger expressions, and how they interact with communicative goals), and how language is produced, understood, and learned by children and adults (psycholinguistics). Beyond this, students may focus more heavily in one or more of these areas and/or explore related questions such as how core aspects of language do (and do not) vary, including through the use linguistic fieldwork on understudied languages, or how probabilistic tendencies and variability in language usage relate to grammar. Other areas such as historical linguistics, computational linguistics, sociolinguistics, philosophy of language, and linguistic anthropology can also be pursued in conjunction with offerings in other departments.

Students who wish to pursue one or more aspects of Linguistics in greater depth than does the Bachelor of Arts, and to focus on some of the more technical, computational, and/or experimental areas of the field may choose to take a Bachelor of Science in Linguistics. Students will choose a focus pathway which will direct their choices. Pathways include: Language, Computation, and Information; Language, Mind, and Brain; Meaning and Logic, or one of the student's design, with approval from the concentration advisor.