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New Linguistics Major with Focused Tracks

Informing and demystifying student choices in the ELING major.

Person studying language in dark room and language is back-lit

This fall semester, you can sign up for courses in a brand-new linguistics major called applied English linguistics. Due to the changing major, you can also expect to see course names change from ELANG to ELING. Why change the major? Previously, the English language major offered so many options that students often struggled to know how to package their studies into something that could be marketable to employers. Based on student feedback, the Linguistics Department reevaluated the courses and revamped the major.

In the new applied English linguistics major, you pick a primary track and a secondary track from four track options: linguistic computing, TESOL/language acquisition, language in society (sociolinguistics), and language in history (historical linguistics). The track design allows you to either choose a couple of things you already know you want to pursue or—if you are still deciding what you want to do with linguistics—experiment with how you want to focus your studies. For example, you can try sociolinguistics, then decide you prefer TESOL and make TESOL your primary track. Sociolinguistics can then become the secondary track so those credits still count toward your graduation. An additional perk? The computer linguistics and TESOL tracks can be combined with their respective minors (if you are into piggybacking credits).

By combining the new major with an experiential learning course—a requirement of the major—you will get a breadth of knowledge and depth of technical skills needed to be successful in future employment and graduate programs. As far as specific skills you can expect to gain from this major, you will know how to identify structures of the English language and the factors that influence variation; use methods and linguistic tools to collect, process, and explain language data; and have confidence in solving problems or answering questions related to linguistics in professional settings and other disciplines.

Want to know more? Here are some details about each track option.

The Tracks

Linguistic Computing. Merging programming and linguistic understanding to interpret digital language data.

Companies collect massive amounts of language data from emails, tweets, reviews, bot interactions, and other sources. And while many people know how to program, few know enough about linguistics to interpret the mountains of language data. Linguistic computing marries digital skills with linguistic knowledge. This track produces linguists who understand scripting and some programming and know how to analyze discourse.

TESOL. Teaching English as a Second Language, either abroad or at home.

Prior to this track option, teaching English as a second language was only offered as a minor with the option of a certificate or as a master’s program. Now students can focus their bachelor’s degree on language acquisition and double-count track credits with the TESOL minor requirements—thus expediting their studies and allowing for more time to gain the TESOL certificate on top of the minor. Also, the TESOL track opens doors for students who complete the program to both work abroad and run online classes from home. Finally, teaching English as a second language provides a good way to experience other rich cultures and languages of the world.

Language in Society. Studying how societies large and small use language to identify and communicate, and applying that study in fields like business, marketing, law, academia, and personal life.

Have you ever asked yourself “How can I sound more intelligent?” or “What can I say to fit in with this group?” Language in society, or sociolinguistics, can answer those questions. Sociolinguists study what people communicate through language, how they use language to share their messages, and what that language use says about them. Language is the primary way we establish our identities, and at its core, language is highly social. Understanding how social factors and linguistics interact can help us accomplish social goals and examine how society is reflected in language. Applications for studying language in society include practical areas like designing billboards and writing effective speeches that speak to certain groups. But it also reaches into high-level ideas like “What makes a genre?”

Language in History. Studying how the English language has changed over time and how that effects our understanding of texts today, and applying that study in politics, law, genealogy, personal life, and academic studies.

Can you tell why nineteenth-century British authors’ descriptions are lengthier and why today’s young adult novelists have started using first person and present tense more? Through historical linguistics, we can interpret where language and usage have changed and translate the changes so they make sense in today’s English. When the Supreme Court questions what a word we no longer use means in a legal context, historical linguists come to the rescue to examine and explain the meaning. They also help interpret genealogical records like index records and journals and add clarity to scriptural texts.

Experiential Learning Requirement. The applied English linguistics major also requires experiential learning and gives multiple options for fulfilling this requirement. Students can choose between working as a research assistant or teaching assistant, joining a study abroad program, participating in an academic internship in linguistics, or joining a student journal for a semester. This learning experience helps students make the transition between school and work because they will gain crucial experience as part of their schooling. The experiential learning requirement helps them find the intersection of their studies and their interests. It will also help students see what they have learned and how much they may still have to learn.

Things to Note

Students enrolled in the English language major before fall 2022 can choose between completing the old requirements or switching to the updated requirements in the applied English linguistics major. All students who enroll in the major starting fall 2022 or later must complete the new requirements.

Students still have the option of choosing the linguistics BA (studying linguistic research and theory) or the editing and publishing BA, as well as a variety of minor programs.