Department of Linguistics



Randall Hendrick, Paul Roberge.

Associate Professors

Misha Becker, David Mora-Marín, Elliott Moreton, Jennifer Smith, J. Michael Terry.

Assistant Professor

Katya Pertsova.

Affiliated Faculty

Patrícia Amaral (Romance Languages and Literatures), Jennifer Arnold (Psychology), Dorit Bar-On (Philosophy), Connie Eble (English and Comparative Literature), Bruno Estigarribia (Romance Languages and Literatures), Peter C. Gordon (Psychology), Larry D. King (Romance Languages and Literatures), William G. Lycan (Philosophy), Patrick O'Neill (English and Comparative Literature), Dean Pettit (Philosophy), Patricia E. Sawin (American Studies), Mamarame Seck (African, African American, and Diaspora Studies).


Courses in the department are offered for the general student and for those who wish to receive the B.A. with a major in linguistics. Courses in linguistics are intended to open up systematic perspectives on the nature of human language by means of detailed studies of language structure, language change and language acquisition, the sound system of language, and the syntactic/semantic system of language. Successful completion of the undergraduate major in linguistics leads to the award of the degree of bachelor of arts. The major is designed to provide a fundamental understanding of modern linguistics for the student seeking a general education in the liberal arts as well as for the student preparing for graduate study.

Programs of Study

The degree offered is the bachelor of arts with a major in linguistics. Strong students can pursue a dual bachelor of arts and master of arts program. A minor in linguistics is also offered.

Majoring in Linguistics: Bachelor of Arts

Core Requirements

Thus, the major requires eight courses, including LING 101. Students majoring in linguistics may concentrate entirely in linguistics, or they may select their major courses to include a field related to linguistics, such as linguistic anthropology, computer processing of language data, philosophy of language, psychology of language, sociology of language, speech and hearing sciences, or study of a particular language or language family. Any such second-field option should be planned in consultation with the student's advisor. Students interested in a career in speech pathology may pursue a minor in speech and hearing sciences through the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences in the UNC School of Medicine.

Students interested in the linguistics major are encouraged to consult with the department undergraduate advisor, Professor Misha Becker. Additional information about the major is provided on the department's Web site at; select the link for the undergraduate program.

Dual Bachelor's–Master's Degree Program

The dual B.A.–M.A. program offers highly motivated undergraduates the opportunity to earn an M.A. in less than the usual time by completing some of the M.A. requirements while still an undergraduate. Students must have a GPA of 3.3 overall and 3.5 in linguistics. Students interested in pursuing this program should consult Director of Undergraduate Studies Misha Becker to assess feasibility.

Minoring in Linguistics

The undergraduate minor in linguistics consists of four linguistics courses numbered 200 or higher. Two of these courses must be selected from LING 200, 201, 202, and 203 (LING 101 is a prerequisite for these courses). In order to fashion a coherent program of study that complements the student's major, the Department of Linguistics encourages students to select the remaining two courses in consultation with the department's undergraduate advisor, Professor Misha Becker.

Honors in Linguistics

Any linguistics major with a cumulative total grade point average of at least 3.3 and at least 3.5 within the linguistics major is eligible to attempt a degree with honors in linguistics. To graduate with honors, a student must work with a faculty supervisor, enroll in LING 691H and 692H during the senior year, and complete and defend an honors thesis according to departmental and Honors Carolina requirements. Interested students should contact the honors advisor, Professor Katya Pertsova, during their junior year.


All majors and minors have a primary academic advisor in Steele Building. Students are strongly encouraged to meet regularly with their advisor and review their Tar Heel Tracker each semester. The department's director of undergraduate studies works with current and prospective majors and minors by appointment (see "Contact Information" below). Departmental academic advising is particularly important for those majors who are considering going on to graduate school or who are considering the dual B.A.–M.A. program. Further information on courses, undergraduate research opportunities, the honors program, careers, and graduate schools may be obtained from the department's Web site.

Special Opportunities in Linguistics

Departmental Involvement

Many linguistics majors and minors join Underling, the undergraduate linguistics club, which sponsors a variety of educational, outreach, social, and career-development events
each year.

Study Abroad

Students in linguistics are encouraged to consider study abroad. Courses that can be applied toward the linguistics major and minor are available through many of the programs administered by the Study Abroad Office.

Undergraduate Awards

The Marc Adam Eisdorfer Award recognizes the graduating senior judged most outstanding in academic achievement in linguistics. It was established in 1998 by Sandra Eisdorfer in memory of her son, a graduate of the class of 1984.

Graduate School and Career Opportunities

The Department of Linguistics offers an M.A. program with opportunities for specialization in a number of subareas. Detailed information is available from the department Web site. Additionally, more than 100 colleges and universities offer linguistics programs, including several dozen that are considered major programs nationally. Faculty members are pleased to advise students regarding programs best suited to their needs and interests.

There are several ways to use a B.A. with a major in linguistics in planning a career. In general, the linguistics major is good preparation for a number of career paths because it develops problem solving, the ability to find patterns in complicated data, and writing and argumentation skills. Law and journalism schools and other professional schools are becoming increasingly aware that students with a major in linguistics have strengths in these important areas. United States citizens with a background in linguistics also may find jobs with United States government agencies.

Some students choose to continue specializing in linguistics teaching or research. For this, they typically need to obtain a graduate degree in linguistics. Other possible careers for linguistics majors that have a close connection to language and linguistics include language teaching, speech pathology/speech and hearing science, language and information technologies (including speech synthesis and recognition, text-content analysis, and machine translation), information and library science, or editing and publishing; some careers in these areas may require a graduate degree.

Contact Information

Professor Paul Roberge, Chair, or Professor Misha Becker, Undergraduate Advisor, CB# 3155, Smith Building, (919) 962-1192. Web site:


50 First-Year Seminar: Language in the U.S.A. (3). The linguistic landscape of the United States in historical and contemporary perspective: American English dialects, language maintenance and shift among Native American and immigrant groups, language politics and policy.

89 First-Year Seminar: Special Topics (3). Special topics course. Content will vary each semester.

101 Introduction to Language (3). Introduction to the formal analysis of human language, including sounds, words, sentences, and language meaning, plus child language acquisition, language change over time, social attitudes toward language, and similarities and differences among languages. Other topics may include writing systems, animal communication, and language analysis by computers.

145 Language and Communication (PHIL 145) (3). See PHIL 145 for description.

200 Phonology (3). Prerequisite, LING 101. Description and analysis of sound patterns from languages around the world. Introduction to formal phonological models, written argumentation, and hypothesis testing.

201 Syntax (3). Prerequisite, LING 101. Introduction to the goals and methods of transformational analysis, using English primarily, but examining how these techniques can be used to describe syntactic processes in other languages.

202 Linguistic Variation and Language Change (3). Prerequisite, LING 101. Introduction to the analysis and description of language change, relationships among languages, and types of linguistic structure.

203 Language Acquisition and Development (3). Prerequisite, LING 101. Provides an introduction to first-language acquisition, focusing on the acquisition of phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics, as well as on the social context of language acquisition and issues of atypical language development.

222 Language and Communication (3). An examination of the differences between natural human languages and other communication systems. Includes a philosophical inquiry into how languages relate to the world and the mind.

290 Special Topics in Linguistics (3). Prerequisite, LING 101. In-depth treatment of a selected issue or topic in linguistics. Topic will vary with the instructor. Course may be taken more than once when the topic varies.

302 Language and Power (ANTH 302, WMST 302) (3). This course provides an overview of language and power studies. Issues: sexist and sex-neutral language; languages of subcultures defined by gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity; hate speech; "politically correct" language.

303 Native Languages of the Americas (ANTH 303) (3). This course is an introduction to languages indigenous to the Americas. The course touches on the linguistic structure and classification of Native American languages as well as on social issues.

304 Introduction to Discourse (3). Prerequisite, LING 101. Focuses on the use of linguistic forms to express communicative intentions. How language is used for the purposes of persuasion, manipulation, irony, humor, poetry, propaganda, and attitudes.

306 Language and Nationalism (SLAV 306) (3). See SLAV 306 for description.

310 Formal Perspectives on African American English (3). Prerequisite, LING 101. This course treats the structural properties of African American English. Students will learn to use sentence data to test hypotheses about language structure by investigating the syntax and semantics of African American English.

333 Human Language and Animal Communication Systems (3). Comparative study of human language alongside selected non-human communication systems. Anatomy, acoustics, combinatorial structure, innateness and acquisition, evolution. Sizable lab and field component.

376 Phonetics and Phonology (SPAN 376) (3). See SPAN 376 for description.

377 Grammatical Structure of Spanish (SPAN 377) (3). See SPAN 377 for description.

383 Linguistic Structuralism: Sources and Influences (3). Linguistic structuralism as a background for modern theories of language.

400 Introduction to General Linguistics (ANTH 400) (3). An introduction to the scientific study of language. The nature of language structure. How languages are alike and how they differ.

401 Language and Computers (3). Prerequisite, LING 101. Uses simple linguistic problems to introduce students to the use of programming languages especially suited to analyze and process natural language on the computer. No prior programming knowledge is presupposed.

409 Cognitive Linguistics (3). Development of and present state of research in cognitive linguistics. Readings discuss various language phenomena and are drawn from linguistics, psychology, philosophy, artificial intelligence, and literary analysis of metaphor.

422 Research Methods in Phonetics and Laboratory Phonology (3). Prerequisite, LING 200, 520, 523, or SPHS 540. Focuses on the practical skills required to carry out basic experiments in speech production or perception. Includes training in a general-purpose programming language (such as Perl) for automating repetitive tasks, experiment-control software, audio stimulus manufacture and editing, palatography, aerodynamic measurements, and other laboratory techniques relevant to student interests.

444 Origin and Evolution of Human Language (3). Prerequisite, LING 101. Recommended preparation, at least one higher-level core course in linguistics. Surveys current answers to such questions as, When and how did language first appear? What do other animal communication systems share with language? Do restricted linguistic systems (e.g., pidgins) preserve "fossils" of early human language?

445 Philosophy of Language (PHIL 445) (3). See PHIL 445 for description.

455 Symbolic Logic (PHIL 455) (3). See PHIL 455 for description.

484 Discourse and Dialogue in Ethnographic Research (ANTH 484, FOLK 484) (3). See ANTH 484 for description.

490 Advanced Topics in Linguistics (3). Directed readings on linguistic topics not covered in specific courses.

496 Independent Study in Linguistics (1–3). Permission of the director of undergraduate studies. LING 101 and additional coursework in linguistics strongly recommended. An intensive mentored project; topic to be determined in a learning contract between student and instructor.

506 Greek Dialects (GREK 506) (3). See GREK 506 for description.

520 Linguistic Phonetics (ANTH 520) (3). Introduction to the general principles of linguistic phonetics; anatomy of vocal tract, physiology of speech production, universal phonetic theory. Practice in the recognition and transcription of speech sounds.

522 Experimental Phonetics and Laboratory Phonology (3). Prerequisites, LING 520, and 200 or 523. This course relates linguistic theory to experimental findings. Students design and carry out experiments to test theoretical issues of current theoretical importance.

523 Phonological Theory I (ANTH 523) (3). Prerequisite, LING 520, or SPHS 530 or 540. Permission of the instructor for undergraduates. Introduction to the principles of modern generative phonology. Methods and theory of phonological analysis.

524 Phonological Theory II (3). Prerequisite, LING 200 or 523. Intermediate phonological theory and analysis.

525 Introduction to Historical and Comparative Linguistics (3). Permission of the instructor for undergraduates. Theories and methods of historical and comparative linguistics, with emphasis upon the Indo-European family.

527 Morphology (3). Prerequisite, LING 101 or 400. Cross-linguistic investigation of internal word structure: inflection and derivation, word formation rules versus affixation, autosegmental morphology, morpholexical and morphophonemic rules, and the interaction of morphology with phonology and syntax.

528 Language Acquisition I (3). Permission of the instructor for undergraduates. One course in phonology or syntax recommended. Child language from a theoretical perspective. Topics include segmentation problems, acquisition of phonology, morphology and syntax, lexical acquisition, and language development in blind and deaf children and in bilinguals.

529 Language Acquisition II (3). Prerequisites, LING 203 or 528, and LING 201 or 530. This course focuses on the development of syntax in first-language acquisition in children. Topics will include parameter setting, null subjects, root infinitives, aspect, A-movement, binding theory, and control.

530 Syntactic Theory I (3). Permission of the instructor for undergraduates. Methods and theory of grammatical analysis within the transformational generative framework. Special emphasis on analyzing syntactic and semantic structures of English.

533 Syntactic Theory II (3). Prerequisite, LING 530. Methods and theory of grammatical analysis, with special reference to transformational grammar.

537 Semantic Theory I (3). Prerequisite, LING 101 or 400. Semantics as a part of linguistic theory: co- and disjoint reference among nominals, "crossover" phenomena, quantifier scope, lexical semantics, Montague grammar and compositional semantics, and explanatory universals in semantic theory.

538 Semantic Theory II (3). Prerequisite, LING 537. A continuation of LING 537 (Semantic Theory I), this course prepares the student to read the formal semantic literature and to do original research in the field.

539 Language of Time (3). Prerequisite, LING 101 or 400. The representation of time and temporal relations in natural languages. Cross-linguistic study of tense and aspect distinctions, modality, temporal adverbials, temporal anaphora, and sequences of tenses.

540 Mathematical Linguistics (3). Prerequisite, LING 101. Introduction to topics in logic, set theory, and modern algebra with emphasis on linguistic application. Automata theory and the formal theory of grammar with special reference to transformational grammars. No previous mathematics assumed.

541 Sociolinguistics (ANTH 541) (3). Prerequisite, LING 101 or 400. Introduction to the study of language in relation to society; variation as it correlates with socioeconomic status, region, gender; the social motivation of change; language and equality; language maintenance, planning, shift.

542 Pidgins and Creoles (ANTH 542) (3). Prerequisite, LING 101 or 400. Examination of the social contexts of language contact and their linguistic outcomes, with particular emphasis on the formation of pidgins and creoles. The course investigates the structural properties of these new contact languages and evaluates the conflicting theories that explain their genesis.

543 Language in Politics (3). Examines language as a political issue in the 19th and 20th centuries. Emphasis placed on American and British politics but attention to one other national context as well.

545 Language and Mind: Linguistics and the Brain (3). Prerequisite, ENGL 313, or LING 101 or 400, or PHIL 145. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. The course treats the relationship among linguistics, artificial intelligence, neurobiology, cognitive psychology, and the philosophies of mind, language, and science.

547 Language Deficits and Cognition (3). Prerequisite, LING 101 or 400. Survey of the linguistic properties associated with aphasia, autism, Williams syndrome, dyslexia, and schizophrenia. Emphasis on the implications of these conditions for theories of mind.

550 Introduction to Indo-European: Phonology (3). A survey of the phonological systems of the major Indo-European languages and their development from Proto-Indo-European.

551 Introduction to Indo-European: Morphology (3). Prerequisite, LING 550. Introduction to the major morphological categories in the Indo-European languages and their development from the proto-language.

558 Mesoamerican Writing Systems (3). This course is an introduction to the ancient scripts of pre-Columbian Mexico and Central America. It focuses on the following scripts: Mayan, Epi-Olmec, Zapotec, and Mixtec.

560 Mesoamerican Languages and Linguistics (3). Surveys the basic characteristics that unify Mesoamerica as a cultural and linguistic area (e.g., sound systems, word order, color systems, diffused vocabulary, etc.), the basic sources of cultural and linguistic information available (e.g., ancient hieroglyphs, colonial manuscripts, contemporary documents, linguistic fieldwork), and the consequences of ancient and modern cross-cultural interaction.

561 Native Languages of the Americas (3). Prerequisite, LING 101 or 400. This course explores the phonological and morphological structure of selected Amerindian languages indigenous to the Americas. Emphasis is on the linguistic analysis of original as well as published primary data.

562 Structure of Russian (3). Prerequisite, LING 101 or RUSS 102. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Examines Russian from the perspective of linguistic analysis. How do sounds, words, and sentences pattern in Russian? How do these compare with patterns in other languages? Also considers the influence of evidence from Russian on the development of linguistic theory.

563 Structure of Japanese (JAPN 563) (3). Prerequisite, JAPN 102 or LING 101. Introductory linguistic description of modern Japanese. For students of linguistics with no knowledge of Japanese and students of Japanese with no knowledge of linguistics.

564 History of the French Language (FREN 564) (3). See FREN 564 for description.

565 French Phonetics and Phonology (FREN 565) (3). See FREN 565 for description.

566 Structure of Modern French (FREN 566) (3). See FREN 566 for description.

573 Linguistic Field Methods I (ANTH 793) (3). Analysis and description of a language unknown to the class from data solicited from a native-speaker consultant.

574 Linguistic Field Methods II (ANTH 794) (3). Continuation of LING 573.

583 History and Philosophy of Linguistics (3). Prerequisite, LING 101. Linguistic theories from classical times to the present with special emphasis on the origins of contemporary theories.

613 Modern English Grammar (ENGL 613) (3). See ENGL 613 for description.

678 Cultural and Linguistic History of the Spanish Language (SPAN 678) (3). See SPAN 678 for description.

691H Senior Honors Thesis (3). See the program for honors in the College of Arts and Sciences and the department honors advisor.

692H Senior Honors Thesis (3). See the program for honors in the College of Arts and Sciences and the department honors advisor.


401 Introduction to Yucatec Mayan (3). Introduction to basic grammar and vocabulary, as well as cultural context and literary genres.