Linguistics

2021 Working Papers in Linguistics
The Popularity of 'ok boomer' May Well Just 'ok boomerang'
Student Profile: Cameron Clark

The Wonder of Words

You’re sitting in class, rapt at the presentation your professor is giving…when suddenly you’re jolted out of your reverie; you realize they said something you didn’t quite catch. What was that term they just used?

It makes you think about how you even got to this point. Your professor’s speech is, at its simplest, a continuous series of sounds, which your brain has automatically done the work of parsing into recognizable words. And not just that – you’ve also placed these words into a coherent structure, a series of sentences from which you’re able to glean even the most complicated of meanings. While all this is happening, you’ve also been attuned to the surrounding environment, so you can tell that your professor is serious about when the next assignment is due, but joking about how long your final exam will be.

How are you doing all of this, without actively thinking about it? And how do speakers of the thousands of different languages in the world go about their days doing exactly the same thing? How did any of you even learn to do this, if you were never actually taught to?

Studying linguistics in the College of Science equips you with the tools to explore the answers to such profound questions – to better understand the striking complexity of linguistic knowledge, to appreciate the remarkable diversity of linguistic structure, and, along the way, to unravel a bit of the mystique surrounding this critical facet of the human experience.

The Minds Behind COS Linguistics
Faculty Spotlight
Heather Littlefield
Linguistics
Prof. Littlefield enjoys teaching a wide range of courses, and working with students to develop their research interests. She is currently the Director of the Linguistics Program, and was recently awarded the John Portz Faculty Excellence Award.
Adam Cooper
Linguistics
Adam Cooper is the Faculty Advisor and the Assistant Director of the Linguistics Program. His teaching and research focus on the sound systems of languages, as well as how languages change over time.
Robert Painter
Linguistics
Prof. Painter teaches a wide range of courses, but he is especially interested in phonetics, translating ancient languages, and linguistic fieldwork. Most recently, he has developed a summer program taking students to conduct linguistic fieldwork in Scotland.
Janet Randall
Linguistics
Her research and publications span areas in theoretical linguistics (the syntax/semantics interface, argument structure), language acquisition (the acquisition of verbs; argument structure; morphology); psycholinguistics; linguistics and law, and linguistics in the schools.
Shiti Malhotra
Linguistics
Prof. Malhotra’s doctoral work focused on theoretical syntax, where she examined syntactic movement observed in natural languages. She is currently extending her research and teaching to the fields of bilingualism and second language learning.
Neal Pearlmutter
Linguistics
Prof. Pearlmutter is interested in sentence comprehension and sentence generation processes, including ambiguity resolution; the use of grammatical constraints; and the interaction and timing of use of constraints derived from working memory, real-world knowledge, grammatical knowledge, and frequency information.

Degree Options

Coursework and Requirements
A sampling of the types of courses you could take here.
Introduction to Language and Linguistics
LING 1150

Explores linguistics, the scientific study of language. Major topics include phonetics (production of speech sounds), phonology (sound systems in languages), morphology (structure of words), syntax (grammatical relationships between words and sentences), and semantics (meaning of words and sentences).

Language and Culture
LING 3412

Explores the complex, often inexplicit relationship between language and culture, using a variety of methods drawn from the fields of anthropological linguistics and sociolinguistics. Questions may include: How do language and thought interact? How is language used to create and maintain social institutions and individual personae? How is language used differently by and across gender, ethnicity, and social class?

Phonetics
LING 3420

Surveys phonetics, the study of speech sounds, including articulatory, acoustic, and auditory phonetics. Articulatory phonetics topics include anatomy and physiology; cross-linguistic consonant and vowel articulation; aerodynamics of speech production; coarticulation phenomena; and phonetics of supersegmentals such as syllables, stress, tone, and pitch accent. Acoustic phonetics topics include the physics of sound waves, reading spectrograms, and performing acoustic analyses. Auditory phonetics topics include audition and speech perception.

Learning at the Source

Northeastern’s co-operative education provides linguistics students the opportunity to get out of the classroom and immerse themselves in real-world contexts. From marketing and journalism to law and special education, there’s a wide range of career options for students to pursue, while exploring their own special interests. Students will also have the opportunity to study abroad, where every experience becomes a first-hand lesson in local language and culture.

Faculty Research

Linguistics
Sentence Processing Laboratory
The Sentence Processing Laboratory investigates how people produce and comprehend language, focusing on mental representations and processes related to dealing with sentences.
Linguistics
Linguistics and Law Lab
The Linguistics & Law Lab is working at the border between law and linguistics to improve justice through linguistic research.

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