Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It addresses questions relating to the structure of language, how and why languages differ and change, how humans acquire and process language, the relationship between language and society, and the systems of speech sounds that underlie the words and utterances that we speak and hear. For example, studying linguistics can help us to understand how children can easily learn to speak both English and Maori, why New Zealanders sound different from Australians, why the words ‘air’ and ‘ear’ rhyme for some people but not for others, and why ‘sweet as’ isn’t just ‘slang’.
Given the unique nature of language, linguistics is an inherently interdisciplinary field that bridges the sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. It has links with, among other fields, anthropology, cognitive science, computer science, education, engineering, evolutionary biology, language study, neurology, philosophy, psychology and sociology. Many of these disciplines are represented at the UC’s New Zealand Institute for Language, Brain and Behaviour, where researchers study the foundations of language as an integrated, multimodal, statistical system operating in a social, physical and physiological context.
Linguistics provides the foundation for a wide range of jobs and careers including teaching, translation/interpreting, marketing, publishing, journalism, law, medicine, information technology, speech and language therapy, and international relations. In fact, studying linguistics will help prepare you for any profession that requires skills in analytical thinking, problem solving, argumentation, critical thinking, data collection and analysis, and written and oral expression. Naturally, you will also become familiar with many different languages and cultures and, as a result, develop important cross-cultural skills.
Linguistics is not taught in schools, so no specific school background is needed in order to begin it at university. The main requirements are curiosity and a desire to improve one's ability to think and express oneself clearly. Some knowledge of a language or languages other than English is desirable but not essential.
LING 101 and LING 102 are prerequisites for 200-level Linguistics courses. Students intending to major in Linguistics must also take one course in a language other than English (or have equivalent language ability).
Students majoring in Linguistics can sensibly complement their studies with courses in Education, English, Classics, languages and cultures, Media and Communication, Anthropology, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology or Computer Science. Likewise, courses in Linguistics usefully complement the studies of students majoring in those disciplines.
At 200 and 300-level more specialised courses explore a variety of topics including semantics, sociolinguistics, language acquisition, syntax, phonetics and phonology, morphology, New Zealand English and historical linguistics. LING 215, LING 216 and LING 217 are the core courses required for anyone to major in Linguistics.
Students may continue after the three-year BA or BSc and enrol in the one-year BA(Hons) programme. Students who have completed a BA(Hons) degree may proceed to the MA or doctoral programmes, both of which involve thesis work.
Graduates in Linguistics work in a variety of areas, particularly teaching and education. A Linguistics degree is an ideal preparation for training in teaching English as a second language, which is a popular career and offers excellent travel opportunities. Linguistics graduates also work in publishing, computer software design, journalism and social research.
For further career information, please go to www.canterbury.ac.nz/careers