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 te reo Māori, why Aotearoa 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. It is therefore an ideal complementary field of study.
- UC is ranked 92nd in the world for Linguistics (QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2021).
- Many disciplines are represented at UC’s Te Kāhui Roro Reo | New Zealand Institute of 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 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.
See also Computational Linguistics.
Linguistics majors also need to include one 15-point course in a language other than English (or have equivalent language ability). This can be taken any year during the degree. Students can choose from:
Students intending to go onto postgraduate studies will need a B grade average in their Linguistics courses above 100-level.
For the Linguistics minor in the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Sport Coaching, or Bachelor of Youth and Community Leadership, you will need to take these courses throughout your chosen degree:
- 75 points in 100 to 300-level LING courses, with at least 45 points at 200-level or above
If you are completing your Linguistics minor alongside a major in English Language, you may not credit to the minor any LING courses co-coded with ENLA courses that are being credited to the major.
Linguistics provides the foundation for a wide range of jobs and careers including teaching, education, translation/interpreting, marketing, publishing, journalism, law, medicine, information technology, speech and language therapy, social research, 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 often a training ground for those who chose teaching English as a second language, which is a popular career and offers excellent travel opportunities.
Find out more about what you can do with a degree in Linguistics.
Level 2, Elsie Locke building – see campus maps
Te Rāngai Toi Tangata | College of Arts
Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Browse related subjects to Linguistics
Choose an area that you are interested in and learn how UC's extensive range of study options can let you study what you want to.
Are you curious about how the English language works? Are you fascinated by the changes that have taken place in the English language over centuries of time? Or ...