Language, Linguistics, and Translation Studies

Language plays an integral part in many interdisciplinary studies at Hampshire. Through courses offered at Hampshire and through the Five College consortium, students can study a variety of languages as well as integrate language into their larger academic studies. Students also look at language through the study of translation, linguistics, history and more.

Beginning- to advanced-level language classes are offered throughout Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst and  are open to all students in the Five College consortium. Students at Hampshire who wish to pursue more advanced studies in a language in which they are already proficient may qualify for an advanced language and literature class at one of the other colleges.

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It is interdisciplinary, overlapping the human sciences (including psychology, neurology, anthropology and sociology), the humanities, and the arts. In other words, you’ll find the study of language reflected in almost everything you do.

Linguists conduct formal and cognitive studies of sound structure, grammar and meaning. They also investigate the history of language families, and research language acquisition. And as other scientists, they formulate hypotheses, make observations, and work to support explanatory theories.

Student Project Titles

  • Language: Theory and Practice
  • A Summary and Analysis of Jackendoff's Verb Classification
  • Anaphor Acquisition
  • Chomsky's Movement Syntax: Minimal or Governmented and Bound?
  • Evolving Probabilistic Grammars
  • Future Aspects: A Symantic Analysis of the Usage of the Future Progressive Verbal Aspect in Brazilian Portuguese
  • Sound Poetry and Its Legacy
  • Performative utterances and the Japanese particle 'ne'
  • Discourse Coherence and Mood in Central Alaskan Yup'ik
  • Language-Specific Effects on Semantic Categorization
  • Using Event-Rated Potentials to Explore Performativity; A Study on Speech Acts
  • Transfer Error Identification in English Language Learners
  • "The P600 for singular 'they': How your brain reacts when John decides to treat themselves to sushi"


Sample First-Year Course

Discovering Rules in an Extinct Language: Sound Patterns of Osage

The goal of this class is to address the following question: How do we know what the rules of language are like? We will address this question via a close study of sound patterns of Osage, a recently extinct Native American language. The importance of language preservation and formal methods of inquiry will be underlying themes of the course. Active group work and class presentations will be key forms of evaluation. In taking this course, students will be prepared to take further courses in linguistics and related topics.

Sample Courses at Hampshire

  • Discovering Rules in an Extinct Language: Sound Patterns of Osage
  • Research Seminar in Linguistics and Philosophy: Performative Utterances
  • Forms of Address in Linguistics and Literature
  • What Is a Theory of Meaning Like?
  • Words, Faces and Other Minds
  • Universal Grammar
  • Phonology and Bioacoustics
  • Foreign Accent
  • The Structure of Words: Evidence from Hebrew, Arabic and English
  • Semantics 
  • Pragmatics
  • Narrative discourse
  • Computational Linguistics
  • Field Methods in Linguistics
  • Bilingualism: Cognitive and Linguistic Aspects
  • Brain and Language
  • Language Acquisition
  • The Klamath Language
  • American Sign Language I, II
  • Elementary Chinese I, II
  • Immersion Spanish
  • Elementary Spanish I, II
  • Intermediate Spanish I, II
  • Daoism, Shamanism and Shinto: Indigenous Religions of East Asia
  • Quantum Mechanics for the Myriad
  • Social Movements and Social Change: Zapatismo & Latin America's Left
  • Sound, Image and Narrative: A Multidimensional Approach to Japanese Culture

Through the Consortium

  • Intro to Linguistic Theory
  • Intro to Phonetics For Linguists
  • Intro to Syntax
  • Intro to Semantics
  • Intro to Computational Linguistics
  • People & Their Language
  • Language Through Time
  • Lang Acquisition & Human Nature
  • The Sounds of Englishes
  • Language and Cognition
  • Indigenous Lang of North America
  • Syntax & Dialects
  • Field Methods
  • Use & Meaning
  • Speech Sounds and Structure
  • Speech Processing
  • Arabic (AC, MHC, UMass)
  • Chinese (AC, MHC, SC, UMass)
  • French (AC, MHC, SC, UMass)
  • German (AC, MHC, SC, UMass)
  • Greek (AC, MHC, SC, UMass)
  • Hebrew (MHC, SC, UMass)
  • Italian (MHC, SC, UMass)
  • Japanese (AC, MHC, SC, UMass)
  • Korean (SC)
  • Latin (AC, MHC, SC, UMass)
  • Polish (UMass)
  • Portuguese (SC, UMass)
  • Russian (AC, MHC, SC, UMass)
  • Sanskrit (MHC)
  • Spanish (AC, MHC, SC, UMass)
  • Swedish (UMass)
  • Yiddish (UMass)

Facilities and Resources

Five College Center for the Study of World Languages
In addition, the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages coordinates the Five College Supervised Independent Languages Program (FCSILP), which offers independent study courses in the least commonly taught languages. This selective program admits highly motivated students with a record of past success in language learning, and admission is granted first to students who have a clear and defined plan for using the language in their academic work or future vocation. Students have weekly conversation practice sessions led by a native-speaking conversation partner.

The languages offered through this program include Bulgarian, Czech, Georgian, Modern Greek, Hausa, Hungarian, Norwegian, Persian/Farsi, Romanian, Serbo-Croation, Slovak, Thai, Turkish, Turkmen, Twi, Urdu, Vietnamese, Wolof, and Zulu.

Five College Mentored Language Program
Arabic, Hindi, Pashto, Persian, Turkish, Swahili, and Urdu are available through the Five College Mentored Language Program. The mentored format, like FCSILP courses, involves independent study and weekly conversation sessions, but adds a weekly thirty-minute individual tutorial with study guides and written homework assignments. The mentored format allows for more feedback and individualized help during the semester than with standard FCSILP courses.

National Yiddish Book Center
Located on the Hampshire campus, the National Yiddish Book Center houses the world's largest collection of books written in Yiddish. The Center creates innovative programs to inspire readers and students who want to learn more about the Yiddish language, Jewish history and culture. Yiddish book scholarships have supported undergraduates, graduates, readers and teachers in their ongoing study of Yiddish literature. The Center offers events and conferences for college students, focusing on Jewish literature and culture, and an eight week summer immersion internship in Yiddish language and culture which has given dozens of students a valuable foundation for notable careers in the fields of Jewish Studies and education.

Hampshire's own event-related potential (ERP) laboratory, an electrophysiological data collection and brainwave-imaging facility, is available for use by students looking to conduct original, participatory research in the fields of linguistics and cognition.

Five College Consortium
The Linguistics Department at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst is a world-renowned program at the graduate and undergraduate levels, recently ranked first in quality of education by the National Research Council. This resource is open to Hampshire students through the Five College consortium, and many linguistics concentrators have taken graduate-level courses as part of their Hampshire education.