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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.


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Associated Faculty

Daniel Altshuler
Assistant Professor of Linguistics
Hampshire College Professor Polina Barskova
Associate Professor of Russian Literature
Hampshire College Professor Mark Feinstein
Professor of Linguistics
Hampshire College Professor Kay Johnson
Professor of Asian Studies
Hampshire College Professor Joanna Morris
Professor of Cognitive Science

Student Project Titles

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


Through the Consortium


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.

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
In association with the Northampton-based International Language Institute, Hampshire offers certification in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). This two-semester curriculum exposes students to a variety of approaches to language learning before immersing them in the classroom experience through observation and, in the second semester, teaching ESOL classes at the International Language Institute in Northampton under the supervision of a TESOL trainer.

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.

Program in Culture, Brain, and Development (CBD)
For students interested in the intersections between cognitive and cultural development of language, the Foundation for Psychocultural Research-Hampshire College Program in Culture, Brain, and Development (CBD) provides a great resource. CBD is an interdisciplinary effort to reconceptualize the intersections of neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, psychology, and related fields, sponsoring seminars, lectures, research grants, and cross-school courses.

ERP Lab
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.

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