Students of linguistics study the cognitive acquisition, formation, and structure of language.
The ways in which language interacts with psychology, sociology, biology, and neuroscience are key elements to a concentration in linguistics.
Emphasis is placed on the development and completion of original research and scholarship in this field. Students may focus on language development, the structure of language, perform cross-cultural comparisons, or relate linguistics to another field of interest such as literature, child studies, or computer science.
The Nature of Language
There are more than 6,000 languages in the world, and in many ways they are extraordinarily diverse. Underneath their differences, though, languages resemble each other in fundamental ways. Identifying similarities among the world's languages leads to a range of other observations about language: spoken and signed languages have deep grammatical similarities, the ways in which very young children might mispronounce words can be predicted, and more. These similarities therefore reveal important truths about how languages are structured. But while languages can be extremely similar, there is a great deal of debate as to whether anything is universally true of all languages. This class will explore similarities among languages (and also the ways in which languages can vary), consider the source of these similarities, and wrestle with questions about true linguistic universals.
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.
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.