The Field of Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguists are interested in questions such as the following:
- What are the structural properties of languages, at the level of sounds, words, sentences, and meaning?
- To what extent are the languages of the world similar or different?
- How is language acquired, by children and in adulthood?
- How is it processed in the mind/brain?
- How do people produce and perceive speech?
- How do languages change over time?
Linguistics is a highly interdisciplinary field which combines research methods from the humanities and the social, natural, and mathematical sciences.
- What is Linguistics? (Linguistic Society of America)
The Department of Linguistics at UBC is an active centre of research and teaching. Established in 1969, the department has gained a reputation for its work on First Nations languages, African languages, experimental linguistics (production, perception and first language acquisition), and linguistic theory (syntax, semantics, phonology, and phonetics). The department offers undergraduate and graduate programs leading to the B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees.
Our department currently has 14 faculty members, several visiting faculty and sessional instructors, around 40 graduate students (mostly doctoral) from many corners of the world, and a large number of undergraduate majors. The department has excellent facilities in our two locations on the UBC campus, housing several research laboratories and numerous ongoing research projects.
The department offers the following degree programs (majors and minors):
- Speech Sciences (especially for students preparing for professional training at the Master’s level in Speech Pathology and Audiology)
- First Nations Languages and Linguistics
- Diploma in Linguistics (a post-baccalaureate program intended as preparation for graduate study)
For a detailed description of the requirements of these programs, see this page in the UBC Calendar.
For more information and advising, consult the undergraduate section of this website.
Over the years, a number of our faculty members have been or are currently involved in other academic programs at UBC, such as the interdisciplinary Cognitive Systems program (including a Language stream), the First Nations Languages program, and the African Studies minor.
Graduate Teaching and Research
The department offers M.A. and Ph.D. programs in Linguistics. We welcome applications from outstanding students who are attracted by our unique research profile, defined by the integration of linguistic fieldwork (especially First Nations languages of western Canada and African languages), experimental linguistics (especially speech perception and production, and first-language acquisition), and linguistic theory (phonetics, phonology, syntax, and semantics). We have an excellent track record of attracting research funding. The department has a very lively and open research culture, with active involvement by graduate and undergraduate students. We organize two series of regular research talks: linguistic colloquia by invited speakers from outside the department (usually on Friday afternoons) and public research seminars by our own faculty and students (usually around lunch time on Wednesdays). The UBC Working Papers in Linguistics publishes the results of ongoing research by our faculty and students as well as the proceedings of several conferences, especially in the area of First Nations languages and linguistics.