Undergraduate Major in Linguistics (Through the Class of 2018)

This page describes the requirements for the Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the degree with honors (see below).

For further information, or to declare the major in linguistics, please contact the Linguistics Undergraduate Chair, Prof. Florian Schwarz (ugrad-chair@ling.upenn.edu).

Program Requirements

The undergraduate major in linguistics, leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree, requires a total of 14 course units. Only one course is specifically required, the Undergraduate Tutorial (Ling 300), which counts for one course unit. At least nine additional course units must be taken in the linguistics department itself, including courses in three breadth areas reflecting the diversity of the field. The remaining four units may be satisfied by courses in linguistics or by related courses in other departments.

Credits Source
1 Undergraduate Tutorial
9 Linguistics courses
4 Linguistics or related areas

For a 14-credit major, the student needs 20 free electives for a total of 34 credits to graduate. A grade of C- or better is required for any course counted toward the major.

The Undergraduate Tutorial (1 credit)

The Undergraduate Tutorial, Ling 300, is a small seminar-style course restricted to linguistics majors. This course provides linguistic majors a forum to develop their own research, and convey the results in a paper, conference abstract, and conference presentation.  Students read and discuss relevant primary sources in the linguistic literature: journal articles and book excerpts of the sort that practicing linguists use in their research. This gives students the opportunity for in-depth exposure to a range of sophisticated questions in the field. 

Every linguistics major is required to take the course in the fall semester of the junior or senior year. Honors students may choose to develop the paper into a thesis project.

Linguistics courses (9 credits)

In addition to the Tutorial, majors must take at least 9 credits offered through the linguistics department, excluding language courses. The general introductory course Ling 001 is recommended, but not required. To ensure some degree of breadth, these courses must include at least one course unit from each of the following three areas.

  1. Formal structures
    • Ling 106: Introduction to Formal Linguistics
    • Ling 250: Introduction to Syntax
    • Ling 230: The Sound Structure of Language
    • Ling 404: Morphological Theory
  2. Language diversity and change
    • Ling 102: Introduction to Sociolinguistics
    • Ling 110: Introduction to Language Change
    • Ling 140: Construct a Language
    • Ling 160: Introduction to African American and Latino English
    • Ling 161: Sociolinguistics of Reading
    • Ling 270: Language Acquisition
    • Ling 310: History of English
    • Ling 440: Pidgins and Creoles
    • Ling 450: Languages in Contact
  3. Broader connections
    • Ling 103: Language Structure and Verbal Art
    • Ling 105: Introduction to Cognitive Science
    • Ling 115: Writing Systems
    • Ling 252: Logical Analysis of Language
    • Ling 255: Formal Semantics and Cognitive Science
    • Ling 270: Language Acquisition

Other linguistics courses are not classified in one of the areas listed above, and so do not contribute to the breadth requirement, but do count toward the total of 9 credits. Once again, this excludes language courses; see below; it also excludes the following courses, which do not count towards the linguistics major: Ling 005. 

Related courses (4 credits)

The remaining four credits may be satisfied by any linguistics course, or by a wide variety of relevant courses from other departments, with the exception that language courses are limited to a maximum of two credits (see below). To some degree the qualifying courses may depend on the individual student's plan of study. Majors should choose their courses in consultation with the undergraduate chair; without pre-approval there is no guarantee that a course that "seems" related will qualify for the major.

Note that while some of these courses are located outside the College of Arts and Sciences, and students in the College are normally restricted to four courses from outside their school, courses approved for the major (such as these) are treated as College courses and do not count toward this general limit.

General linguistic topics

Many departments offer courses that deal with language in general, or some linguistic topic from the perspective of that field; examples are Anthropology and Education. Courses on the formal properties of human and other languages are available in several departments, including Computer Science and Philosophy. Many language departments also have courses that discuss a specific language's history or structure from a linguistic point of view. The following are among the courses that can be counted as "related" for the Linguistics major.

  • African Studies 225 African Languages and Culture; 484 Aspects of Kiswahili Language, History, and Culture
  • Africana Studies 225 African Languages and Cultures
  • Ancient History 510 Latin Historical Documents
  • Ancient Near Eastern Languages 246 The Land of Sumer: Writing, Language and Culture
  • Anthropology 280 Language and Culture
  • Communications 360 Language in the Social Construction of Realities
  • Computer Science and Engineering 101 Introduction to Computer Science; 110 Introduction to Programming; 120-121 Programming Languages and Techniques; 262 Automata, Computability, and Complexity; 391 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence; 482 Logic in Computer Science
  • East Asian Languages and Civilizations 223 Language, Script and Society in China
  • Education 317/417 Reading/Language Arts in the Elementary School; 465 Sociology of Language; 527 Approaches to Teaching English and Other Modern Languages; 546 Sociolinguistics in Education; 572 Language and Gender
  • Electrical and Systems Engineering 531 Digital Signal Processing
  • English 018 Old English; 019 History of the English Language; 025 Chaucer; 319 Topics in the History of The English Language; 325 Topics in Chaucer
  • French 217 French Phonetics; 228 The French Languages: Past, Present and Future; 229 Le Francais dans le Monde
  • Greek 502 Historical Grammar of Greek
  • Latin 503 Historical Grammar of Latin; 510 Latin Historical Documents
  • Logic, Information, and Computation 010 Ideas in Logic and Computation; 220 Applied Mathematics of Information and Computation II; 310/320 Logic I, II
  • Mathematics 341 Discrete Mathematics II; 570-571 Introduction to Logic and Computability; 572 Introduction to Axiomatic Set Theory; 574/575 Mathematical Theory of Computation
  • Philosophy 005-006 Formal Logic; 244 Introduction to Philosophy of Mind; 344 Wittgenstein: Mind and Language; 405 Philosophy of Language; 416 Model Theory; 442 Origins of Analytic Philosophy; 443 Logical Positivism; 445 Modal Logic
  • Psychology 151 Language and Thought; 235 Pychology of Language;  335 Research Experience in Psycholinguistics; 435 Seminar: Psycholinguistics 
  • Slavic Languages 526 In Defiance of Babel: The Quest for a Universal Language
  • South Asia Studies 200 Language and Society in South Asia
  • Spanish 225 El Español en el Mundo; 317 Spanish Phonetics and Morphology; 319 History of the Spanish Language
  • Women's Studies 572 Language and Gender

Some courses appear more than once since they are crosslisted, but crosslistings with Linguistics are not included here. There are also many graduate-level courses that can be counted toward the linguistics major; consult the undergraduate chair if you find one that you are interested in taking.

Language courses

Up to two credits may be satisfied by "language courses" — i.e. instruction in speaking or reading a language. This category includes language courses offered under the LING label, such as American Sign Language and Irish Gaelic. The limit of two does not affect courses on the history or structure of a language; these fall under the general topics category.

Courses used by the student to fulfill the College foreign language requirement cannot be double-counted toward the linguistics major. This means that any language course you count toward the linguistics major must be either:

  • in the language used to fulfill the language requirement, but beyond the first four semesters of instruction; or
  • in a language other than the one used to fulfill the language requirement, at any level of instruction.

There are far too many language courses to list here; see the Register for relevant departments.


Students who achieve a GPA of 3.0 overall and 3.5 in the major, and who satisfactorily complete a senior research project under the supervision of a faculty member, will be awarded a degree with honors. You should declare your intention to pursue the degree with honors before the start of your senior year. You should also begin to narrow your thesis topic, and find a faculty sponsor, by this time. LING 398: Senior Thesis is the course to sign up for if you want course credit for work on the thesis.

Contact the Undergraduate Chair for more information.