College of Arts and Sciences

Linguistics Program

Why Study Linguistics?

Studying Linguistics can be useful for students in any academic field.  It is especially relevant to students majoring in a second language.  Students majoring in English, Education, Psychology, Sociology, Political Science and Criminal Justice also benefit from studying Linguistics, as do those who are planning to complete graduate study in a field such as Speech and Language Pathology.  One of the primary goals of our Linguistics courses is to heighten our awareness of the complex nature of language and its important, but often overlooked role, in daily life.

If you are interested in pursuing graduate studies in Linguistics after graduating from SJU, a Linguistics Minor is good preparation.  Students can pursue MAs and/or PhDs while specializing in various areas within Linguistics.  There are graduate-level Linguistics programs that are offered in English as well as programs that are housed in language programs (such as Spanish) in many universities.  If you are interested in pursuing a graduate-level degree in Speech and Language Pathology you are strongly encouraged to identify a SLP program you are interested in and to attend information sessions at the school to learn what prerequisites are expected for that particular program.  There is a list of schools under “Resources”.

SJU students on why they chose to take Linguistics classes and/or minor in Linguistics:


Kerry Burns, (Spanish Major, 2012)

Choosing to take the Introduction to Linguistics course at the beginning of my career at SJU, and every other linguistics class after that, dramatically changed how I look at and appreciate language. My linguistics professors did an incredible job of guiding us to open our minds and see language and how we communicate in new and fascinating ways. After graduating with a Spanish major, I worked in Bucaramanga, Colombia on a Fulbright Scholarship teaching English to university students. My background in linguistics made me a more effective teacher who could dissect where and why students struggled in certain areas and how to make them more confident and self-sufficient English language learners. Linguistics helped me fall in love with education and I am now beginning my newest adventure as a 2013 Teach for America corps member with an elementary, bilingual placement in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. No matter what you choose to pursue professionally after SJU, linguistics will be a relevant and enjoyable field to explore!


kane pungaa Kane Puga, (Spanish Major, 2013)
Like many, I used to have very little idea about what linguistics actually is.  I thought it was basically the study of words (their origins, their meanings…).  And basically, I was wrong.  Linguistics is so much more!  Many folks have chosen to define linguistics as the study of language; and that’s an okay definition—a bit one-sided and ambiguous, though.  Rather, linguistics (as a field of study) focuses on how communication is constructed on the lexical, syntactic, and semantic levels and explores how a string of utterances causes a wide range of pragmatic effects on an individual or a series of individuals.  So you can see why as a Spanish major I would be interested in minoring in linguistics.  However, a minor in linguistics is not just beneficial for people interested in modern languages, but rather a minor in linguistics complements well anyone who plans on communicating with people—that is to say, everyone!      


Cristina Brenner, (Spanish Major, 2009)
“Since high school, I have been fascinated by language and its use in society. I chose to minor in linguistics because it is the study of language. I was first introduced to the field through a Spanish course titled Spanish Dialectology. It was the study of the various Spanish dialects that exist throughout the world. The course became the doorway to a wondrous world of study. Although I am interested in all aspects of linguistics, I especially enjoy studying issues in Sociolinguistics.”

Caffrey Corey Caffrey, (French Studies Major, 2010)
“I love studying foreign languages. I enjoy morphology and more specifically how words are formed and from what derivatives. I would like to continue with linguistics and get my MA. I am also interested in diplomatic/foreign relations jobs. I feel that with a mastery of linguistics I can understand and study foreign languages more effectively.”

Krista Coons, (Psychology Major, 2008)
“I decided to minor in linguistics because it is fascinating to learn how languages come about and the different components that comprise a language or dialect. It is also interesting how communication can be context-specific, between different people (for example, between friends, between a boss and an employee, etc.) and between different regions in different countries. The area that interests me the most is dialectology. Every area in every country has a unique way of speaking and communicating and it interests me very much to gain an understanding of how dialects are formed, how languages change across time and place, etc.”

Alicia Kelly, (Elementary Education/Special Education Major, 2008)
“I decided to take a linguistics course at SJU once I became interested in Speech and Language Pathology. In researching various graduate programs in SLP, I noticed that most required at least one linguistics course as a pre-requisite. I decided to enroll in Introduction to Linguistics and am glad I made this decision, as the course built a strong foundation for my graduate coursework. It introduced me to basic concepts associated with language and communication, as well as relevant theories. This course not only increased my understanding of the various linguistic topics, but also strengthened my desire to pursue SLP. Now that I am enrolled in a SLP program, I recognize the benefits of taking that first linguistics class at SJU. In many of my graduate courses, the topics are often covered and expanded upon, and my coursework at SJU definitely contributes to my understanding. Even in my first semester of the program, this background assisted me in three classes - Phonetics, Phonology, and Grammatical Description. I know that my knowledge will be useful in other coursework as well. For current students, especially those considering SLP, I would strongly recommend learning more about the linguistic courses SJU offers. I wish I had had more time to enroll in others, such as Sociolinguistics, for example. Such coursework would have been useful for my graduate studies, and I encourage other students to explore what SJU has to offer.”

Christine Poteau (Spanish Major, 2004) 
As a Spanish major at Saint Joseph’s University, I chose to minor in two areas,one of which was Linguistics.  I chose to minor in Linguistics in order to understand how languages are acquired and learned, how languages are used, how and why languages change, how languages and dialects differ, and how languages form human identities.  Being able to scientifically examine language enabled me to fully understand the mental processes involved in language learning and production. The Linguistics minor provided me with critical pedagogical factors related to language learning and teaching.  My studies in Linguistics at Saint Joseph’s University were instrumental in pursuing a Ph.D. in the field.