What is Linguistics?

Linguistics, the science of language, is an interdisciplinary field that relates to the diversity of the cultures and languages of the world. It is an integral part of most serious pursuits dealing with aspects of language study and analysis. As the boundaries of the world change, an understanding of individual languages and cultures becomes increasingly important. Communication in this complex society requires knowledge of the workings of languages, as well as their interrelationship within their respective cultures. 

Linguistics Degree(s)

Linguistics, BA

All linguistics majors are expected to acquire knowledge of the functions of language at various levels and knowledge of the techniques and methods used in language analysis. A student of linguistics will thereby significantly advance their appreciation of linguistic and cultural diversity.


Kristin Denham, Linguistics Chair
Kristin.Denham@wwu.edu | 360-650-3217

Linguistics, Literature, and Writing, BA (with Teaching Endorsement Option)

Degree Type: Teaching Endorsement

This interdisciplinary major combines the study of language with the study of English literature and of writing studies. The study of linguistics will provide an understanding of social, political, cultural, historical, and economic factors that affect peoples and their languages and will provide students with the tools to apply the findings of linguistic analysis in a broader context.


Steve VanderStaay, Professor
Steven.Vanderstaay@wwu.edu | (360) 650-3004

Sara Helms, Academic Department Manager
Sara.Helms@wwu.edu | 360-650-3914

Linguistics at Western

Students who study linguistics acquire valuable intellectual skills, such as analytical reasoning, critical thinking, argumentation, and clarity of expression. They can make insightful observations, formulate clear and testable hypotheses, generate predictions, make arguments and draw conclusions, and communicate findings to a wider community.

I’ve always loved languages and dialects, but linguistics really opened up an entire world I never knew existed, and because the field is young, that world keeps getting bigger and more diverse. The complexity of languages we speak without even thinking is absolutely, mind-blowingly incredible.

Lauren Gage


Explore courses

ANTH 247 – Intro to Linguistic Anthropology

LING 207 – Language and Brain

LING 431 – Topics in Semantics and Pragmatics

CSD 354 – Speech and Language Development in Children

ELL 433 – Culture, Equity, and Advocacy for Bilingual Students

Hands-on-Experience and Clubs

Linguistics students and language enthusiasts have the opportunity to join the Linguistics Club to learn, discuss, and host/attend events related to language studies. The linguistics program hosts a variety of speakers via the Let’s Talk lecture series, and conducts workshops to introduce students to opportunities in the field and graduate programs. Students are active participants in the university’s Scholar’s Week, showcasing their active research agendas, and have presented their work at linguistics conferences.

The linguistics program offers a multidisciplinary degree that prepares students for a variety of professional careers. Students can specialize in both applied and theoretical aspects of language study, and combine linguistic study with specialization in a dozen world languages, including English.

Edward Vajda


What can you do with Linguistics?

Western’s linguistics students are regularly accepted into some of the top graduate programs in North America, including, most recently:

  • New York University
  • University of California Los Angeles
  • University of Arizona
  • Purdue University
  • University of Washington
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Minnesota

Western linguistics students are also accepted into International graduate programs including:

  • University College London
  • University of Edinburgh (Scotland)
  • University of Groningen (Netherlands)
  • University of Sussex (UK)

Linguistics students are well-equipped for a variety of graduate-level and professional programs and careers. Opportunities may be found in the  high tech industry, in K-12 education, in higher education, as speech language pathologists, as computational linguists, as English teachers around the world, as writers and editors, as translators, and in many more areas.

Recent Graduate Employment Positions:

  • Enrollment Analyst: Aerotek/Premera Blue Cross
  • English and Spanish Instructor: Berlitz Languages Inc.
  • ESL Teacher: Feirschule Institute (South Korea)
  • Writing Tutor: Smart Thinking

Linguistics careers

  • Higher Education Research and Teaching
  • K-12 Teaching (World Languages, ESL, literacy)
  • Computer Industry (Speech Recognition, Natural Language Processing)
  • Translating and Interpreting
  • Language Documentation and Fieldwork
  • Publishing (Editing, Writing)
  • Lexicography (Dictionary Research and Editing)
  • Law (Forensic Linguistics)

Start Your Career at Western