Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It investigates the common principles underlying all human languages, as well as the organization of particular languages. It is expected that undergraduates with a major in linguistics will be able to:

  • demonstrate a sound knowledge of the fields of phonetics (articulatory and acoustic properties of speech), phonology (the organization of the sound system of languages), morphology (the structure of words), syntax (the structure of sentences), and semantics (the interpretation of structures);
  • demonstrate that they are able to analyze data in all these areas of linguistics;
  • apply their linguistic training without prejudice, as expected in any science; and
  • apply their analytical abilities beyond the study of linguistics.

The linguistics major program can be enriched through linguistics-related courses offered in other departments such as the language departments, the departments of psychology, philosophy, and communicative disorders.

Undergraduate students wishing to major in linguistics should consult the Requirements tab. Students must contact the Linguistics undergraduate advisor Rebecca Shields,, to declare linguistics as a major. Inquire in 1168 Van Hise Hall or call 608-262-2292 for the undergraduate advisor's office hours. All students proposing to major in linguistics must consult the department's undergraduate advisor.

Any exceptions to the departmental requirements must be approved by the Degree Programs Committee of the Department of Language Sciences. Note that the undergraduate advisor of the department cannot authorize exceptions. Students requesting exceptions must prepare a written petition and submit it to the department administrator, who will then forward it to the Degree Programs Committee members.

The petition must justify the exception request by providing detailed information on the circumstances, and by including all relevant documents. The Degree Programs Committee considers each case individually on its merits. Approval is granted rarely, and only under extraordinary circumstances. Not having time to satisfy requirements before graduating is not a valid excuse.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.

Bachelor of Arts degree requirements

Mathematics Fulfilled with completion of University General Education requirements Quantitative Reasoning a (QR A) and Quantitative Reasoning b (QR B) coursework. Please note that some majors may require students to complete additional math coursework beyond the B.A. mathematics requirement.
Foreign Language
  • Complete the fourth unit of a foreign language; OR
  • Complete the third unit of a foreign language and the second unit of an additional foreign language

Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
L&S Breadth
  • Humanities, 12 credits: 6 of the 12 credits must be in literature
  • Social Sciences, 12 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 12 credits: must include one 3+ credit course in the biological sciences; must include one 3+ credit course in the physical sciences
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework 108 credits
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work 60 intermediate or advanced credits
Major Declare and complete at least one (1) major
Total Credits 120 credits
UW-Madison Experience 30 credits in residence, overall
30 credits in residence after the 90th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.  Please note that the following special degree programs are not considered majors so are not available to non–L&S degree-seeking candidates:  

  • Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics (Bachelor of Science–Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics)
  • Journalism (Bachelor of Arts–Journalism; Bachelor of Science–Journalism)
  • Music (Bachelor of Music)
  • Social Work (Bachelor of Social Work)

Requirements for the Major


Complete the fourth unit or higher in a foreign language, by course or by examination0-16
Total Credits0-16


30 credits as follows:

LINGUIS 101 Human Language3
or LINGUIS/​ANTHRO  301 Introduction to Linguistics: Descriptive and Theoretical
LINGUIS 310 Phonology3
LINGUIS 330 Syntax3
LINGUIS 322 Morphology3
LINGUIS 340 Semantics3
500-Level LINGUIS (1 course)3
Phonological Theories
Advanced Morphology
Syntactic Theories
Advanced Semantics
Introduction to Experimental Phonetics
Structure of a Language
LINGUIS 426 Field Methods I3
or LINGUIS 427 Field Methods II
any LINGUIS course 1
Introduction to African Linguistics
Language and Society in Africa
African Linguistic Structures-Morphology and Syntax
Indians of North America
Survey of North American Indian Languages
American Indian Folklore
Language and Culture
Introduction to Communicative Disorders
Speech Science
Normal Aspects of Hearing
Neural Basis of Communication
Language Development in Children and Adolescents
Speech Acoustics and Perception
Phonetics and Phonological Development
Child Language Disorders, Assessment and Intervention
Neural Mechanisms of Speech, Hearing and Language
Natural Language and Computing
The Teaching of Reading
Language in Japanese Society
Introduction to Chinese Linguistics
Introduction to Chinese Linguistics
Introduction to Japanese Linguistics
History of the Chinese Language
Structure of English
English Phonology
English Language Variation in the U.S.
Second Language Acquisition
Language, Race, and Identity
English Words: Grammar, Culture, Mind
Global Spread of English
Introduction to TESOL Methods
English in Society
History of the English Language
Gender and Language
Topics in English Language and Linguistics
English Syntax
English Grammar in Use
Field Methods and the Public Presentation of Folklore
Digitally Documenting Everyday Communication
Structures of Italian
Introduction to the Romance Languages
Introduction to German Linguistics
Topics in German Linguistics
History of the German Language
American Indian History
Introduction to Digital Information
Topics in Library and Information Studies (TLAM only)
Language, History, and Society
Language & Immigration in Wisconsin
Language, History, and Society
General Phonetics
Grammatical Variability of Language
Survey of North American Indian Languages
Topics in Linguistics
Language and Culture
Topics in Phonological Theory
Language and Meaning
Psychology of Perception
Language, Mind, and Brain
Cognitive Psychology
Child Development
How We Read: The Science of Reading and Its Educational Implications
Introduction to Scandinavian Linguistics
Topics in Scandinavian Linguistics
Talk and Social Interaction
Spanish Phonetics
The Structure of Modern Spanish
Introduction to Spanish Linguistics
Spanish Applied Linguistics
Introduction to the Romance Languages
Topics in Spanish Linguistics
Spanish Phonology
Contemporary Issues in Applied Spanish Linguistics
Structure of the Spanish Language: Morphology and Syntax
Topics in Hispanic Linguistics
Total Credits30

Residence and Quality of work

  • 2.000 GPA in all LINGUIS and major courses
  • 2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level major credits, taken in residence1
  • 15 credits in LINGUIS taken on the UW–Madison campus

Electives from Other SUBJECTS That Are Upper Level in the Major

Language and Society in Africa
Structure and Analysis of African Languages
Speech Science
Neural Basis of Communication
Speech Acoustics and Perception
Neural Mechanisms of Speech, Hearing and Language
Natural Language and Computing
Language in Japanese Society
Introduction to Chinese Linguistics
Introduction to Chinese Linguistics
Introduction to Japanese Linguistics
History of the Chinese Language
Old English
History of the English Language
Structure of English
English Grammar in Use
English Syntax
English Phonology
English Language Variation in the U.S.
Global Spread of English
Second Language Acquisition
English in Society
Introduction to the Romance Languages
Introduction to German Linguistics
Topics in German Linguistics
History of the German Language
Introduction to Middle High German
LCA 441
Language and Meaning
Animal Communication and the Origins of Language
Old Norse
Old Norse
Introduction to Scandinavian Linguistics
History of the Scandinavian Languages I: Proto- to Common Scandinavian
Talk and Social Interaction
SPANISH/​INTL BUS  329 Spanish for Business3
SPANISH 630 Topics in Hispanic Linguistics3

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the Linguistics Major in consultation with the Linguistics Undergraduate Advisor.

Honors in the Linguistics Major: Requirements

To earn Honors in the Major in Linguistics, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 overall university GPA
  • Earn a 3.500 GPA for all LINGUIS courses, and all courses accepted in the major
  • Complete two LINGUIS courses, taken for Honors credit, with individual grades of B or better
  • Complete a two-semester Senior Honors Thesis in LINGUIS 681 Honors Seminar-Senior Thesis and LINGUIS 682 Honors Seminar-Senior Thesis, leading to submission of an acceptable paper, for a total of 6 credits. A grade of B or better must be earned in the thesis project.

Note that Honors tutorial credits and the Senior Honors Thesis do not count toward the 30 credits required for the major in linguistics.

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.

1. Familiarity with data from a wide range of languages from different language families.

2. Ability to respond to biased views of language in their communities.

3. Knowledge in all core areas of linguistics: Phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics.

4. Sound grasp of linguistic concepts.

5. Sound grasp of linguistic methodology.

UnderGraduate Advising

Rebecca Shields, Undergraduate Advisor

Contact the undergraduate advisor to set up an appointment to learn more about the major, careers in linguistics, and opportunities for the study of language sciences across campus.

Letters & Science Career Services

The Department of Language Sciences encourages our majors to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after declaring their major. Our career advisor also partners with SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science. L&S graduates are in high demand by employers and graduate programs. It is important to us that our students are career ready at the time of graduation, and we are committed to your success.

L&S career resources

SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students leverage the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and liberal arts degree; explore and try out different career paths; participate in internships; prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications; and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers).

SuccessWorks can also assist students in career advising, résumé and cover letter writing, networking opportunities, and interview skills, as well as course offerings for undergraduates to begin their career exploration early in their undergraduate career. 

Professors Li, Macaulay, Raimy, Salmons, Valentine; Lecturer Shields