Language Sciences at UW–Madison is an interdisciplinary hub for research and collaboration that houses the Linguistics major.

Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It investigates the common principles underlying all 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.

Our undergraduate major emphasizes strong foundational training in the core areas of theoretical linguistics. Students also have access to breadth courses in a wide variety of interdisciplinary areas, including first and second language acquisition, language disorders, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, historical linguistics, neurolinguistics, philosophy of language, and language endangerment and revitalization. Coursework is also available in the linguistics of specific languages or language families, such as Germanic, Spanish and Romance, Chinese, Japanese, and Native American linguistics.

Undergraduate students wishing to major in Linguistics should make an appointment with the Linguistics Undergraduate Advisor. Current advisor contact information can be found on the Language Sciences Advising Page.

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 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.

Bachelor of Arts degree requirements

Mathematics Complete the University General Education Requirements for Quantitative Reasoning A (QR-A) and Quantitative Reasoning B (QR-B) coursework.
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.
L&S Breadth
  • 12 credits of Humanities, which must include 6 credits of literature; and
  • 12 credits of Social Science; and
  • 12 credits of Natural Science, which must include one 3+ credit Biological Science course and one 3+ credit Physical Science course.
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework Complete at least 108 credits.
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work Complete at least 60 credits at the intermediate or advanced level.
Major Declare and complete at least one major.
Total Credits Complete at least 120 credits.
UW-Madison Experience
  • 30 credits in residence, overall; and
  • 30 credits in residence after the 86th credit.
Quality of Work
  • 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
  • 2.000 in Intermediate/Advanced level 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. They do not need to complete the L&S Degree Requirements above.

Requirements for the Major


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


Students pursuing the linguistics major must complete 30 credits as follows:

Required foundational courses:
LINGUIS 101 Human Language3
LINGUIS 310 Phonology3
LINGUIS 330 Syntax3
LINGUIS 322 Morphology3
500-Level LINGUIS (Complete 1 of the following:)3
Phonological Theories
Advanced Morphology
Syntactic Theories
Structure of a Language
Capstone course3
Capstone in Linguistics
Electives (Complete 4 of the following:)12
any LINGUIS course 1
Language and Society in Africa
Indians of North America
Survey of North American Indian Languages
Language and Culture
Language in Japanese Society
Introduction to Chinese Linguistics
Introduction to Japanese Linguistics
History of the Chinese Language
Studies in Chinese Linguistics
Introduction to Communicative Disorders
Anatomy and Physiology of Speech Production
Hearing Science
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
Structure of English
English Language Variation in the U.S.
Second Language Acquisition
Language, Race, and Identity
Linguistic Theory and Child Language
English Words: Grammar, Culture, Mind
Global Spread of English
Introduction to TESOL Methods
English in Society
History of the English Language
Topics in English Language and Linguistics
English Syntax
English Grammar in Use
Field Methods and the Public Presentation of Folklore
Digital Storytelling for Social Media
Structures of Italian
Introduction to German Linguistics
Topics in German Linguistics
History of the German Language
Introduction to Text Mining
Topics in Library and Information Studies (Tribal Libraries, Archives, & Museums topic only)
Global Language Issues
Language in Wisconsin
Historical Linguistics
General Phonetics
Grammatical Variability of Language
Survey of North American Indian Languages
Topics in Linguistics
Field Methods I
Field Methods II
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
The Structure of Human Thought: Concepts, Language and Culture
Talk and Social Interaction
Spanish Phonetics
The Structure of Modern Spanish
Introduction to Spanish Linguistics
Spanish Applied Linguistics
Introduction to the Romance Languages
Spanish in the United States
Topics in Spanish Linguistics
Topics in Hispanic Linguistics
Total Credits30

Residence and Quality of Work

  • 2.000 GPA in all LINGUIS and all major courses
  • 2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level major credits, taken in residence2
  • 15 credits in LINGUIS, taken on the UW–Madison campus

Electives from Other Subjects that are Upper-level in the Major

AFRICAN 500 Language and Society in Africa3-4
ASIAN 358 Language in Japanese Society3
ASIAN 432 Introduction to Chinese Linguistics3
ASIAN 434 Introduction to Japanese Linguistics3
ASIAN 631 History of the Chinese Language3
CS&D 201 Anatomy and Physiology of Speech Production3
CS&D 210 Neural Basis of Communication3
CS&D 303 Speech Acoustics and Perception3
CS&D 503 Neural Mechanisms of Speech, Hearing and Language3
COMP SCI 545 Natural Language and Computing3
ENGL 314 Structure of English3
ENGL 316 English Language Variation in the U.S.3
ENGL 318 Second Language Acquisition3
ENGL 414 Global Spread of English3
ENGL 416 English in Society3
ENGL 417 History of the English Language3
ENGL 516 English Grammar in Use3
ENGL 514 English Syntax3
GERMAN 351 Introduction to German Linguistics3-4
GERMAN 352 Topics in German Linguistics3-4
GERMAN 650 History of the German Language3
PHILOS 516 Language and Meaning3
SOC 535 Talk and Social Interaction3
SPANISH/​FRENCH/​ITALIAN/​PORTUG  429 Introduction to the Romance Languages3
SPANISH 630 Topics in Hispanic Linguistics3

Honors in the Major

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

Honors in the Linguistics Major: Requirements

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

  • Earn a 3.300 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, with concurrent 1-credit enrollment in LINGUIS 481 Junior Honors TutorialLINGUIS 482 Junior Honors Tutorial, or  LINGUIS 583 Senior Honors Tutorial, for a total of 2 additional credits. A grade of B or better must be earned in each course taken for honors.
  • 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. 





Intermediate and Advanced level LINGUIS courses, LINGUIS 340LINGUIS 373 and some elective courses from other subjects are upper-level in the major (see list).

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.

Sample Four-Year Plan

This Sample Four-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it—along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools—to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests. As students become involved in athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, volunteer experiences, and/or work, they might adjust the order of their courses to accommodate these experiences. Students will likely revise their own four-year plan several times during college.

Communication A3Ethnic Studies3
Quantitative Reasoning A34th semester of Foreign Language (if needed)Linguistics majors are required to complete the 4th unit or higher of a foreign language, whether they are doing the BA or the BS degree.3
3rd semester of Foreign Language (if needed)3LINGUIS 1013
L&S BreadthLinguistics majors will have varying needs for L&S Breadth courses outside the major, depending on which Linguistics major electives they choose. Many Linguistics major electives are Humanities courses, but some are Social Science or Natural Sciences. Consult with your advisor to determine your individual needs.3I/A Math, Comp Sci, or Stat (if needed for BS)3
L&S Breadth3L&S Breadth3
 15 15
Quantitative Reasoning B3Communication B3
LINGUIS 3303Linguistics major elective #13
L&S Breadth3I/A Math, Comp Sci, or Stat (if needed for B.S.)3
Elective3L&S Breadth3
 15 15
Linguistics 500-level course (take any time in years 3-4)3Linguistics major elective #33
Linguistics major elective #23L&S Breadth3
L&S Breadth3Electives9
 15 15
Linguistics major elective #43LINGUIS 6903
 15 15
Total Credits 120

UnderGraduate Advising

Rebecca Shields, Undergraduate Advisor

1166 Van Hise Hall

Contact the undergraduate advisor via email or using the Starfish app to set up an appointment. The advisor is happy to meet with students who want to learn more about the major, careers in linguistics, linguistics course selection, and opportunities for participation in research in language sciences. A meeting with the advisor is required to declare the major.

Letters & Science Career Services

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

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.

Please visit the Language Sciences website for a complete list of our faculty and their areas of interest and expertise.