Language Sciences at UW–Madison is an interdiscplinary 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 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 Science (B.S.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of science 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.


Mathematics Two (2) 3+ credits of intermediate/advanced level MATH, COMP SCI, STAT
Limit one each: COMP SCI, STAT
Foreign Language Complete the third unit of a 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 6 credits in biological science; and must include 6 credits in physical science
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 86th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison


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


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

Complete the following:
or LINGUIS 301
500-Level LINGUIS (1 course)3
or LINGUIS 427
any LINGUIS course 1
CS&D 110
CS&D 201
CS&D 202
CS&D 210
CS&D 240
CS&D 303
CS&D 315
CS&D 440
CS&D 503
ENGL 314
ENGL 315
ENGL 316
ENGL 318
ENGL 319
ENGL 413
ENGL 414
ENGL 415
ENGL 416
ENGL 417
ENGL 420
ENGL 514
ENGL 516
L I S 351
L I S 640
(TLAM only)
SOC 535
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 3-4
AFRICAN 501 3-4
ASIAN 358 3
ASIAN 431 3
ASIAN 432 3
ASIAN 433 3
ASIAN 434 3
ASIAN 631 3
CS&D 201 3
CS&D 210 3
CS&D 303 3
CS&D 503 3
COMP SCI 545 3
ENGL 520 3
ENGL 417 3
ENGL 314 3
ENGL 516 3
ENGL 514 3
ENGL 315 3
ENGL 316 3
ENGL 414 3
ENGL 318 3
ENGL 416 3
FRENCH 429 3
GERMAN 351 3-4
GERMAN 352 3-4
GERMAN 650 3
GERMAN 651 3
PHILOS 516 3
PSYCH 550 3
SCAND ST 407 3
SCAND ST 408 3
SCAND ST 410 3
SOC 535 3

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 LINGUIS 482 LINGUIS 583 , or LINGUIS 584 , 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  and LINGUIS 682 , 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.

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 101 or LINGUIS 3013
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 426 or LINGUIS 4273
 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. An in person 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

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). In short, SuccessWorks helps students in the College of Letters & Science discover themselves, find opportunities, and develop the skills they need for success after graduation.

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. 

Students should set up their profiles in Handshake to take care of everything they need to explore career events, manage their campus interviews, and apply to jobs and internships from 200,000+ employers around the country.

Professors Ellis Weismer, Hutton, Kaushanskaya, Li, Louden, Macaulay, Macdonald, Purnell, Raimy, Saffron, Salmons, Seidenberg, Wanner; Associate Professors Armstrong, Lupyan, Rao, Tejedo-Herrero, Vieira; Assistant Professors Cho, Henke; Lecturer Shields

For more detailed information about our faculty, please visit our website.