What is linguistics?

Linguistics examines the nature of language, its structure, history, how it develops, how it varies from region to region and from person to person.


Why study linguistics?

Since language is so basic to human beings, the questions that linguists find worthwhile are related to almost all fields of study. By investigating how language is organized at the level of sounds, words, phrases, sentences and meaning, linguists hope to come to a better understanding of the special mental and physical endowment that humans possess which enables them to learn and use language as a medium of communication. Seen in this way, the study of the human language is, in the end, the study of the human mind.

The study of linguistics prepares students for many professions including, but not limited to, speech-language pathologist, audiologist, second language teacher, interpreter/translator, professional linguist, neurolinguist, psycholinguist, editor, computer speech and recognition and lexicography.

Speech therapists, language teachers, educators, lawyers, psychologists, social scientists, mathematicians, engineers, computer scientists, musicians and students of literature are among those who find different aspects of linguistics useful in their professions.

Courses available in first year

Linguistics 1100
Introduction to Linguistics is a general introduction to linguistic concepts which are important for understanding the nature of language and its function for communication. Topics include: languages as structured systems; the systematicity of language change; the classification of languages into families and their geographical distribution; language, the brain, and language disorders; the acquisition of language; and human vs animal communication.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: None

Linguistics 1103
Introduction to Linguistic Analysis: Syntax is an introduction to the study of grammatical patterns in the structure of phrases and sentences. This course provides students with the tools to analyze phrase structure and syntactic constituency in English and other languages. Theoretical topics covered include case theory and agreement, principles of thematic role assignment, and different types of syntactic movement.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: None

Linguistics 1104
Introduction to Linguistic Analysis: Phonology is an introduction to the study of sound patterns in human languages. Basic empirical and theoretical issues in phonology are demonstrated through the analysis of data selected from English and other languages. Theoretical concepts surveyed include phonological features and contrasts, and syllable structure. These are examined through the study of allophony, allomorphy, and processes such as assimilation and neutralization.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: None

Linguistics 1105
The Wonder of Words is an introduction to the structure of words. This course presents methods of linguistic analysis through an in-depth study of English word origins. The French, Latin and Greek origins of technical and scientific words are studied, together with the ways that these words may change in structure, sound, and meaning. The course also provides an introduction to etymology, to writing systems and transliteration, and to the use of dictionaries.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: None

Linguistics 1155
Linguistics for Language Learners provides a thorough grounding in the linguistic concepts and terminology involved in university-level second language learning.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: None
Note: Students may receive credit for only one of Linguistics 1100 and 1155.

Linguistics 2060
Aboriginal Languages of Eastern Canada is an overview of the Aboriginal languages of three language families of Eastern Canada: EskimoAleut (Inuttitut) and Algonquian (Innu-aimun, Mi'kmaq, MaliseetPasmaquoddy and Beothuk) and Iroquoian (Mohawk) with respect to both linguistic structure and current vitality. The course also reviews a history of language suppression and revitalization efforts, within the context of the larger issues of minority language attrition and maintenance. This course is intended for students who want to learn an Aboriginal language spoken in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: None

Linguistics 2210
Language in Newfoundland and Labrador: An Introduction to Linguistic Variation examines linguistic variation and language change in the languages of Newfoundland and Labrador. Topics covered include the concept of variation within language, both regional and social, the chief causes of such variation, and some of its societal consequences. As a Quantitative Reasoning course, practical workshops and assignments focus on producing a final scientific research report using quantitative analysis, graphical representation of numerical data, and logical reasoning involving numbers.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: None
Note: All sections of this course follow QR guidelines for the Bachelor of Arts.

Linguistics 2212
Language and Gender explores gender, sexuality and language and their relationship to culture, power, performance, interaction, social networks, language change, and language in the school and workplace. The course introduces theoretical perspectives, methodologies, and research findings, from an early focus on gender difference to more recent work on how language helps people create and perform gender and sexuality.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: None

Linguistics 2220
Linguistics and Law is an overview of the many relationships between linguistics and the judicial process. Topics to be covered include: the language of legal texts, and the Plain English movement; language use in legal settings (such as eyewitness testimony, jury instructions, and the language of lawyer-client interactions); the legal disadvantages which language may impose on speakers of minority languages and non-standard dialects; and the emerging discipline of forensic linguistics (which deals with such issues as voice and authorship identification, and linguistic interpretation of evidence).
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: None

Linguistics 2300
Philosophy of Language and Mind (same as Philosophy 2300) is a survey of philosophical thinking about human language and thought, and about how these phenomena relate to the rest of the natural world. Topics covered include the nature of language, the relations between thought and language, and the nature of consciousness.
Lectures: Three hours per week
Prerequisite: None

Sample program for first year

Students pursuing a Bachelor of Arts with a major in linguistics will normally take the following courses in their first year:

Sample program

Fall SemesterWinter Semester
English 1090critical reading & writing course
Linguistics 1100, 1103 or 1104Linguistics 1100, 1103 or 1104
language study (LS) courselanguage study (LS) course
quantititive reasonsing (QR) coursequantititive reasoning (QR) course
minor program courseminor program course


For assistance with course selection, students should contact:
Academic Advising Centre,


Contact information

For additional information please contact:

Department of Linguistics



Guide to First Year

230 Elizabeth Ave

St. John's, NL A1B 3X9 CANADA

Tel: (709) 864-2530

Fax: (709) 864-2552