Department of Linguistics


Chair: Dan P Dewey

Department Information: 

4064 JFSB



Advisement Center: 

1041 JFSB




Admission to Degree Program

All undergraduate degree programs in the Department of Linguistics are open enrollment.

The Discipline

Linguistics is the study of language in all its aspects—from speech sounds to sentence formation to meaning; from how language is organized and used in a social setting to how it is organized and processed in the brain or by computers. Linguists study language form, language change, language acquisition, and even the texts in which language is recorded. Linguists recognize that the communicative power of language is what brings cohesion to all human enterprises. For the student interested in the nature of language, linguistics is the subject to study.

The science of linguistics has many real-world applications, including translation, information storage/retrieval, lexicography, editing, and language teaching. In addition to its majors in general linguistics, editing and publishing, and in English language, BYU's Department of Linguistics offers undergraduate minor programs (as well as graduate degrees) in several of these areas.

Career Opportunities

A linguistics degree with an emphasis in computers may lead to jobs in high technology, e.g., machine translation, information retrieval, speech recognition and production software, and lexicography. Linguistics is also recognized as a strong specialization for those pursuing a career in military intelligence or technical writing.

The English language major is in many ways similar to the linguistics major, though its focus is more specifically on English linguistics. The major provides useful preparation for careers that require special attention to the English language, such as advertising and technical writing. The English language major along with a TESOL or editing minor is an especially strong combination.

Editing students find work in a variety of enterprises, including freelance work, publishing houses, businesses and corporations, and nonprofit organizations, such as government agencies, libraries, museums, schools, and universities.  Editing graduates also edit and publish content in a variety of genres, such as books, magazines, scholarly works, web content, advertising and technical materials.  

Students who complete the minor in Linguistic Computing will be prepared to perform language analysis with computational techniques, including with custom written computer code for particular tasks. Students will be valuable to companies and organizations that need linguistic analysis performed on large datasets in order to inform decisions. Jobs may be found in such fields as: automated text analysis such as analyzing online reviews or social media, machine translation with neutral networks, automated speech recognition, text-to-speech synthesis, language engineering, and other artificial intelligence fields using human language.

The teaching of English to speakers of other languages is an applied linguistics area of high demand, both within the United States and around the world. Both a TESOL minor and TESOL undergraduate certificate are offered by the department.

In addition, the linguistics, editing and publishing, and English language majors are excellent preparations for those planning graduate studies in areas as diverse as law, international business, tourism, library science, TESOL, communicative disorders, and speech pathology, not to mention graduate studies in specific languages or in linguistics itself.

General Information

The Department of Linguistics strongly recommends that StDev 317, a 1-credit-hour course, be taken at the end of the sophomore year or the beginning of the junior year. Because liberal arts degrees provide preparation in a variety of useful fields rather than a single career track, this course is recommended to help liberal arts students focus on specific educational and occupational goals and to identify the career options or educational opportunities available to them. The course will introduce them to the resources needed for accessing information about graduate schools, internships, careers, and career development. Students will learn basic employment strategies, including the steps necessary for obtaining employment related to their own specialty.

Graduation Requirements

To receive a BYU bachelor's degree a student must complete, in addition to all requirements for a specific major, the following university requirements:

  • The University Core, consisting of requirements in general and religious education.

  • At least 30 credit hours must be earned in residence on the BYU campus in Provo as an admitted day student

  • A minimum of 120 credit hours

  • A cumulative GPA of at least 2.0

  • Be in good standing with the Honor Code Office

Students should see their college advisement center for help or information concerning the undergraduate programs.

Graduate Programs Available

This department also offers graduate degree programs. For more information, see Graduate Studies.