Language Matters

Because language is so fundamental to everything that we do, an understanding of linguistics is part of a well-rounded liberal arts education. In addition, the study of linguistics prepares students for careers and advanced work in fields such as anthropology, business, communications, computer science, education, English as a second language (ESL), foreign languages, journalism, neuroscience, speech and hearing sciences, philosophy, psychology, and other fields requiring analytical, communication, and research skills.

Linguistic studies encompasses all areas related to the scientific study of the nature, structure, and function of language. Linguistic studies treats language both as a fundamental human faculty and as a changing social institution. The field of linguistics includes the relationship between language and logic, the underlying structures of the brain, social implications of language, language acquisition (including bilingualism and second-language acquisition), psychology of language, philosophy of language, dialects and dialectology, language and literature, the history and development of specific language families, human-machine interaction, artificial intelligence, and global communication and understanding. Learn more about Intended Learning Outcomes.

Course of Study

The Linguistic Studies concentration consists of a minimum of five courses:

(1) Linguistic Studies 250 (LNGST 250), English Language and Linguistics; (2) three approved departmental offerings at any level (with the requirement that students take no more than two of these three courses within the same department); and (3) one approved Level III course. Students may also receive concentration credit through an independent Study, independent research project, or an internship. For more  information, contact Jeremy Loebach, Director of Linguistic Studies (

When planning your course of study, you may find it helpful to use the Linguistic Studies Concentration Planning Worksheet


Linguistic Studies 250 English Language and Linguistics

Students explore principles and approaches to linguistic analysis based on phonemics, morphology, and syntax as derived from traditional, structural, and generative-transformational models. They also examine aspects of semantics, language acquisition,  variation, and change, focusing closely on analytic procedures as they relate to spoken and written English.


Please click on the following catalog link:


In addition to the courses you may take, you can gain experience in the field and pursue special areas of interest in several ways.  Full-time internships may be arranged during Interim. Internship possibilities include working in bilingual education, language immersion, or ESL programs in school; assisting in language research laboratories; and exploring the world of publishing.  Internships are valuable for confirming one’s academic interest in Linguistic Studies, learning new skills and gaining paraprofessional  field experience (a real asset on the job market).

Independent study and research projects, usually completed during the junior or senior year, allow students to take an idea through the entire research process. In recent years, topics have included the study of American Sign Language, Spanish language immersion programs at the elementary school level, and the translation of psychological tests.

Students may also pursue their study of linguistics through off-campus coursework in conjunction with St. Olaf’s Off-Campus and International Studies programs in locations as diverse as France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Norway, Scotland, England, Tanzania, and the People’s Republic of China.