Why Us?


Linguistics is a big deal: Language is implicated in nearly all aspects of our inner and outer worlds, providing much of the internal organization of our thoughts and knowledge, while also providing the interface through which we communicate our inner states to our intimate communities, our acquaintances, and wider society. In all departments across all universities, language plays a central role in the process of creating and communicating knowledge: we use language to teach and learn the content in every discipline. Our societies are organized by language, both formally and informally. One example of this formal organization is the law: every law is written in language, every law-making body uses language to arrive at the language of laws, to communicate with others about laws, every court uses language to justify their interpretations of the language of laws. An example of informal organization is the way both speakers and listeners use accents to index membership in various social groups, from geographic origin to ethnic group to socio-economic status — we reveal an unexpectedly rich variety of social information every time we speak.

An idea of what we do: As linguists, we learn to break down the speech signal into multiple components, following the strategy of “divide and conquer”: we focus in on distinctive patterns of sounds, words, grammar, and how these all combine to yield distinctive meanings, utilizing analysis of naturally occurring speech, large corpora of written language, data collected via experimental protocols, and elicitation methods used in collaborative studies with small speech communities around the world. Some of us use these methods primarily on English, trying to build a deeper understanding of how English actually works and how it got the way it is. Others take these methods and use them to study how children learn first languages and adults learn second languages (generally large, national languages, such as those taught in foreign language departments). A natural extension of this is the study of how we might better help adults to learn new second languages, both via improved teaching methods and via improved training of new language teachers. Still others take these methods to the study of lesser-known, minoritized, and often endangered languages, from the native languages of the Pacific Northwest to similarly marginalized peoples in less-accessible communities in Africa, Asia, and South America. One purpose of this study is to create an enduring record of documentary materials, such as collections of texts, grammars and dictionaries. In these same communities, we offer to bring our blend of expertise in language analysis, language documentation, and language teaching to the task of being a good partner in programs of language revitalization.

Ample variation in job opportunities: The breadth of Linguistics study provides our graduates with the knowledge and skills to excel in the current job market. Our students become teachers, Speech Language Pathologists, tech workers, researchers, authors, lawyers, and more both in the United States and abroad. Linguistics students have taken their analytical skills to a variety of industries on every major continent.

Faculty diversity and dedication: Our faculty have a wide variety of interests—from descriptive/typological work on lesser-known languages and language revitalization, historical work in syntax, semantics, and phonology, work on the intersection of language, society, and culture, and cognitive/experimental linguistics faculty have worked on, or are working on languages from virtually all over the world. Furthermore, the majority of our faculty work with undergraduate research assistants. Not only is this a chance to create meaningful connections with your professors, but a chance to get first-hand research experience at UO.

Departmental Advising: Unlike many programs, the Department of Linguistics has a dedicated Director of Undergraduate Studies. This means our undergraduates get consistent advising, from a specific faculty member who has agreed to dedicate the time to guide you through our degree program.


For Graduate Students: 

As scientists, our ultimate goal is to is to explain why the many language patterns we identify take the form that they do, and to understand the principles by which all linguistic structure arises. We are committed to the empirical study of linguistic structure, through experimental research, description of undocumented languages, analysis of variation within and across languages, and reconstruction of the history and development of languages of the world. Ph.D. dissertation research at Oregon typically engages with language documentation (usually describing undocumented languages), experimental research (including laboratory phonology, discourse studies, gesture, and semantics), sociolinguistics (investigating language variation and change in light of the social contexts of language use), and second language acquisition and teaching.

The Department also offers a 15-month MA in Language Teaching Studies (LTS). This is a terminal degree for teachers of English (equivalent to a MATESOL) and/or teachers of other languages.