Areas of Study


Students and faculty in the Department of Linguistics share an abiding interest in the study of American Sign Language (ASL). The ongoing, innovative research carried out by the linguistics faculty and students is contributing substantially to what is known about the structure and use of sign languages. ASL is not only the subject of faculty and student research, but also the language of communication in the classroom.

The Minor in Linguistics offers undergraduate students in any major a basic foundation in linguistics and a structured exploration of a variety of topics in linguistics that are of direct relevance to their chosen fields of study. Contact the Undergraduate Program Coordinator to discuss how a Linguistics Minor can benefit you.

To continue and graduate with a Minor in Linguistics, a student must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 in all Linguistics courses.

Courses & Requirements

Summary of Requirements

Required pre-minor courses 6 hours

An introduction to the major features of languages and to the structure, use, and variation in the sign languages and sign systems commonly used in the United States. The course will cover four major topics: (1) Language: The nature and definition of languages, the uniqueness of language, and contrasts between language and other forms of communication; (2) Language and Culture: The role of language in human society, with special focus on language acquisition, language identity, and bilingualism; (3) American Sign Language Structure: A survey of the major features of the linguistic structure of ASL. Topics are: Phonology: the structure of the physical signals; Morphology: the basic structure and composition of meaningful units of ASL; Syntax: word order and nonmanual syntactic signals in ASL sentences; (4) Language Variation: Language variation and language contact in the deaf community, including discussions of contact varieties of signing and systems for representing English.

This course provides an introductory overview of the major linguistic structures of American Sign Language. Major topics are: phonology, morphology, syntax, language use, and linguistic applications. Some comparisons with English and other spoken and signed languages will be examined.

Required core courses 9 hours

LIN 301 and LIN 480: offered annually in the fall semester only

LIN 302: offered annually in the spring semester only

This course provides a broad introduction to the principles of the linguistic structure and analysis of the phonetics, phonology, and morphology of ASL, English and other languages, with a focus on the analysis and solution of linguistic problems. The course will cover a number of topics in phonology, such as phonological contrast, phonotactics, phonological processes, and several topics in morphology, such as inflection, derivation and lexicalization.

This course introduces students to theories and methods of two areas of study in linguistics: Syntax and Discourse. Syntax is concerned with the sentence as the unit of language, combining descriptions of events with communicative intentions, and grounding this into the reality of the here and now. The study of language in text and context is known in Linguistics as ''discourse analysis.'' This course provides an introduction to approaches to discourse analysis as well as tools used in the analysis of discourse.

This course will cover the different research traditions in linguistics, as well as the methodological issues involved in doing linguistic research. Students will learn how to access and summarize scholarly publications and how research findings are disseminated. Students will also learn about the ethical conduct of research. Students will work as a research assistant with a faculty member, applying what they learn throughout the semester. Students will periodically report on what they learn about research and about their work on the specific project.

One elective course 3 hours

Choose one course from LIN 500 level courses. Examples of 500 level courses are listed below:

This course introduces students to the acquisition of a native language by young children (L1 acquisition) and acquisition of a second language after childhood (L2 acquisition), with a focus on sign languages. The first part of the course covers the important milestones of normal L1 development in phonology, morphology, syntax and pragmatics for both spoken and signed languages. The course also explores how delays in exposure affect the acquisition process, related to the main topics of the second part of the course: critical period effects and L2 acquisition. Readings and discussion throughout the course will reflect the perspective that acquisition studies on a broad variety of languages, both signed and spoken, are crucial for developing accurate theories of language structure and use. Application of concepts from lectures and discussion is developed through student analysis of L1 and L2 data.

This course is an introduction to the cognitivist approach to linguistics, in which language and thought are taken to be grounded in basic human experiences and to grow out of the nature of the physical brain and body. Unlike some linguistic approaches, cognitive linguistics treats form and meaning as interrelated on all levels of linguistic structure. Topics include conceptual blending, metaphor, depiction, frame semantics, human categorization, mental spaces, and cognitive/construction grammar.

Deaf and hearing people around the world acquire, produce and perceive sign languages. This course takes an in-depth look at how they acquire, produce and perceive sign languages. Psycholinguistics generally covers three domains: acquisition, use (perception and production) and brain studies. This course focuses on perception and production, as well as brain studies (aka neurolinguistics). With respect to production, we will examine studies that focus on ''slips of the hands'', both spontaneous and induced. With respect to perception, we will look at both online and offline cases. For brain studies, we will discuss both behavioral and imaging studies.

This course applies cognitive linguistic notions to a variety of issues in translation and other language contact domains within signed language communities. Cognitive linguistics posits an understanding of language as being usage based with meaning grounded in human experience and with linguistic units at multiple levels all contributing to meaning. This course will explore the implications that these and other cognitive linguistic concepts carry with them for how we understand meaning, how we interact with each other through language, and how both form and meaning are influenced when languages and language communities are in contact.

Students are introduced to a descriptive framework with which to identify and analyze iconicity and depiction in ASL and other signed languages and spoken languages as well. The course focuses on depiction typology, examining the structure of role-shifting, constructed action and dialogue, classifier constructions/depicting verbs, aspectual constructions, abstract/metaphorical depictions, and other imagistic uses of space, including different types of gesture.

Sociolinguistics is the discipline that studies the interaction of language and social life. This course will examine the major areas of sociolinguistics, including multilingualism, language contact, variation, language policy and planning and language attitudes. Methodological issues pertaining to the collection of sociolinguistic data will also be examined. The application of sociolinguistics to education, the law, medicine and sign language interpretation will be covered. All issues will be considered as they pertain to both spoken and signed languages.

This course explores bilingualism, with a special emphasis on bilingualism in the Gallaudet community. We will examine the place of bilingualism and multilingualism in the world, both historically and currently; the linguistic structure and features of bilingualism; social constructions of bilingualism; the acquisition of bilinguality, from the perspectives of both first- and second language acquisition; and we will explore the functions and meanings of bilingualism in communities. For each topic, we will examine the current state of the field, first from the perspective of spoken language bilingualism and then from the perspective of signed language (mixed modality) bilingualism, with special emphasis on the situation at Gallaudet University.

This course is a theoretical introduction to the study of language as social practice. It is social theory for those interested in language. It is also appropriate for anyone wishing to understand the place of language in recent social thought. There are no prerequisites. Topics include language and semiotics, speech acts and performativity, language and embodiment, relativity and difference, units and structures of participation, language and practice theory, discourse genres, and reference. Students will be expected to make their own connections in a final paper between the theories introduced in the course and their ¿home disciplines,¿ such as Deaf Studies, Interpreting, Education, Linguistics, and other, related fields.

This seminar format course offers a broad introduction to the study of the various ways linguists apply their work through engagement with communities outside of academics. We will consider what makes linguistic work ''applied'': where applied linguistic research questions come from, who participates in applied linguistics, how we use and share our research knowledge, and what kinds of engagement with wider communities are possible. The goal of the course is to better understand how we can apply our own linguistic knowledge and approaches in order to engage ever more deeply with deaf communities.

This seminar will explore language documentation with an emphasis on practices related to the documentation of signed languages. We will first examine different ways language documentation (sometimes called ¿documentary linguistics¿) has been conceptualized by researchers. We will then look at work that has been done in signed languages(including field work and signed language corpora) along with examining theoretical concepts and specific case studies in the literature. We will also examine signed language data sets available to researchers online.

This course introduces students to the theories and methods of analyzing prosody in signed and spoken languages. These prosodic features play a critical role in human communication and have a wide range of functions, including expression at linguistic, attitudinal, affective and personal levels.

Grading System: letter grades only.

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Minor in Linguistics

Deanna Gagne



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