Undergraduate Studies

Linguistics is the scientific study of language.  Language is a human behavior, a product of the human brain.  It is used for social purposes, and can be acquired by human children and adults.  Languages are also a community’s means of communication — they change over time, and today, they are increasingly becoming endangered and dying.  The subfields of linguistics are dedicated to understanding and explaining these aspects of language.

Undergraduates in Hawai’i have many good reasons to study Linguistics.

  • Knowledge about language is more important here than in most places in the country, because of the State’s unique diversity of languages — hundreds of languages from all over the world are spoken here.
  • Hawai’i offers a natural laboratory for trying to understand multilingualism, code-mixing (changing from one language to another mid-sentence), second language learning, language endangerment and revitalization (of the Hawaiian language, for example), and pidgins and creoles.
  • Languages are closely tied to cultural, geographic, and ethnic identity, issues that are central to Hawai’i’s education and politics.

Students at UH Manoa who study Linguistics discover that it helps them understand a number of different things:

  • how language is used as a means to gain and maintain power.
  • how it is used to influence people.
  • how it is tied to ethnic and geographical identity.
  • how it is processed by the mind.
  • how children acquire it.


Majoring in Linguistics

While the Department of Linguistics does not offer a prescribed undergraduate Linguistics major, students may major in Linguistics for the B.A. degree at UH Manoa through the Interdisciplinary Studies Program.  Students majoring in Linguistics through Interdisciplinary Studies have the opportunity to create a unique program tailored to his or her own individual interests.  In this program, students create for themselves a “major equivalent”, a coherent program of courses that is academically equivalent to a conventional major, with the guidance of two faculty advisors:  one in Linguistics, who helps you select the right courses for your purposes, and the other in Interdisciplinary Studies, who assists with the overall plan for your B.A.  To earn a B.A. in Linguistics through Interdisciplinary Studies, you must be enrolled in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences.

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