History of Department

The Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa was founded in 1963 as an active research and teaching unit dedicated to the scientific study of language. A draft HISTORY of the Department by George Grace is posted on his personal web site. The faculty and students in the department are committed to understanding and explaining how language works – how it is acquired, how it is used, how it changes over time, how it is represented in the brain, and how threats to linguistic diversity can be addressed through documentation and conservation efforts.

In carrying out this mission, the Department has a special focus on the languages of the vast Austronesian family (which includes the indigenous languages of Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan) and on other languages of Asia and the Pacific.

The department makes use of the full range of methodologies appropriate for the investigation of human language, including the standard analytic techniques of linguistic theory and description, the comparative method, the methods of anthropology and ethnography, and the techniques of cognitive science, including psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic experimentation, computer modeling, and interdisciplinary research that seeks to situate language in the larger domain of cognition.

In addition, we are committed to research and teaching in Language Documentation – addressing the threat to human linguistic and cultural diversity that comes from language endangerment and language loss, especially in the Pacific, where there is an urgent need for appropriate grammars, dictionaries, language planning, and educational programs. Please visit the Language Documentation Training Center site to see what some of our students and faculty are doing to help the preservation of underdocumented languages. The Department produces Language Documentation and Conservation, a free and online biannual journal. Members or graduates of the department have also edited the journal Oceanic Linguistics since its inception.

The teaching mission of the Department includes commitments at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. At the undergraduate level, we offer courses and certificates that satisfy the program requirements and/or complement the subject matter of other departments in the University (e.g., Anthropology, Communication, East Asian Languages and Literatures, Ethnic Studies, Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures, Languages and Literatures of Europe and the Americas, Philosophy, Psychology, Second Language Studies, Sociology, and Speech). An undergraduate major in linguistics is available through the Interdiciplinary Studies Program.

At the graduate level, the M.A. in linguistics offers a thorough introduction to the subject matter and skills of the discipline. The Ph.D. program provides full professional training for careers in research and teaching.