The Department of Linguistics is part of the School of Letters, Art and Media.

About the major

Linguistics is the scientific study of language, aimed at finding out what language is like, and why. Each of the world’s 6000 languages is a rich and textured system, with its own sounds, its own grammar, and its own identity and style. From the Amazon to Africa, from Southeast Asia to Aboriginal Australia, we use language to think with, to persuade others, to gather information, to organise our activities, to gossip, and ultimately to structure our societies.

Here are some of the questions you can investigate in linguistics:

  • How many different sounds can be made with the human vocal tract?
  • Are Australian English and Singapore English two separate languages?
  • How do we learn language in childhood versus in adulthood?
  • Is spoken language better than written language?
  • In conversation, how do people decide who speaks and when?
  • Why do Australians often sing in an American accent?
  • Are we unknowingly manipulated by the words used in the media?
  • Can a computer speak Japanese?
  • How and why do languages change?
  • What is it about the human mind that makes language the way it is?

In linguistics, you will learn how to investigate questions like these, using methods ranging from computer analysis to text analysis to research expeditions on previously undocumented languages. You will become a language and communication expert. The skills you will acquire in linguistics can be applied to the scientific study of the human mind and the diversity of cultures, and are relevant to a range of professional settings such as language teaching, general education, journalism and publishing, marketing and public relations, development studies, and computer science.

Pathways through the major

A major in Linguistics requires 36 senior credit points, including at least 12 credit points from core units of study at 2000 level and at least 12 credit points from core units of study at 3000 level, as specified below.

The units of study for the major can be found in the unit of study table for Linguistics. The table shows units of study on offer in the current handbook year. You may find information regarding a full list of units of study available to the major on the departmental website.

Junior units of study (1000 level)

You complete 12 credit points of junior units of study: LNGS1001 Structure of Language and LINGS1002 Language and Social Context. These junior units offer foundational knowledge before advancing to senior units.

Senior units of study (2000 and 3000 level)

You complete at least 6 senior credit points from each of the following four areas;

  • Analysis of sound
  • Analysis of grammar
  • Analysis of meaning
  • Applying methodologies

You also complete two elective units of study. You can choose from a pool of electives that the department offers or any of the core units listed in the unit of study table can also be taken as elective units.

Senior-intermediate units (2000 level) assume some foundational knowledge and include assessment types such as exams, exercises, problem-sets, and analysis tasks to assess students’ analytical skills.

Senior-advanced units (3000 level) assume knowledge in the analysis of sound and grammar and include inquiry-based assessment types such as research essays, reports, or interpretations to assess your research skills.

The four areas of study
Outcomes Core units Requirements
Analysis of Sound

LNGS2620 Phonetics, and/or

LNGS2621 Phonology

Must take at least one of these units
Analysis of Grammar

LNGS2602 Syntax and/or

LNGS2603 Functional Grammar

Must take at least one of these units
Analysis of Meaning

LNGS3609 Analysing Discourse and/or

LNGS3601 Semantics and Pragmatics

Must take at least one of these units
Applying Methodologies

LNGS3608 Computers, Discourse, Language and/or

LNGS3604 Field Methods and/or

LNGS3610 Language Change and Variation and/or

LNGS3605 Structure and Use of Language

Must take at least one of these units
Sample pathway through the Linguistics major
Sample pathway - Linguistics major
First year S1 LNGS1001 Junior unit Junior unit Junior unit
S2 LNGS1002 Junior unit Junior unit Junior unit
Second year S1


Analysis of grammar unit

Senior-intermediate elective LNGS units (2000 level)

Senior unit Senior unit


Analysis of sound unit
Senior unit Senior unit Senior unit
Third year S1


Analysis of meaning unit
Senior-advanced elective LNGS unit (3000 level) Senior unit Senior unit


Applying methodologies unit
Senior unit Senior unit Senior unit

Students considering enrolling in Linguistics honours are encouraged to consult with the Linguistics Honours Coordinator as early as possible, preferably towards the end of their third year. The department of Linguistics encourages joint honours programs. Admission to an honours year requires completion of 48 senior credit points from the Linguistics Program with an average of 70 percent or above.

Refer to the degree resolutions in this handbook and to the Faculty Admissions Policy for Honours:

Contact/further information

Department website:

Professor James Martin (Honours Coordinator)
Phone: +61 2 9351 4569

Professor Nick Enfiled (Chair of Department, contact details on department website)