Linguistics

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Introduction to the Major

Faculty members talk about what you can learn and what makes this major special.

Mission Statement

The main goal of Linguistics is to provide scientific answers to questions such as "Why is it that only humans can speak language?" and "What kind of creatures are humans?" by examining human language. The Linguistics major's mission is to explain, in a scientific manner, salient properties of human language, which cannot be found in the communication system of other animals.

In the Linguistics major, we attempt to analyze complex and elaborate structures found in human language. Based on the core fields of linguistics, including Phonetics (study of linguistic sounds), Phonology (theory of sound system), Morphology (study of the internal structure of words), Syntax (study of the internal structure of phrases and sentences), Semantics (study of linguistic meaning) and Pragmatics (study of linguistic expressions and contexts), we investigate theoretically what constitutes the system of language that is incorporated in the human brain/mind. Humans generally gain the ability to speak a native language with no special effort. It is not that Japanese babies speak Japanese natively because they are Japanese citizens. They will speak Swahili natively if they are born and raised in the environment where Swahili is mainly spoken. Regardless of race, nationality, and sex, babies effortlessly acquire any language spoken around them in a relatively short period of time. Why is such a thing possible? We know how hard it is to learn a foreign language; many miraculous elements must therefore be involved in the native language acquisition process.

Modern Linguistics hypothesizes that humans are equipped with a biological program that makes native language acquisition possible. The Linguistics major examines language from various perspectives and works towards better understanding of the nature of this biological program.

Learning Goals

The following learning goals are pursued in the Linguistics major:

    1. Learn scientific methodologies in linguistics and conduct analyses of linguistic structure.
    2. Investigate mechanisms generating universal properties of linguistic structure.
    3. Understand how linguistics interacts with other closely related academic fields (cognitive science, psychology, brain science, philosophy, mathematical logic, etc.).
    4. Investigate the nature of human existence through the study of language.
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