University of Sydney Handbooks - 2017 Archive

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

About the major

Linguistics is the study of human language. It offers a variety of pathways to rewarding careers.

The goals of linguistics are to find out what language is like, and why, and to find ways to use this knowledge in understanding communication, culture, social life, and the human mind. 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 Indigenous Australia, we use language for thinking, persuading others, gathering information, organising our activities, gossiping, and ultimately structuring our societies.

Have you ever wanted to know:

  • In what ways are all languages the same, and in what ways can they differ?
  • Are Australian English and Singapore English two separate languages?
  • How many different sounds can be made with the human vocal tract?
  • How to read and write the phonetic alphabet?
  • How do languages change? And why?
  • Are we unknowingly manipulated by the words used in the media?
  • 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 field research expeditions on languages spoken anywhere from major cities to isolated villages. You will become a language and communication expert. The skills you will acquire in linguistics can be used in the study of the human mind and the diversity of cultures. These skills are relevant to a range of professional settings such as international relations, travel, community development, language teaching, general education, academic research, journalism and publishing, marketing and public relations, and computer science.

When you have completed your major in Linguistics you will be able to:

  1. examine linguistic issues by undertaking research that begins with a problem and uses methodologies chosen from a range of disciplines to solve that problem
  2. appropriately apply techniques to analyze and interpret sounds, structures, meanings, and functions of any language, from languages you already know well, to languages you have never encountered before
  3. develop intuitions and techniques for seeing underlying patterns in seemingly chaotic natural data, and for applying these intuitions and techniques in a broad range of research and professional settings (beyond linguistics)
  4. flexibly apply linguistic research techniques and outcomes in relevant research and professional applications, for example to do with education, translation, international relations, community development, communication, and language processing
  5. understand the nature of, and limits on, diversity in human languages
  6. understand the discipline of linguistics and its connections to other academic and professional disciplines
Pathways through the major

A major in Linguistics requires 36 senior credit points, including 12 credit points from core units of study at 2000 level and at least 6 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 must complete 12 credit points from: LNGS1001 Structure of Language and LNGS1002 Language and Social Context. These junior units offer foundational knowledge before advancing to senior units. They are also prerequisites for the senior intermediate (2000 level) units.

Core senior intermediate units of study (2000 level)

You must complete 12 senior credit points from these core units of study: LNGS2623 Phonetics and Phonology and LNGS2624 Grammar in the World's Languages.

Core senior advanced units of study (3000 level)

You must complete at least 6 credit points from these core units of study: LNGS3601 Semantics and Pragmatics or LNGS3608 Computers, Discourse, Language or LNGS3609 Text and Context

You also complete three 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.


Students considering enrolling in Linguistics honours are encouraged to consult with the Linguistics Honours Coordinator as early as possible, preferably during your second year of study. The department of Linguistics encourages joint honours programs.

Admission to an honours year requires completion of a Linguistics major at 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:

Chair of Department: Associate Professor Monika Bednarek

Phone: +61 2 9036 7201

Honours Coordinator: Professor Nick Enfield
Phone: +61 2 9351 2391