Linguistics at Cambridge
Linguistics is the systematic study of human language. Superficially, there’s huge variation among the world’s languages, and linguists not only describe the diverse characteristics of individual languages but also explore properties which all languages share and which offer insight into the human mind.
The study of linguistics draws on methods and knowledge from a wide range of disciplines. For instance, the study of meaning draws on philosophy, the analysis of the speech signal uses methods from physics and engineering, and the study of language acquisition draws on psychology.
This variety is one of the things that makes linguistics fascinating: one day you might be poring over a medieval text for evidence of how the grammar of a language has changed, and the next, learning about how the larynx creates sound energy for speech, or how we can record brain responses in a categorisation task.
The Department has internationally acknowledged expertise across an unusually wide range of language-related disciplines, both theoretical and applied. Situated within the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics benefits greatly from colleagues specialising in the linguistics of particular European languages.
Additional course costs
There are no compulsory additional course costs for Linguistics. However, depending on the topic they choose, some students may incur some additional costs (eg research trips) for their dissertation in Year 3. Full course details are available on the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics website and if you have any queries about resources/materials, please contact the Department (see fact file, right).
To be able to change course, you need the agreement of your College that any change is in your educational interests, and you must have the necessary background in the subject to which you wish to change – in some cases you may be required to undertake some catch-up work or take up the new course from the start/an earlier year. If you think you may wish to change course, we encourage you to contact a College admissions office for advice. You should also consider if/how changing course may affect any financial support arrangements.
Part II of Linguistics is also available to some undergraduates who have successfully completed Part I of another course. It may be taken either as a two-year course or as a one-year course for those who have taken a two-year Part I. Alternatively, it's possible to choose linguistics options within the Modern and Medieval Languages course.
The broad interdisciplinary training we offer provides our graduates with transferable skills that are greatly sought after by employers; for example, students learn to analyse quantitative data, construct abstract grammatical models, and test alternative hypotheses. Linguistics graduates find employment in a wide range of professions, from journalism to banking.
Linguistics provides particularly good preparation for vocational training too, in fields such as speech therapy, teaching, speech and language technology (eg developing speech recognition and translation software), law, translation, interpreting, and even forensic linguistics. Familiarity with a range of human languages is also a huge advantage in careers where rapid learning of unfamiliar languages may be involved, such as in the Diplomatic Service.