Undergraduate Program

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The undergraduate linguistics program at Cornell provides students with an opportunity to learn about the scientific study of human language in one of the most distinguished linguistics departments in the country. Although Cornell is a large university, the relatively small size of our undergraduate program allows students to enjoy seminar-style classes and close interaction with faculty members. Our undergraduate majors typically enjoy individual attention of a sort often not available in larger departments.

The undergraduate program offers students solid training not only in all major areas of theoretical linguistics—phonetics, phonology, syntax and semantics—but also in historical linguistics and computational linguistics. Our faculty's language area interests range from Indo-European languages (Germanic, Celtic, Romance, Slavic) to Japanese, Korean, Indonesian and Cheyenne. Undergraduate students have opportunities to work directly with faculty on original independent research projects as well as to get hands-on research experience through participating in faculty and graduate students' various research projects. Many of our undergraduate majors write honors theses. Visit the Honors Program section below to learn more.

Linguistics majors and minors are also encouraged to develop programs of study which focus on individual areas of special interest.  Please reference Courses of Study for a full listing of linguistics courses.  The major or minor can be combined with a related discipline such as anthropology, computer science, philosophy and psychology or can incorporate language study from Cornell's extensive offerings in both modern languages and classical languages.

The Department of Linguistics does not handle undergraduate admissions. Prospective students interested in majoring in Linguistics at Cornell should apply to the University directly for admission to Arts & Sciences. The linguistics major and minor are hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences.


Major Requirements:

For questions regarding the linguistics major, contact Professor D. Zec, 219 Morrill Hall, dz17@cornell.edu.

Ten courses (minimum of 37 credit hours) in linguistics and two ancillary skills courses are required to complete the major.

A. Prerequisites:

B. Foundation Courses:

Majors must complete all of the following courses.

C. Additional Courses:

Majors must complete 6 additional Linguistics courses (of 3 credits or more) selected in consultation with their advisor with the following conditions:

  • at least 2 of these must be at the 3000 level or above
  • no more than 1 of these may be at the 1000 level
  • no more than 1 of these may be satisfied by four credits of coursework with a CU-UGR designation

Any course with a LING prefix except for First-Year Writing Seminars and language courses counts as a linguistics course. Courses in other departments with a significant linguistic content will be considered by petition.

D. Ancillary Skills Courses:

In addition, majors must complete two courses (3 credits or more) in one or more of the following areas, selected in consultation with their advisor. This requirement is intended to equip them with practical skills relevant to their particular interests in linguistics. The Ancillary Skills Course requirement may be waived for students who are majoring in more than one field.

  • Statistics
  • Logic
  • Computer programming
  • Two semesters of study of a non-European or non-Indo-European language
  • Two semesters of study beyond the level required by the Arts College of a language relevant to the student’s particular areas of interest
  • Language teaching methodology

E. Additional Information:

Some substitutions to these standard requirements are possible by petition to your advisor and with approval by the director of undergraduate studies. All courses counted for the major must be taken for a letter grade. The minimum grade for courses applied to the linguistics major is C-.

Applying to Major Form

Major Certification Form


Minor Requirements:

The minor in linguistics gives students the opportunity to gain formal recognition for substantial coursework in linguistics without the burden of an additional major. The linguistics minor may be a valuable complement to studies in English, foreign languages, psychology, philosophy, computer science, biology, human development, or engineering and is open to undergraduates across Cornell.


Five courses in linguistics or courses approved for the linguistics major.

Minimum of 18 credits, including:

Additional Information:

Some substitutions to these standard requirements are possible by petition to your advisor and with approval by the director of undergraduate studies. All courses counted for the minor must be taken for a letter grade. The minimum grade for courses applied to the linguistics minor is C-.

Any course with a LING prefix except for First-Year Writing Seminars and Language courses counts as a linguistics course. Courses in other departments with a significant linguistic content will be considered by petition.

Interested students should consult with the Linguistics Director of Undergraduate Studies, D. Zec, 219 Morrill Hall, dz17@cornell.edu.  Students who declare the minor will consult with either the Director of Undergraduate Studies or an assigned minor advisor on the selection of courses appropriate to their academic objectives.

Applying to Minor Form

Minor Certification Form

Honors Program:

Honors in Linguistics are awarded for excellence in the major, including overall GPA and completion of an honors thesis. Applications for honors should be made by the start of fall term of the senior year.

Admissions: Admission to the honors program requires an overall GPA of at least 3.3 and a GPA in the major of at least 3.5.  A student may be admitted provisionally in the honors program at the discretion of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Thesis: In addition to the regular requirements of the major, the candidate for honors will complete an honors thesis.  Writing an honors thesis is typically a two-semester project involving eight credits of coursework conducted during the senior year.  During their first semester of honors work, students typically register for (1) LING 4493 - Honors Thesis Research (with their thesis advisor); and (2) LING 4491 - Honors Research Workshop I.  During their second semester of honors work, students are required to register for (1) LING 4494 - Honors Thesis Research (with their thesis advisor); and (2) LING 4492 - Honors Research Workshop II.

Upon completion of the thesis, the student takes a final oral examination defending the thesis. The oral examination will be conducted by the honors committee, consisting of the thesis advisor and at least one other faculty member in linguistics. Members of other departments may serve as additional members if the topic makes this advisable. Honors students are also required to deposit a copy of the final thesis with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Linguistics and are expected to give an oral presentation on their thesis topic during the department's year-end undergraduate honors colloquium. Honors are awarded by a departmental committee based on the thesis and overall academic record, guided by the honors committee's recommendation.

Applying for Honors form

Some Recent Honors Thesis Titles

  • Indirect Speech Acts and Invocations of Miranda Rights
  • Morphological Detransitivization in Korean
  • One of those situations where a relative pronoun becomes a complementizer
  • Schizophrenic Language: The Possibility of Early Detection
  • Potentially Useful, Momentously Difficult: Modeling Sentence Comprehension Difficulty with Potential Functions & Second Order Measurements
  • Memorizing Chinese Characters: A case study in spaced repetition rehearsal
  • Problematizing High Rising Terminal Intonation: Reanalyzing the phonetic features, discourse functions and social implications of HRT in the university classroom
  • Arabic Clauses and Subject Positions: Evidence for a Higher Ground
  • Evidence for Akkadian structure influence on Arabic: A case study in contact linguistics
  • Just Try and Cliticize This!
  • Child Interpretation of the Quantifier 'some': the Influence of the Partitive Construction
  • Nominative-Genitive Conversion in Japanese: The Structure and Its Implications


Job and Internship Resources:

LinguistList Jobs - academic jobs

LinguistList Internships - internship listing

LSA Jobs - academic jobs

LSA Linguistics Annual Report

Center for Applied Linguistics

Upwork - freelance linguistics jobs/projects, short term

HigherEd Jobs - academic jobs listing

US.jobs - wide range of technology, academic, and government jobs

Association for Computational Linguistics - jobs in computational linguistics

LinkUp - computational linguistics and academic jobs

Linkedin - linguistics related jobs

Indeed - academic jobs


Student Organizations:

The Cornell UnderLings (Cornell Undergraduates in Linguistics) is the undergraduate student group of the Cornell Department of Linguistics. It serves to seek unity in the body of linguistics majors and promote linguistics at the undergraduate level in the Cornell community and the broader academic community. We have weekly meetings in which members plan events and activities, discuss linguistics and share related information and simply have fun chatting about classes and professors. Some of the events we have had include:

  • Brunches with linguistics faculty members at Cornell dining halls
  • Seminars with Career Services about what to do with a linguistics degree
  • Movie nights showing linguistics/language-related movies ("The Linguists", etc.)
  • Operation infiltrate Morrill Hall and make an awful lot of noise (to advertise UnderLings T-shirts)

The Cornell UnderLings invites anyone who is interested in languages, language patterns, language usage, language change or just plain nerdiness to join us in Morrill Hall. You don't have to be in the linguistics major to experience and be a part of UnderLings!  To hear about UnderLings events, join our listserv by emailing Javier Agredo.

Join UnderLings on facebook    and on Twitter


Cornell Undergraduate Linguistics Colloquium:

The Cornell UnderLings host the annual Cornell Undergraduate Linguistics Colloquiums (CULC) to provide an opportunity for undergraduate linguistics majors from all over the world to present their research on linguistics.



Undergraduate Program Coordinator:
Jenny Tindall
203B Morrill Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853 USA
Telephone: (607) 255-1105
Email: jmw247@cornell.edu

Director of Undergraduate Studies:
Professor Draga Zec (dz17@cornell.edu)