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Programs / Arts / Linguistics

Program Details

The field of Linguistics is concerned with the formal description and analysis of language. As a student in the program, you will examine the following: the production, perception and acoustic properties of human speech sounds (phonetics); the patterns and variations of speech sounds (phonology); the categories, structure and creation of words (morphology); the structure of sentences (syntax); word, phrase and sentence meaning (semantics); language change and relationships among languages (historical linguistics); and language processing and first language acquisition (psycho/neurolinguistics).

Minor programs in American Sign Language, Mandarin Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish and Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies are also available. Certificate programs are also available in Teaching English as a Second Language (CTESL) and in American Sign Language (CASL).

Teaching and research

Carleton University is one of the leading universities in Canada in the fields of Linguistics, Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies, and Teaching English as a Second Language. SLaLS is recognized nationally and internationally for its research into both theoretical and applied linguistics. Faculty members carry out research in a variety of areas: syntax, phonology, psycholinguistics, historical linguistics, language acquisition, language teaching, curriculum development, language policy, language testing, adult literacy, educational linguistics, the development of writing abilities and the use of language in the workplace.

One of Carleton’s greatest assets is its location in the nation’s capital. As a student here, you will be able to take advantage of all that Ottawa offers, including access to the federal government, cutting-edge research facilities, national and international organizations and numerous national museums.

Bachelor of Arts (General) or (Honours)

Bachelor of Arts (Combined Honours)

What is language? How are languages organized? How are they represented in the brain? How do languages differ and how are they alike? These are some of the questions you will examine if you choose to study linguistics.

Our programs focus on seven key areas:

  • Phonetics. What kinds of sounds are used in human speech? How are they made? What are their acoustic properties?
  • Phonology. How do different languages use the sounds of human speech? How many different sounds does a language need?
  • Morphology. How are words constructed? How do they combine to form longer words?
  • Psycholinguistics. How is language processed? How do young children learn language, and do it so quickly?
  • Syntax. How are words combined into sentences? How do different languages organize words to communicate the same meaning?
  • Semantics. How is meaning conveyed and understood?
  • Historical linguistics. How and why do languages change? How are different languages related to one another?

Both the three- and four-year programs examine each of these areas, with more advanced studies available to students in the Honours program, which includes a thesis option.

Core courses

Core courses include an introduction to linguistics, linguistic analysis, phonetics, phonology, syntax and semantics. Students may also select from topics such as morphology, pragmatics, historical linguistics, language typology and universals, child language, and language and the brain.

Language proficiency requirement

Students in the program are required to have a working knowledge of at least one other language besides English by graduation. Proficiency is determined by successful completion of 1.0 credit in the language or by an oral or written test given by the School.

Combined programs

You may wish to combine your studies in Linguistics with studies in another discipline. You will need to fulfill the credit requirements for a combined program in both majors. You may also combine both of our own programs in the specially designated Combined Honours in Linguistics and Discourse Studies.

Minors

The School offers minors in American Sign Language, Chinese (Mandarin), German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish, each of which requires four credits in the language. Minors are also offered in Linguistics and in Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies.

First-year Seminar

BA students are encouraged to include a First-year Seminar (FYSM) in their first-year course load. These Seminars provide you with the chance to discuss and debate topics with your classmates and your professors in a small class of no more than 30 students.

A sample first year

First-year requirements are the same for our programs in Linguistics and in Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies. This common core will allow you to confirm or change your choice of major before you begin to specialize in second year.

  • 1.0 credit in Introduction to Linguistics and Introduction to Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies
  • 1.0 credit in a course from the Social Sciences Breadth Area, such as Introduction to Psychology I and II or Introduction to Sociology I and II
  • 1.0 credit in a modern language (American Sign Language, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian or Spanish)
  • 1.0 credit in a First-year Seminar
  • 1.0 credit in any other course of interest

The workplace

Career opportunities for students with a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics include language teaching, educational research, language planning and development, literacy work, lexicography, forensic linguistics, speech-language pathology, and computer speech production and recognition.

Graduate studies

Graduates of the Honours programs may be eligible for graduate studies in a variety of fields including theoretical linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive science, computational linguistics, speech-language pathology, applied linguistics, discourse studies, writing studies, language assessment and language education.

If you think that you may wish to pursue advanced studies, you are encouraged to investigate graduate programs early in order to ensure that your program is tailored to meet requirements at the graduate level.

Professional programs

Many professional programs, including law and teaching, welcome well-rounded applicants from a variety of backgrounds. Linguistics, or Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies, can be a strong foundation for a number of professional programs, and you are encouraged to pursue your interests in these fields.

What students are saying about Linguistics


The undergraduate Applied Linguistics program at Carleton, though it is small, is exceptional! The professors are extraordinary—they are always more than willing to provide extra assistance and answer any questions. They strive to get to know their students on an academic as well as a personal level. Going to class has never been so enjoyable!
Victoria Vanderstoep, Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies and concurrent CTESL student