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Programs / Arts / Linguistics (BA)

Program Summary

Linguistics is the scientific study of one of the most fundamental aspects of being human: using language to communicate.  Linguists explore a range of fascinating ideas including the following: what it means to know a language; how we process and produce language; language structure; how children acquire language; variation and diversity in languages across the globe; language disorders and delays; and how languages change over time.

At Carleton, students learn to study linguistics from a dedicated faculty with a diverse set of research interests, including theoretical and experimental approaches and methods.

Students in the BA Honours can choose from two concentrations to tailor their Linguistics degree to their interests: Linguistic Theory or Psycholinguistics & Communication Disorders.  Qualified students in the Psycholinguistics & Communication Disorders concentration have the opportunity to take a practicum course that provides clinical experience in speech-language pathology.

Linguistics can also be taken as a Bachelor of Science degree.

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 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.


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.

Certificate in the Teaching of English as a Second Language (CTESL)

Carleton’s program, offered through the School of Linguistics and Language Studies, is one of Canada’s oldest and best-known TESL programs.

The CTESL program includes courses in theory and methodology, as well as a practicum that includes opportunities for classroom observation and supervised teaching in a variety of settings. With the proper course selection, the program may be taken simultaneously with the four-year Honours program in Linguistics or Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies, or with other majors, allowing you to graduate with both a degree and a certificate at the same time. You can also pursue this program as a post-degree certificate.

The CTESL program concentrates on teaching English to adults, either in Canada or abroad. It is widely recognized in Canada as a qualification to teach ESL at the post-secondary level in private language schools, colleges and universities. Overseas, it can lead to teaching positions at the elementary and secondary school levels, as well as at the adult level.

Certificate in American Sign Language (CASL)

Our CASL program is designed for anyone wishing to benefit from an officially recognized capacity for communicating with members of the deaf community who use American Sign Language. Students in the ASL Minor are able to obtain a Certificate if they fulfill the additional requirements. The CASL program may be taken simultaneously with the Honours program in Linguistics or Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies, or with other majors, allowing you to graduate with both a degree and a certificate at the same time. You can also pursue this program as a post-degree certificate.

First year experience

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.

The workplace

Graduates of a Linguistics program find careers in speech-language pathology, natural language processing, branding/advertising, second language learning technology, artificial intelligence, speech recognition, governmental language policy, forensic linguistics, translation/interpretation, lexicography, etc.

Linguistics graduates are regularly hired at Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Duolingo, etc.

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 (BA)

The undergraduate Linguistics program at Carleton is extraordinary. The professors and faculty pay extra attention to detail when it comes to making course content both comprehensive and incredibly enjoyable. My experience at Carleton helped me fall in love with Linguistics even more than I could’ve imagined. If you’re interested in Linguistics or learning more about it, Carleton University is the place for you.
Jesse Thandni, Linguistics student

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