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Undergraduate studies: Interdisciplinary BA in Linguistics

Linguistics is the scientific study of language.  Language is a human behavior, a product of the human brain.  It is used for social purposes, and can be acquired by human children and adults.  Languages are also a community’s means of communication — they change over time, and today, they are increasingly becoming endangered.  The subfields of linguistics are dedicated to understanding and explaining these aspects of language.

Undergraduates in Hawai’i have many good reasons to study Linguistics.

  • Knowledge about language is more important here than in most places in the country, because of the State’s unique diversity of languages — hundreds of languages from all over the world are spoken here.
  • Hawai’i offers a natural laboratory for trying to understand multilingualism, code-mixing (changing from one language to another mid-sentence), second language learning, language endangerment and revitalization (of the Hawaiian language, for example), and pidgins and creoles.
  • Languages are closely tied to cultural, geographic, and ethnic identity, issues that are central to Hawai’i’s education and politics.

Students at UH Manoa who study Linguistics discover that it helps them understand a number of different things:

  • how language is used as a means to gain and maintain power.
  • how it is used to influence people.
  • how it is tied to ethnic and geographical identity.
  • how it is processed by the mind.
  • how children acquire it.

Majoring in Linguistics

While the Department of Linguistics does not offer a prescribed undergraduate Linguistics major, students may major in Linguistics for the B.A. degree at UH Manoa through the Interdisciplinary Studies Program.  Students majoring in Linguistics through Interdisciplinary Studies have the opportunity to create a unique program tailored to his or her own individual interests.  In this program, students create for themselves a “major equivalent”, a coherent program of courses that is academically equivalent to a conventional major, with the guidance of two faculty advisors:  one in Linguistics, who helps you select the right courses for your purposes, and the other in Interdisciplinary Studies, who assists with the overall plan for your B.A.  To earn a B.A. in Linguistics through Interdisciplinary Studies, you must be enrolled in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences.

Application Procedure

To ensure that you can enroll in courses as they become available, you should plan to complete the following procedure as early as you can.

  1. Review the Program Sheet, which outlines the courses you will need.
  2. Contact the Interdisciplinary Studies Program at and declare your major with them. They will handle your general advising, such as your completion of General Education requirements and graduation requirements.
  3. Contact the Linguistics faculty advisor (Professor Amy Schafer at if you have questions about your major equivalent courses.


Your major equivalent must consist of 36 credit hours of course work, 15 of which must come from at least two disciplines other than linguistics. Course descriptions and prerequisites are available in the University Catalog. Some of these courses are not regularly offered. Students should consult Class Availability when making course selections, and strive to take courses at the earliest opportunity.

Required courses (15 credits):

LING 320 General linguistics (3)
LING 410 Articulatory phonetics (3)
LING 420 Morphology (3)
LING 421 Introduction to Phonological Analysis (3)
LING 422 Introduction to Grammatical Analysis (3)

And TWO from the following list (6 credits):

LING 347 Pidgin and Creole Languages (3)
LING 412 Psycholinguistics (3)
LING 415 Language and Gender (3)
LING 416 Language as a Public Concern (3)
LING 417 Language Endangerment and Revitalization (3)
LING 430 Animal Communication (3)
LING 431 Computational Modeling (3)
LING 445 Polynesian Language Family (3)
LING 470 Children’s Speech (3)

15 credit hours of course work in two other departments suited to students’ areas of interest and post-graduation plans: e.g., anthropology, English, foreign languages, information and computer sciences, music, philosophy, psychology, second language studies, etc.

Multiple undergraduate major and degree requirements are subject to the following:

  1. Students pursuing multiple majors or degrees must complete all five components listed above for each school or college involved.
  2. Shared General Education Core requirements, General Education graduation requirements, degree requirements, and college requirements may count towards multiple majors/degrees.
  3. The same course(s) may not be used to satisfy major requirements of multiple programs unless the same specific course is a shared requirement.
  4. Students must complete at least 15 credits of each of the multiple majors and degrees at UH Manoa.
  5. The decision to admit students into multiple undergraduate major or degree programs is at the discretion of the colleges/schools involved.

For additional information and to request approval to pursue multiple majors or degrees, students should consult their academic advisor.

Undergraduate Research

There are many opportunities for undergraduates to engage in linguistic research, both inside and outside of classes. Aside from the State’s natural laboratory, students also have access to the Language Analysis and Experimentation Laboratories, where they can conduct research on phonetics (the details of how speech sounds are produced), language perception, reading, computer models of language, and various other topics. Other library and funding resources are also available.

Many undergraduate courses also include Linguistics Beyond the Classroom activities as an opportunity to explore how the material learned in class can relate to current research being conducted in the fields of Linguistics and Second Language Studies. Visit LBC to see current opportunities.

Mentor Program

Undergraduate students taking linguistics courses, majors and non-majors alike, have the opportunity to work with a graduate student mentor. Mentors help interested students learn more about the field of linguistics by offering homework help and general advice regarding a broad range of things from applying to graduate school to using linguistic knowledge in the real world. Interested students are paired with mentors based on academic or linguistic interest.

For more information, or to sign up, please contact

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of Linguistics
1890 East West Road, Moore Hall 569  [map]
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96822 USA
Office Hours M-F  8 AM – 4:30 PM
+1(808) 956-8602 /

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