Independent Major

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Requirements for an Independent Major in Linguistics

A student who wishes to pursue an Independent Major in Linguistics must plan their course of study so as to conform to the guidelines below. Due to this being an Independent Major, an interested student must complete an application, in accordance with ODOC guidelines.

The application is normally due one week before Fall semester Dean’s Date of the student’s sophomore year, and is to be submitted to the Program in Linguistics. The Program will then submit this application to the Office of the Dean of the College. A student who is interested in pursuing a Linguistics major can obtain an application form through a meeting with the Program’s Director of Undergraduate Studies, currently Professor Florian Lionnet ( This meeting must take place by the middle of the Fall semester of the student’s sophomore year.

Prerequisite: The student should have taken (or should be taking) LIN 201/CGS 205 (“Introduction to Language and Linguistics”) prior to submitting an application (i.e., during or before the Fall semester of their sophomore year). This prerequisite may be waived in special circumstances with the permission of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. In addition to the prerequisite, any student planning to major in Linguistics is strongly encouraged to complete at least one 300-level LIN course prior to the beginning of their junior year.

Requirements: Independent Majors in Linguistics must take eight courses beyond LIN 201, produce independent work in their junior and senior years, and complete an oral defense of their Senior Thesis. The details are as follows.

(i) Core
The student must take at least two of the following courses, on core linguistic theory: Phonetics/Phonology (typically fulfilled by LIN 301); Syntax (typically fulfilled by LIN 302); and Semantics (typically fulfilled by either LIN 303 or PHI 334/LIN 334). Those who are planning to go on to graduate school in Linguistics are strongly encouraged to take courses in all three core areas.

(ii) Methodology
(a) The student must complete LIN 400 (“Junior Seminar”) in the Fall semester of their junior year.

(b) The student must also take one other methodology class and is strongly encouraged to do so before their senior year. LIN 355 (“Field Methods in Linguistics”) is offered regularly, and is the primary way this requirement will be fulfilled. However, in some cases, a different LIN-designated course (one that is not taught regularly, e.g., LIN 356, “Experimental Linguistics”) may serve to fulfill this requirement.

(iii) Electives
(a) The student must take four other LIN courses, at least three of them at the 300 level or above; the fourth must be at the 200 level or above. (In rare cases, a linguistically-oriented course without a LIN designation can count as an elective, with the case-by-case approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.) Topics that are regularly offered include bilingualism, historical linguistics, and morphology, though this short list is meant to be merely illustrative and students are by no means confined to it.

(b) In addition, the student is encouraged to take additional courses that do not have the LIN designation, which will further their linguistic knowledge and goals, especially for the purposes of producing an excellent senior thesis. Possible topics include advanced language and literature, computer programming, linguistic anthropology, logic, philosophy of language, psycholinguistics, and statistics. (This list is not meant to be exhaustive.)

(iv) Independent Work
The student must complete both of the following research papers, on linguistic topics: a Junior Paper (JP) and a Senior Thesis (ST). Each is due in the Spring semester of the relevant year, on the respective University-set deadlines. Each student is encouraged to begin conceptualizing ideas for their independent work projects before the academic year when the project begins, through meetings with LIN faculty. The JP includes a JP prospectus, to be completed in the Fall of junior year, employing the skills concurrently being developed in LIN 400, “Junior Seminar.”

The JP and ST may be supervised by one of the two faculty members who serve as the student’s faculty advisors for the independent major, but need not be. Independent work advisors should be chosen as soon as possible, when the topic of each project becomes clear; for the JP, this should be mid-way through Fall semester of junior year, and for the ST this should be before or at the very beginning of senior year.

Each work requires at least one advisor who is within LIN; this is defined as someone who either: (a) is a core LIN faculty member (see this list), or (b) has the rank of Visiting Professor or Postdoctoral Research Associate, with “Linguistics” in their title. If a student chooses an independent work advisor from outside of LIN, they must also choose a secondary advisor who is within LIN.

Princeton Linguistics Major Independent Work Guidelines (PDF)

(v) Comprehensive Examination
In lieu of a separate examination for their ST work, the student must complete an oral defense of their senior thesis at the end of the Spring semester of their senior year. The defense is conducted by the student’s thesis advisor and their second reader, who will be selected by their advisor.

General requirements: Independent Majors in Linguistics must fulfill all the other requirements detailed on the ODOC website: the University writing, foreign language, and distribution requirements.

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Unlike other Independent Majors, a member of the Linguistics faculty, rather than one of the Residential College Deans, will act as Director of Undergraduate Studies. The Director of Undergraduate Studies will help first-semester sophomores (as well as freshmen) navigate the application process for an Independent Major, and will also meet with each Independent Major at least once per semester, starting in the second semester of their sophomore year, to discuss course selection, progress toward degree, and post-graduation aspirations.

Suggested (minimal) path through the major: Below is a loose sketch of a path that a student can take to progress through the LIN Independent Major in a timely manner.

  • Before junior year
    • LIN 201 (sophomore fall or earlier)
    • At least one 300+ LIN course (Elective or Core)
    • Additional courses optional (e.g., a 200-level Elective)
  • Junior year
    • Junior Independent Work
    • LIN 400 (Fall)
    • Methods (355 or 356)
    • One or two Core (301, 302, or 303/334)
    • One or two Electives (300+ advised)
  • Senior year
    • Senior Thesis
    • Any remaining required courses

Meet the Majors

See a list of our Linguistics Majors.

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