Stanford linguistics professor John Rickford (Ph.D., sociolinguistics '71) is an expert on African American Vernacular English.


The linguistics major is designed to acquaint students with the central aspects of linguistic structure and the methodologies and perspectives of the field.

Degrees Offered

  • B.A.
  • M.A.
  • Minor
  • Ph.D.

Study and Research Opportunities

  • B.A. and minor programs in linguistics
  • B.A./M.A. pathway in linguistics
  • M.A. and Ph.D. programs in theoretical linguistics

Information for First-Year Students (Freshmen)

High school students who plan to major in linguistics at UC Santa Cruz are not required to have any special background in linguistics. However, they will find it useful to begin study of a foreign language in high school and complete more than the minimum courses in science and mathematics.

Information for Transfers

Transfer students who intend to major in linguistics should complete two collegiate years of one foreign language or two math courses at the calculus level or beyond. In addition, students will find it helpful to have completed general education requirements.

While it is not a condition of admission, students from California community colleges may complete the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) in preparation for transfer to UC Santa Cruz.


  • Language engineering
  • Information processing: computer science and computer technology, information sciences, library science
  • Speech technology: speech synthesis and speech recognition
  • Advanced study in linguistics or in related fields 
    (such as experimental psychology or language or child development)
  • Education: educational research, bilingual education
  • Teaching: English, English as a second language, other languages
  • Speech pathology
  • Law

These are only samples of the field’s many possibilities.


Programs Abroad offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study at more than 100 host universities and colleges in 40 countries as part of their regular UC academic program. Students receiving financial aid can apply their award to a program abroad.

Awards, Honors, and Recognitions

Six of the Department’s faculty (current or emeriti) are Fellows of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA). In 2011 Professor Sandra Chung served as President of the LSA, in 2012 Chung was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2017 Chung gave UCSC's Distinguished Faculty Research Talk. Professor Adrian Brasoveanu received the Linguistic Society of America’s 2014 Early Career Award. Four of the Department's faculty have received the Dizikes Teaching Award from UCSC's Humanities Division.

Department Website

General Catalog Information

Course Requirements

All students are required to complete the following 12 courses in linguistics and related disciplines:

Seven named courses in linguistics:

  • Linguistics 50, Introduction to Linguistics
  • Linguistics 53, Semantics I
  • Linguistics 101, Phonology I
  • Linguistics 102, Phonology II
  • Linguistics 112, Syntax I
  • Linguistics 113, Syntax II
  • Linguistics 116, Semantics II

Five upper-division elective courses in linguistics, or approved substitutes in related fields.

Students may petition the department to have elective courses offered through other institutions or other UC programs applied toward the major requirements. Such courses must clearly fit into a coherent program of study in linguistics.

Foreign Language/Mathematics Competency Requirement

Linguistics majors are required to demonstrate either foreign language or mathematics competency as follows:

Foreign language competency: Students must successfully complete five quarters of language study at UC Santa Cruz or demonstrate an equivalent level of competence through a recognized language test or evidence of credit from another collegiate institution. In cases where five quarters of instruction for a language are not being offered at UCSC, students may opt (with the department's permission) to complete (or demonstrate equivalent level of competence for) three quarters of one language and three quarters of a second language. For Latin and Greek, three of the designated courses will be equivalent to all five quarters.

Mathematics competency: Alternatively, students with a strong formal background can choose to satisfy the mathematics competency requirement by demonstrating sufficient preparation in mathematics or computer science for advanced formal work in linguistics. At UCSC, this requirement is satisfied by passing two courses from the following list:

  • Applied Mathematics and Statistics 7 or 131
  • Computer Engineering 16
  • Computer Science 5C, 5J, 5P, 10, 11, 12A, 12B, 140, or 148
  • Mathematics 30, 100, 115, 160, or 161
  • Economics 11A
  • Philosophy 9
  • Any course that has one of the above courses as a prerequisite

Senior Comprehensive Requirement

In their senior year, linguistics majors must satisfy the senior comprehensive requirement in one of three ways.

Option 1: Successful completion of an upper-division UCSC linguistics "exit" course, once a student has completed the linguistics named courses 50, 53, 101 and 112, and has reached senior standing.

Option 2: Successful completion of a senior thesis supervised by a linguistics faculty member. The proposal for a senior thesis must be submitted for departmental approval at least three quarters prior to the quarter of graduation. Students enroll in Linguistics 195 (Senior Thesis) with the faculty adviser.

Option 3: Successful completion of a UCSC linguistics graduate course during a student's senior year. Students interested in this option must first receive approval from the instructor and the department.

More Information

Linguistics Department
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064
(831) 459-4988