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Doing Honors in Linguistics

Honors preparations:


Students participating in the Honors program in Linguistics will complete the following preps to complete their Honors portfolio, depending on their major/minor configurations:

Regular Honors majors:
  • Write a two-credit thesis in Ling 195 Senior Honors Thesis (senior fall semester);
  • Write two Honors papers in Ling 199 Senior Honors Study for 1 credit (senior spring semester).
Regular Honors minors:
  • Write one Honors paper in Ling 199 Senior Honors Study for 0.5 credits (senior spring semester)
  • No thesis necessary.

Course major/honors minors:

  • Write a two-credit thesis in Ling 195 Senior Honors Thesis (senior fall semester)
  • No additional honors papers necessary.

Honors special majors in Linguistics & Languages:

  • Write a two-credit thesis in Ling 195 Senior Honors Thesis (senior fall semester);
  • Write two Honors papers in Ling 199 Senior Honors Study for 1 credit (senior spring semester);
  • Take one additional Honors exam administered by the relevant language department.
Ling 195: Senior Honors Thesis

Honors majors and course major/Honors minors will enroll in Ling 195, normally in the Fall of their senior year. Students in Ling 195 are assigned a thesis advisor within the department. Ling 195 meets together with students in Ling 100, the thesis seminar for course majors, and has the same requirements, but Honors theses are held to a somewhat higher standard. The thesis may be on any topic in Linguistics for which the student has sufficient background (usually defined as two previous preparations, normally consisting of coursework and/or research experiences). It is especially important that Honors students complete and defend their thesis in the Fall semester, though they may continue with additional revisions into the spring. At the end of the Fall semester students in Ling 195 are given a grade of IP. In mid-to-late-April, their completed thesis is sent to an external Honors examiner, who will then conduct an oral examination consisting of a discussion of up to one hour during Honors weekend. The final thesis grade is determined by the external examiner. For students completing a course major and Honors minor in Linguistics, the thesis is the only Honors prep required.


Ling 199: Senior Honors Study

Ling 199 is overseen by the department chair. Honors majors will take Ling 199 for one credit in the Spring of their senior year and write two independent research papers. Honors minors will take Ling 199 for one half credit in the Spring of their senior year and write one independent research paper. Each paper counts as an Honors prep and will be examined by an outside reader. The student will prepare for these research papers by taking at least two credits of course work in each of the research paper areas. The areas can be selected from any combination of the following, possibly in combination with other coursework in Linguistics:

  • phonetics
  • phonology
  • morphology
  • syntax
  • semantics
  • historical linguistics/language change
  • sociolinguistics
  • field methods
  • computational linguistics

Early in the Fall of their senior year, students will be asked by the Chair to select two courses they have completed to serve as preps for each of their Honors papers. Honors majors writing two papers should choose four distinct courses, two for each paper. As the range of possible research topics drawing from the combination of those two courses may be quite broad, students should also specify a more specific area to focus on. For  example, a student using Syntax II and Semantics as their preps may wish to specify relative clauses or quantifiers as their area of focus, a student combining Sociolinguistics and Phonetics & Phonology may choose loanword adaptation, or a student combining Morphology and Structure of Navajo may want to focus on Athabaskan verbs. The chair may request that students adjust or broaden their focus areas to make it feasible to find external Honors examiners to evaluate them.

Once an external examiner is identified for each research paper, the chair will provide them with the syllabi for each course the student is using as preparation for each paper. The examiner will come up with three questions, topics, or prompts based on those courses, at least one of which should be within the specified focus area. The student will usually receive their prompts in December or January and will have two weeks to choose one of them to write on for each of their papers. If the student declines all three choices, they will be offered a fourth which they must then accept.

These prompts may provide specific data or literature for the student to engage with, or may be broader in their scope. In general, they will require the student to do background reading and synthesize the ideas/data found there with their preexisting knowledge to argue for a particular analysis or approach. Students should expect to argue for or against others' analyses, and possibly make a proposal of their own that improves on them in some way or accounts for some key piece of data. 

Students will work independently on their research papers; the faculty cannot discuss specific points of analysis, but can clarify general concepts from coursework. Each finished paper should be about 4000 words (~12 pages, single-spaced). The papers must be completed by mid-April, at which point they are sent to the Honors examiners. The oral examination will consist of a forty-five minute discussion with the external reader for each paper, who will assign it a grade. The discussion will cover the papers and any other material pertinent to the two credits of coursework offered in preparation for the paper.