Madeline Claire Bossi '17

Madeline Claire Bossi

I arrived at Pomona College clueless about what I wanted to study and decided to take the Introduction to Linguistics course on a whim. I’ve always been a language nerd—growing up, two of my favorite books were my Spanish and French children’s dictionaries—but after just a few linguistics classes I was in awe at the innate linguistic knowledge that we have stored in our brains. How would you pronounce the word ‘wug’? I’m guessing that it rhymes with ‘bug.’ How do we all arrive this same conclusion? Though we’re taught in school never to end a sentence with a preposition, we’re certainly never taught how to pronounce the nonsense word ‘wug.’ It’s the ability to tap into and explain these linguistic intuitions that really attracted me to the linguistics.

For the past two years, I’ve been involved in research on the language Kipsigis, which is spoken in western Kenya by approximately 1.9 million native speakers. It’s surprising that you’ve never heard of a language spoken by so many people, right? Learning about and documenting these under-studied languages is just one of the many parts of linguistic research that I love. This project culminated in a paper, which is currently in the publication process, as well as a conference presentation. As an undergraduate considering linguistics grad school, I’m so grateful to have these types of research experiences under my belt.

Language permeates all social interaction, whether you’re answering a question in biology class or talking to a friend on the phone. As a linguistics student, you have the opportunity to learn not only the ins and outs of language structure, but also the ways in which language is used and viewed in society. Language is all around us; by studying linguistics, you get the chance to explore an incredibly complex phenomenon that we all take for granted.

The linguistics department consists of an amazing group of professors who are always willing to go the extra mile for their students!