Linguistics and Cognitive Science

The Linguistics faculty at Pomona College have identified a number of educational objectives for linguistics majors. By the time of graduation, we intend that our students will:

  1. Have an understanding of how to approach the study of language scientifically;
    This is a key component in the LGCS 10 course (Introduction to Linguistics) and is reinforced in each of the core linguistics courses in the major. We take students' performance in these courses as an indicator of their success in achieving this objective.
  2. Question assumptions about language; This is another key aspect of both LGCS 10 and the core courses in the major. We teach our students to think critically about what constitutes ‘knowledge of language', and we evaluate their abilities in this domain via their performance in the courses mentioned above.
  3. Understand the arguments and evidence in favor of our innate language faculty;
    We introduce these concepts in LGCS 10 and reinforce them in each of our formal theoretical linguistics courses - namely, Syntax, Semantics, Phonology, and Morphology.
  4. Understand the difference between studying language as an internal object in the mind (i.e., our linguistic competence) vs. an external one (i.e., language use in society); This notion is introduced in LGCS 10 and reinforced to varying degrees in each of the
    core courses in the major, as well as LGCS 107 Pragmatics.
  5. Have knowledge of the core subfields in linguistics (syntax, semantics, and phonology); These competencies are developed and tested in the Syntax, Semantics, and Phonology courses (in addition to the 185 (‘Topics') seminars in each of these subjects), and tested again on the comprehensive examination during the senior year (for students who take the exam). Note, however, that due to the setup of the core requirement (see below), not all students take all three of the courses mentioned here.
  6. Develop a sophisticated understanding of one subfield of linguistics (syntax, semantics, phonology, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, or psycholinguistics);
    Students focus on a particular subfield of interest in the 185 (‘Topics') seminars, in Independent Study, and in preparing to write a senior thesis. Students are encouraged to take Topics courses in the junior year as preparation for the thesis, though in practice many students take Topics in the senior year since each Topics course is not offered every year (e.g., 185P Topics in Phonology is offered every other year) and since many of our students study abroad during the junior year.
  7. Be able to effectively use linguistic data to construct an argument;
    Students are asked to do this in each of the core courses in the major. In one course (Language in the Field), there is explicit instruction throughout the course on gathering the necessary data firsthand from a native speaker, and on how to write up analyses of aspects of the language's grammar using those data. In other courses, this skill is developed via problem sets that are assigned as homework, and through the writing of a final paper in courses that require it. We assess students' abilities in this area through their performance in the courses mentioned here as well as in the senior theses and comprehensive exams.
  8. Conduct independent research of a theoretical and/or empirical nature.
    We expect advanced students to understand the linguistic theory in some subfield well enough to be able to make at least a minimal contribution to the literature, either in terms of developing or modifying a theory, or in carrying out a novel empirical study that tests predictions of a theory. Usually the first test of this ability is in the writing of a final paper in a Topics course; for most students, this skill is exercised and developed further in the writing of a senior thesis.