Universiteit Leiden

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Linguistics (BA)

Programme structure

This programme begins with a broad overview of the phenomenon of language and its use, before giving you the opportunity to develop specialised expertise in one of four areas.

Study programme

You have the choice of four specialisations for your BA in Linguistics, each of which you will focus on during the second and third year of the programme. The three year bachelor programme is taught entirely in English, except for the Taal en Communicatie (Language and Communication) specialisation which is offered in Dutch only.

The specialisations include:

Indo-European was spoken more than five thousand years ago by people who probably lived north of the Black Sea. Languages such as Sanskrit, Greek and Latin originate from this language, as do Dutch, English, French and Russian. Yet the Indo-Europeans did not leave behind any written sources. In Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, we try to reconstruct the language of the Indo-Europeans by learning, analysing and comparing many different languages.

All languages have a grammatical structure, but of the roughly six thousand languages in the world, only about five hundred have been documented to a reasonable extent. Thousands of languages are still waiting for an eager linguist to discover and document their structures before they are lost to extinction. Many others are currently spoken by vast numbers of people yet remain undocumented. Descriptive Linguistics focuses on this important and highly relevant aspect of the linguistics field.

Language is a system, and this system is what we study in linguistics. In the Language and Cognition specialisation, we explore language models that try to explain how language is represented in the brain, how children develop language systems and how brain damage can affect these systems. This specialisation touches on numerous research fields such as psychology, neuroscience and computer science.

People mainly use language to inform, entertain or convince. Yet whilst we know it has a functional use, which principles and rules do people apply when they use language in this way? Taught in Dutch, the specialisation Taal en Communicatie is about language in use, and explores the similarities and differences between languages and their associated cultures. This specialisation also looks at the way in which linguistic and non-linguistic communication interacts, and how culture plays an important role.

Some of the courses

Most of us are not surprised to hear a teenager say a popular slang word, but what if a fifty-year old does? Consciously and subconsciously, we use language to show that we belong to a certain group. In this course, we look at how language works as a social phenomenon.

Language consists of sounds (or signs), and while sounds themselves do not mean anything, they do convey meaning; we acquire language through its sounds. Phonology is about the sound systems of different languages: the units of sound and how they influence each other.

In this course, you study the variations in language use in the world’s lan­guages, particularly non-Western languages. You will study such issues as the variety of forms of address and ways to say good-bye as well as the function of proverbs and wordplay.

Of the 6000 languages in the world, only about 500 have been documented. To transcribe the words of an undocumented language you need an alphabet that can accommodate every language sound in the world – and in this course you learn to name, recognise and produce foreign sounds that you did not even know existed.

How do you fill in your electives?

Leiden University’s Bachelor’s in Linguistics programme offers you exceptional freedom to tailor the programme to match your interests. From your second semester you can select electives that fit with one of the four specialisations. During your second year, you are free to choose electives from another discipline or specialisation. During your third year your choices expand even further: you can choose between studying a minor, doing an internship, studying abroad, or creating a package of electives from other programmes or specialisations. The choice is yours!

Detailed programme

Below you can find an overview of the curriculum. For a detailed description of the courses, see the Prospectus. Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.

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