Linguistics department offers unique courses, global concepts

Baylor's Carroll Science Building is home to the linguistics department, which offers courses about world languages, their origins and other applications. Mireya Sol Ruiz | Multimedia Journalist

By Sophie Acebo | Reporter

The linguistics department is one of many unique areas of study offered at Baylor, teaching students about the origins and applications of language in culture.

On the program website, linguistics is described as “the scientific study of language. Instead of trying to learn individual languages, linguists want to know how language works.”

Dr. Jeannette Marsh is an associate professor of English and linguistics and the coordinator of the linguistics program at Baylor. She works to serve linguistics students and talks to potential students who are interested in the program.

“I do things that have to do with the program, like establishing what the courses are going to be every semester,” Marsh said. “Also meeting with high school students who are thinking about majoring in linguistics.”

Marsh has always had a passion for language, but did not discover linguistics until after her undergraduate journey.

“I always loved languages…I wanted to just keep on understanding the grammar and how the languages worked,” Marsh said. “I realized I wasn’t a typical foreign language student who wants to read literature.”

DeKalb, Ill., junior Ryan Hudson is a linguistics major and said there are a variety of routes students can take when studying linguistics.

“Sometimes it’ll focus on the psychology of how people pick up languages and what the differences are there, which is psycholinguistics,” Hudson said. “There’s also sociolinguistics which is more of how we use language to establish ourselves in society and interact with people. You can also do anthropological linguistics which is how it has all developed.”

Hudson had not always pictured himself studying linguistics, but quickly realized how passionate he truly was about the subject.

“I went to Spain, and in Spain I was in this community of people who primarily emigrated from Latin America, and so there were several different Spanish accents all in the same place and I got really excited about it,” Hudson said. “I was telling people about all the different dialects I learned and which one was my favorite, and someone suggested I study languages.”

One of the things that Hudson said he loves most about the program is the amount of languages he has gotten to study and learn in the past few semesters.

“I like taking a lot of languages,” Hudson said. “I like the fact that, as part of my degree, I’ve studied Russian, Spanish, American Sign Language, Old English and Hebrew just in the last two-and-a-half years.”

Linguistics also guides students into thinking more deeply into how we communicate with one another, an aspect of the program that Hudson said drew him in.

“It makes me think differently about the way that I use language and the way that I interpret how others use language,” Hudson said. “It gives me a lot more understanding about the way people say things…I feel like I know people better when I can understand the way they communicate.”

As for the job market, Marsh said studying linguistics is not restrictive and can apply to almost any job one may find.

“Regardless of what avenue you go down, you come out with really strong problem-solving skills, critical thinking, finding patterns and new data, writing arguments, and those skills are ones you can take almost anywhere,” Marsh said. “There’s also awareness to different linguistic situations… it makes you more sensitive to those whose first language might not be English and more sensitive in bilingual situations. There’s no one thing.”

For the first time in the Spring 2020 semester, the course Language in Society, or LANG 1305, will be offered at the freshman level for students who may be interested in the program.

Academics aside, Marsh said linguistics is vital in helping people understand and connect with each other around the world.

“It gives us a better window into how people who are not like us think…it just makes us better people,” Marsh said. “We’re in a global economy, communication is across the world and it just makes sense to be able to communicate with people in their language.”

In all aspects of life, Marsh said linguistics connects people from across oceans and makes the world more united.

“In this divisive time where there’s a lot of hate and isolation, the better we can communicate with each other, the better world we’ll have,” Marsh said.

For more information about the program, email Dr. Jeannette Marsh.