Students communicating using sign language

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. The department’s core disciplines — phonetics, phonology, syntax, semantics, and morphology — aim to uncover the underlying structures of language. Its other linguistic subfields — sociolinguistics, language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and computational linguistics — investigate the interaction of language with a variety of social, cognitive, neuroscientific, and computational factors.



Undergraduate majors


The Linguistics department offers an undergraduate BA in Linguistics, a BA in Romance Linguistics, and a minor in American Sign Language (ASL) and Linguistics. At the graduate level, the department offers a PhD in Linguistics and a professional MS in Computational Linguistics (CLMS) aimed at preparation for careers in industry at the intersection of computer science and linguistics.

The department offers a range of undergraduate and graduate courses, from small research workshops and seminars to large omnibus introductory courses resulting in an average of 3,000 enrolled undergraduates per year. The more advanced courses, which count towards our major, are typically small (less than 30 students); many are attended by both advanced undergraduate and introductory-level graduate students. Cross-listed courses in eight departments attest to the interdisciplinary nature of the department’s offerings.

The undergraduate degree program incorporates concepts of linguistics with a research-driven curriculum to introduce students to the theory and methods of the field, and to nurture critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills that translate to careers inside and outside of academia. Many of our undergraduate students collaborate directly with faculty members, often in one of our five collaborative research laboratories. Students in the undergraduate honors program take one graduate-level research seminar and complete a senior thesis based on their own original research under the direction of a linguistics faculty member.

In our highly competitive PhD programs, graduate students are fully supported through a combination of teaching, grant-funded research, and fellowships. Our PhD students are encouraged to apply for their own research and education funding and have a high success rate.


July 2019 - June 2020

  • 98 Undergraduate majors
  • 31 PhD students
  • 99 Professional Master of Science students

Degrees Awarded

July 2018 - June 2019

  • 46 Bachelor of Arts degrees
  • 31 Master of Science degrees
  • 3 Master of Arts degrees
  • 7 PhD degrees

Student Awards

2015 - 2020 (highlights)

  • 4 Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships
  • 3 Fulbright Fellowships
  • 1 Hanban Confucius Institute Scholarship
  • 1 LabEx EFL Mobility Grant (French-American governmental exchange award)
  • 1 UK-Ireland Scholarships Nominee
  • 15 Linguistics Research Excellence Awards
  • 1 Li Fang-Kuei Award
  • 1 Microsoft Research Women’s Research Fellowship
  • 2 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships
  • 3 Phi Beta Kappa
  • 2 UW Graduate School Presidential Dissertation Fellowships
  • 1 Ilse D. Cirtautas Fellowship


Winter 2020

    Linguistics has 21 faculty members, with an additional 35 adjunct or affiliate faculty, including:

    • 6 Professors
    • 2 Associate Professors
    • 4 Assistant Professors
    • 3 Associate Teaching Professors
    • 1 Acting Instructor
    • 5 Lecturers
    • 20 Adjunct Faculty from other campus departments
    • 15 Affiliate professors from local industries and other universities
    • 7 Emeritus Professors

    Recent faculty awards and leadership roles:

    • University of Washington Distinguished Teaching Award
    • Editor: Phonology
    • Editor: Journal of French Language Studies
    • Associate Editor: Language and Speech
    • Associate Editor: Journal of Slavic Linguistics
    • R1edu Award
    • 2 NSF Career Awards
    • President, Linguistics Society of America
    • President, Washington ASL Teacher Association
    • Research funding from NSF, NIH, IARPA, DARPA and private sources
    • Six recipients of the Howard and Frances Nostrand Endowed Professorship since 2004


    The department specializes in the core theoretical areas of syntax, semantics, morphology, phonology, and phonetics as well as in computational linguistics, language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and sociolinguistics. To support this research there are five research/teaching laboratories in the department: computational linguistics, language development and acquisition, phonetics, phonology, and sociolinguistics.

    The interdisciplinary nature of linguistics is reflected in the large number of current collaborations within linguistics and with departments outside of linguistics. These include several interdisciplinary research grants, the greatest number of which are with computer science, electrical engineering, bioinformatics, and speech and hearing sciences.

    Areas of Scholarship

    • Computational Linguistics
    • History of Linguistics
    • Indigenous Languages
    • Language Acquisition
    • Language Processing
    • Morphology
    • Perceptual Studies
    • Phonetics
    • Phonology
    • Psycholinguistics
    • Romance Linguistics
    • Semantics
    • Sociolinguistics
    • Syntactic Theory


    • Howard and Frances Nostrand Professorship
    • Endowed Graduate Fellowship

    Research Grants

    Our research grants come predominantly from the National Science Foundation, while the National Institutes of Health and private/corporate sources also make up a significant portion of the funding. Internal grants, such as UW’s Royalty Research Fund (RRF) and the department’s Linguistics Fund, make up a smaller portion of the funding. Our faculty are PIs or Co-PIs on research grants totaling about $5 million for July 2019-June 2020.


    The Linguistics Department encourages its faculty and students to engage our community to bring the latest research findings to the public in an effort to address social, cultural, educational, and societal issues. A few highlights include:

    • UW Linguistics is a local host for the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad, an international contest in which middle school and high school students solve linguistics puzzles. Our local participants regularly go on to represent the United States in the International Linguistics Olympiad.
    • Graduate students and post-docs in linguistics organize and staff an annual exhibit at Paws on Science at the Pacific Science Center, engaging children and adults with hands-on linguistics activities.
    • Our faculty are represented on the advisory group on Standards for World Languages to Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board.
    • UW Linguistics hosts a joint symposium series in computational linguistics with Microsoft.
    • Our faculty work with ASL teachers at the state and national levels.
    • Our faculty and students work to raise awareness in the general community of signed languages, Deaf culture, and cultural appropriation.
    • Through University Beyond Bars, graduate students give two-hour talks to inmates at Monroe Correctional Facility on the diversity of world languages.
    • Our faculty host conferences, including the Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics 29th Annual Meeting.
    • Linguistics grad students organize and host conferences, including the Northwest Linguistics Conference 2020.
    • Linguistics undergrad student presented research developed in a linguistics lab at the 4th Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Linguistics Symposium.


    Department of Linguistics
    Box 352425
    University of Washington
    Seattle, WA 98195
    (206) 543-2046


    last update: February 2020