Students communicating using sign language

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. The core disciplines — phonetics, phonology, syntax, semantics, and morphology — aim to uncover the underlying structures of language. Sociolinguistics investigates the interaction of language with social factors. Psycholinguistics studies cognitive components of language, including acquisition. Computational linguistics investigates language structure using programming tools.



Undergraduate majors


The department offers a range of undergraduate and graduate linguistics courses, from small research workshops and seminars to large omnibus introductory courses resulting in an average of 170 undergraduate majors per year over the last five years. The more advanced courses, which count towards our major, are typically small (less than 35 students), and many are withers 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. Three Linguistics classes fulfill Data Science minor requirements. Since 2007, Linguistics has been the home department for American Sign Language (ASL), now offered through third year of language study.

Degrees offered:
  • BA in Linguistics (option: with Honors)
  • Minor in ASL
  • Minor in Linguistics
  • PhD in Linguistics
  • PhD in Computational Linguistics
  • MA in Linguistics
  • MS in Computational Linguistics
  • Professional MS in Computational Linguistics

The research-driven undergraduate curriculum in linguistics introduces students to theoretical concepts and research methods, and nurtures 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 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 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. The professional MS in Computational Linguistics (CLMS) prepares students for careers in industry at the intersection of computer science and linguistics.


Seven 2019 PhD graduates in purple caps and gowns
2019 PhD graduates Amie Dejong, David Inman, Alexander Sugar, Mary Fitzmorris, Kellianne Bennett Yang, Rik Kedziorski, and Kirby Conrod.

Autumn 2023

  • 178 Linguistics majors
  • 30 Linguistics minors
  • 27 ASL minors
  • 28 PhD students
  • 100 Professional Master of Science students

Degrees Awarded


  • 52 Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics
  • 14 Minors in Linguistics
  • 3 Minors in ASL
  • 51 Master of Science in Computational Linguistics
  • 5 PhD in Linguistics

Student Awards

Prominent Graduate Student Awards

  • Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships
  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
  • University of Washington Presidential
  • Chiang Ching-Kuo dissertation fellowship
  • Graduate Research Excellence Award
  • MS in Computational Linguistics Scholarship
  • Ryan Neale Cross Memorial Fellowship
  • Arienne Dwyer Language Documentation Award
  • Endangered Language Fund Sharing Language Diversity Fellowship
  • University of Washington Presidential Dissertation Fellowship

Prominent Undergraduate Student Awards

  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Summa Cum Laude
  • Magna Cum Laude
  • Cum Laude
  • UW Chester Williams Fritz Award in the Humanities


Professor lecturing next to images displayed on classroom screen.
Professor Naja Ferjan Ramírez teaching Humanities 101: Health and Wealth, Autumn 2021.

Autumn 2023

    Linguistics has 19 faculty members, with 36 additional adjunct or affiliate faculty, including:

    • 7 Professors
    • 5 Associate Professors
    • 7 Assistant Professors
    • 22 Adjunct Faculty from other campus departments
    • 16 Affiliate Faculty
    • 7 Emeritus Professors

    Awards and leadership roles include:

    • UW Distinguished Teaching Award
    • Editor: Phonology
    • Editor: Journal of French Language Studies
    • Associate Editor: Language and Speech
    • Associate Editor: Journal of Slavic Linguistics
    • Mellon Fellowship for Emeritus Faculty
    • NSF Career Award
    • Presidents (3), Linguistic Society of America
    • Presidents (2), Washington ASL Teacher Association
    • Acoustical Society of America Fellow
    • Ken Hale Prize awardee, Linguistic Society of America
    • Research funding from UW RRF, NSF, NIH, DARPA, IARPA, and private sources


    Five research/teaching laboratories in the department — phonetics, sociolinguistics, computational linguistics, language processing and acquisition, and neuroplasticity and language — support faculty, graduate and undergraduate research. The interdisciplinary nature of linguistics is reflected in the large number of collaborations between Linguistics and other departments. These include several research grants, the greatest number of which are with computer science, electrical engineering, bioinformatics, and speech and hearing sciences. 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. UW-internal grants, such as the Royalty Research Fund and the department’s Linguistics Fund, make up a smaller portion of the funding. Many of the research grants represent collaborations with faculty in different areas of linguistics as well as in other fields such as computer science, electrical engineering, medicine, psychology, sociology, speech and hearing sciences, and languages. 

    Areas of Scholarship

    • Phonetics

    • Phonology

    • Morphology

    • Syntax

    • Semantics

    • Sociolinguistics

    • Historical Linguistics

    • Indigenous Languages

    • Psycholinguistics (Acquisition, Processing)

    • Computational Linguistics


    • Howard and Frances Nostrand Professorship
    • Julia and Michael Herschensohn Endowment for Linguistics
    • E. and R. Phelps Endowed Graduate Support Fund
    • Arienne Dwyer Language Documentation
    • Ryan Neale Cross Memorial Fellowship in Linguistics


    The Linguistics Department encourages its faculty and students to bring the latest research findings to the public in order to address social, cultural, educational, and societal issues.

    • UW Linguistics is a local host for the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad, an international contest in which middle 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 in linguistics hold Software Carpentry workshops, which teach researchers the basics of reproducible scientific computing.
    • Our faculty are represented on the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Advisory group on Standards for World Languages.
    • UW Linguistics hosts a joint symposium series in computational linguistics with Microsoft.
    • Our ASL faculty work with ASL teachers at state and national levels.
    • Our faculty and students work to raise awareness in the general community of signed languages, Deaf culture, and cultural appropriation.


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

    last update: December 2023