Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguists are interested in questions such as the following:
- What are the structural properties of languages, at the level of sounds, words, sentences, and meaning?
- To what extent are the languages of the world similar or different?
- How is language acquired, by children and in adulthood?
- How is it processed in the mind/brain?
- How do people produce and perceive speech?
- How do languages change over time?
Linguistics is a highly interdisciplinary field which combines research methods from the humanities and the social, natural, and mathematical sciences.
Research in the Department covers a broad range of topics, with substantial coverage of syntax, semantics, morphology, phonetics, phonology, and pragmatics. We approach these topics from several different research traditions and backgrounds, with particular strengths in formal-theoretical linguistics, experimental and field linguistics, acquisition, and computational approaches to the study of communicative behaviour. These research areas intersect and overlap considerably, and faculty and students are often simultaneously involved in more than one area. This is part of the attention paid to interfaces between traditional subfields of linguistics and methodological traditions (e.g., laboratory phonology, gesture and speech and learning), one of the great strengths of the Department.
The Department also has a strong commitment to the study of Languages of the Americas, with particular focus on First Nations Languages of Canada, in the areas of documentation and theoretical research, something for which it is well known. Research is not restricted to Languages of the Americas, however; the department also has a long history of work on African languages and there is ongoing research on languages within the Indo-European, Japonic, Sino-Tibetan, and Uralic families as well as Korean.
What sets the UBC program apart?
Our linguists focus on data in all its forms - not just fieldwork, but also high-quality research in labs with cutting-edge resources and tools, such as those found and developed in the Communication Dynamics Lab, the Interdisciplinary Speech Research Lab, the Language and Learning Lab, the Speech In Context Lab, and the Phonological CorpusTools working group.
Students in the Department of Linguistics are given the opportunity to head out into the field and get their hands dirty. Many of the members of our department, from undergrads and grad students to post-docs and faculty members, work directly with language consultants to describe, analyze and revitalize the languages of the world.
Linguists in the department have active working relationships with scholars from many different disciplines and from across the UBC campus, across the country, and across the world.
Our students are actively engaged in research from the moment they enter the department, and they have an excellent track record of publishing and presenting their work at national and international conferences.