Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or savour their songs.
Nelson Mandela

Language is at the core of human creativity, an insight reflected in Mandela’s words. This is why Linguistics has a place in the Humanities, even though contemporary approaches to the study of Linguistics share much with the social and natural sciences. Using language for communication is something that human beings do as naturally as breathing. Most people take their ability to use language so for granted that they rarely stop to reflect on how complex the use of language is. Linguistics is a discipline that strives to uncover and unpack that complexity. Linguistics is the scientific study of the nature of language and communication. It encompasses the study of particular languages, the search for properties common to all languages or large groups of languages, how language is acquired and how it has shaped humankind and human society.

Studying Linguistics opens your eyes to the ways in which language permeates our experience of the social world. Linguistics intersects with many other academic disciplines and thus fits well in any Liberal Arts and Sciences curriculum. It can serve as a main focus of study, or as a complement to the study of other fields.

Linguistics offers useful insights for everyday life, with practical applications for individual interaction as well as a wide range of contemporary issues. It also offers insights for theory in research fields ranging from Anthropology to Artificial Intelligence, and everything in between.

Studying Linguistics helps you develop skills in scientific reasoning. It gives you practice in making observations, and forming and testing hypotheses. It trains you in using and developing models and theories, and critically evaluating these.

Linguistics is a growing field with increasing impact on other fields in the Humanities, and the Social and Natural Sciences.

For more about the study of Linguistics and where it leads, see this document published by the Linguistic Society of America.

Linguistics has direct relationships to fields like Philosophy, Anthropology, Psychology, Sociology and Cognitive Neuroscience, and contributes to areas in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, as well as language teaching and education more broadly.

  • If you have focus on Philosophy and want to explore the relationship of thought to language, consider UCHUMLIN11 and UCHUMLIN21. UCHUMLIN21 in particular complements the analytic philosophy and the philosophy of language treated in UCHUMPHI23.
  • If you have a focus on Anthropology and want to explore the relationship of culture to language, consider UCHUMLIN11, UCHUMLIN21 and UCHUMLIN32. UCHUMLIN32 is open to students who have completed UCHUMLIN11 and UCSSCANT21 or UCSSCANT22.
  • If you have a focus on Psychology and want to understand the development of language and communication as part of human behavior, consider UCHUMLIN11, UCHUMLIN22 and UCHUMLIN31. UCHUMLIN22 is accessible with UCSSCPSY11, and complements UCSSCPSY22 and UCSSCPSY28.
  • If you have a focus on Sociology and want to understand issues of language in societal context, consider UCHUMLIN11 and UCHUMLIN32. UCHUMLIN32 is open to students who have completed UCHUMLIN11 and UCSSCSOC21, UCSSCSOC26 or UCSSCSOC28, and can complement UCSSCPSY31.
  • If you have a focus on Cognitive Neuroscience and want to understand language as part of human cognition, consider UCHUMLIN11, UCHUMLIN21, UCHUMLIN22 and/or UCHUMLIN31. These complement the courses in the COG track.
  • If you are interested in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science, and what needs to be taken into account to get computers to understand and use language, consider UCHUMLIN11, UCHUMLIN21, UCHUMLIN22 and/or UCHUMLIN31.
  • For students with an interest in study and teaching of foreign languages, knowledge of Linguistics is increasingly an essential requirement alongside fluency in the target language, and a minimal track consisting of UCHUMLIN11, UCHUMLIN21 and UCHUMLIN31 is useful. For students interested in education more broadly, UCHUMLIN11 and UCHUMLIN32 are good complements to courses in Psychology and Sociology.

UCHUMLIN11 leads to both level 2 Linguistics courses, and is, additionally, the only fixed prerequisite course for UCHUMLIN32. UCHUMLIN11 is essential for exposing students to the range of phenomena treated in the discipline, but students with a more narrow focus can potentially enter UCHUMLIN21, UCHUMLIN22 and UCINTLIN33 via other paths (see alternative prerequisites published for these courses). 

Complete tracks in Linguistics can be constructed in several ways, as specified below. It should, however, be noted that a minimum track may not always give adequate preparation for a Master's Programme in Linguistics (see below).

  Level 1 Level 2 Methods Level 3
General linguistics HUMLIN11 HUMLIN21
Sociolinguistics HUMLIN11 HUMLIN21,
Psycholinguistics HUMLIN11,

Relevant Master's Programmes at University Utrecht – depending on how Linguistics is combined with other tracks – include: 

Artificial Intelligence, Communicatie & Organisatie (in Dutch), Communicatie, Beleid & Management (in Dutch), Educational Sciences: Learning in Interaction, Intercultural Communication,  Language Education & Communication, Logopediewetenschap (in Dutch), Linguistics, Maatschappelijke Opvoedingsvraagstukken (in Dutch), Multilingualism and Language Development, Neuroscience and Cognition, Onderwijswetenschappen (in Dutch), Orthopedagogiek (in Dutch), Translation Studies, Youth Studies, and Youth, Education and Society.

All Master's programmes look for capable students who have clearly demonstrated their intellectual abilities in the previous stage of their education. The wide-ranging nature of the Master's programmes that might be interesting for students with a track in Linguistics, however, leads to diversity their policies on admission. Students considering a Master's programme specifically in Linguistics per se should take as many Linguistics courses as possible.

Other programmes look for students with specific training, and may admit candidates without this training only under the condition that they complete pre-Master's courses. Fortunately, most of these programmes publish their admission requirements, or are happy to provide information about the requirements.

University College Utrecht does not offer all courses that might be required by such programmes. This means that candidates who might want to continue their education in such programmes should consider supplementing their University College Utrecht curriculum with off-campus or exchange courses, as well as courses offered in summer or winter by Landelijke Onderzoekschool Taalwetenschap (LOT), all taught in English by international scholars in the field – (see LOT website).

UCHUMLIN11: Introduction to Linguistics: Language and Mind
Surveys the core areas of Linguistics (phonetics/phonology, morphology/syntax, semantics) and lays the foundation for understanding the goals and methodologies of psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics and sociolinguistics (each briefly introduced in the second half of the course. The course provides students with basic, eye-opening, scientific insights about language structure, linguistic categories, universal properties of language, language in the human species, language learning, models of language, and language and culture in society.  As such, this course has broad appeal for liberal arts students, and complements interests in Humanities (particularly Philosophy, Classics and Literature), Science (Mathematics, Biology and Cognitive Neuroscience) and Social Sciences (particularly Anthropology, Psychology and Sociology, and to some degree, Geography, Law and Political Science). 

UCHUMLIN21: Language Form and Meaning
Introduces approaches to structure and meaning in language and gives an overview of the theoretical issues involved in the study of syntax and the relationship between syntax and semantics (meaning). The course emphasizes the analysis of patterns, and the use and evaluation of theoretical models, and as such, has value for students of Classics, Mathematics, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Physics and Psychology.

UCHUMLIN22: Psycholinguistics
Gives an overview on the methodological and theoretical issues in psycholinguistics, treating empirical and experimental approaches to the study of language.  In both content and methodological aspects, the course is of particular value to students with an interest in neuroscience and experimental psychology.

UCHUMLIN31: Language and Acquisition: Modern Linguistics
Treats current issues in research on child language development, dealing with claims from linguistic theory and cognitive science that have been tested both with naturally occurring child language data and in experiments with children. The course is of particular value to students with an interest in the development of human cognitive abilities, and complements interests in Neuroscience, Philosophy and Psychology.

UCHUMLIN32: Multilingualism and Language Contact
Treats the issues related to language contact: things like bilingualism, the influence of social aspects on linguistic processes, language planning measures, and the linguistic consequences of language contact. The course is of particular interest to students interested in the role of language in forming/reflecting identity, and the interaction of language and culture. As such, the course appeals to students of Literature as well as Anthropology and Sociology, and others interested in the consequences of human migration (Law, Geography). Implications for language policy handled in the course are relevant for those interested in educational policy and Political Science.

Level Fall Spring Summer
1 HUMLIN11: Introduction to Linguistics: Language and Mind HUMLIN11: Introduction to Linguistics: Language and Mind  
2* HUMLIN21: Language Form and Meaning HUMLIN22: Psycholinguistics  
3 HUMLIN31: Language and Acquisition HUMLIN32: Multilingualism and Language Contacta  

x cross-listed
a alternates
* it is adivised to follow the Humanities Lab course

Sergey Avrutin, PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Child language development
  • Language impairment (aphasia)
  • Syntax-discourse interface & application of information theory
  • Courses in: psycholinguistics/psychology of language, language acquisition, and methods of experimental research

Jocelyn Ballantyne, PhD, University of Texas at Austin

  • Formal models in syntax and semantics
  • Syntax-semantics and prosody-syntax interface
  • Semantic focus and information structure
  • Interaction of L1/L2 morphosyntax
  • Student-driven research

Gaetano Fiorin, PhD, Utrecht

  • Linguistics Fellow
  • Member of European FP7 Research Consortium AThEME (Advancing the European Multilingual Experience)
  • Theoretical and experimental linguistics
  • Language acquisition and language pathologies, in particular dyslexia
  • Model-theoretic semantics and implications for cognitive sciences and philosophy of mind

Jacomine Nortier, PhD, Nijmegen

  • Multilingualism and language contact
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Youth languages
  • Code-switching
  • Language and identity
Contact person

Dr. Gaetano Fiorin is the Linguistics Fellow at University College Utrecht. Office: Voltaire-Ll.