Linguistics at UB

Students walking on North Campus.

Welcome to the University at Buffalo, North Campus

The University at Buffalo's Department of Linguistics offers a variety of courses and degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level. Our undergraduate programs allow for students to specialize in the study of particular languages or in particular subfields of linguistics, such as Applied Linguistics, and the department also offers minors in Linguistics as well as Chinese, Japanese, Korean and German. Our graduate programs include a PhD program in Linguistics and a number of master's-level options.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Department of Linguistics at the University at Buffalo is to:

  • Study the nature and use of language through innovative application of computational, experimental, and quantitative methods, as well as sustained field research
  • Provide and promote interdisciplinary research and training in typologically grounded linguistic theory, diversity, the interface between language and cognition, while fostering methodological and theoretical breadth
  • Engage with local and global communities to allow the results of linguistic research in general, and the specialized research of members of the department in particular, to benefit diverse communities
  • Promote and support the broader training needs of students at the University at Buffalo with respect to linguistics and those modern languages offered by the department
  • Promote intercultural competence through teaching of world languages, which is essential for establishing effective, positive relationships across cultural boundaries, required in a global society.

The Department of Linguistics also recognizes that it operates on the territory of the Seneca Nation, a member of the Haudenosaunee/Six Nations Confederacy. Because of this, it places a special priority on supporting research on Haudenosaunee languages that is in line with its overall mission and, in particular, research led by members of the Haudenosaunee nations.

Diversity Statement

The UB Department of Linguistics has always been, and continues to remain, strongly committed to the recognition, promotion, and the celebration of diversity and inclusion among its faculty and students. The courses we teach, the research we conduct, and our community engagement reflect and embody our interest in the myriad of cultures that comprise our world.
     Our language instruction respects the need to advance not only language itself, but much more importantly, the awareness of cultural diversity, and our instructors are sensitive to students of widely differing backgrounds. Our American Sign Language program - among our most popular - addresses the needs of the underserved Deaf community, and the department offers many other languages, including the Asian languages taught at UB. We avoid and renounce any stereotypes in conduct, class preparation, and in choice of teaching materials. Diversity - in ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status - is critical to the enrichment and success of our instruction.
    Many of our linguistics courses are by their nature multi-cultural and socially inclusive in nature; the very titles of several of our courses - “Language in a Pluralistic Society”, “Languages of the World”, “Sociolinguistics”, “Language, Society, and the Individual”, “Bilingualism and Language Contact”, to name but a few - reveal our dedication to instilling into our students a keen awareness of diversity and its value among every individual, every society. This dedication is also reflected in the research of our faculty and graduate students’ fieldwork on languages of lesser-studied communities, among the Haudenosaunee and within Mexico, Papua New Guinea, and Subsaharan Africa.
    Diversity includes occupation and life choices; our education and training of students, both graduate and undergraduate, supports, encourages, and promotes several different career outcomes, be they in academics, industry, or government.
    Finally, we are committed to making every effort to improve our recruitment, hiring, and retention of a faculty that echoes and embodies the diversity we value so that the composition of the faculty is more representative of the communities that have a stake in the instruction in the languages offered through the department and the scientific study of language more generally. We are also committed to taking deliberative steps to recruit and support students in the department at all levels from diverse backgrounds.

Our Strengths

We offer training in a broad range of subdisciplines of linguistics. Students benefit from the faculty’s research specializations in syntax, semantics, pragmatics, phonetics and phonology, as well as language typology, psycholinguistics, computational linguistics, sociolinguistics and historical linguistics. Areas of particular strength include:

  • Syntactic theory (non-movement-based models, especially Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar, Role and Reference Grammar, Construction Grammar, and Basic Linguistic Theory);
  • Semantics, including lexical/conceptual and formal approaches, and pragmatics;
  • Field-based language documentation and description (particularly of languages of the Americas, Africa, and New Guinea);
  • Syntactic and semantic typology;
  • Psycholinguistics (including corpus-based, experimental, and computational modeling research).

The department has long championed approaches to the study of language that are data-driven and informed by diverse theoretical perspectives. The origins of the department trace back to the Department of Linguistics and Anthropology, founded in 1956 under the chairmanship of Henry Lee Smith. In 1964, Linguistics became a separate program, and in 1969 it became an independent department, under David Hays. In 2001, a number of the University at Buffalo's language programs were brought into the Department of Linguistics, increasing the department's breadth in research and teaching.

Our Faculty

Our faculty focuses on the interface between language and cognition, empirically grounded linguistic theory, and both cross-linguistic studies and in-depth studies of individual languages other than English. Faculty conduct research all over the world on indigenous languages of North America, Papua New Guinea, and Africa, as well as Japanese, Korean, and German. Department faculty include internationally-recognized scholars and recipients of numerous external and internal awards such as Humboldt Research Fellowships, National Science Foundation grants, the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the UB Exceptional Scholar Award for Sustained achievement.

Our Impact

We have trained hundreds of students for careers in education, government and industry, and run an internship program with the Buffalo Public Schools that brings UB undergraduates into classrooms in order to engage and learn from local students and teachers. Faculty have active research collaborations with scholars throughout the world, and a number of our members are engaged in projects to support communities whose languages are endangered.