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Linguistics proposal passes

By Graham Dobereiner

Section: News

October 28, 2005

The Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UCC) has provisionally approved a recent proposal for the restructuring of the undergraduate Linguistics major entitled Language and Linguistics.

The proposal will be sent back to its authors, an ad-hoc committee of several faculty, for certain wording changes, before final approval, said Carol Ortenberg 06, an undergraduate representative on the UCC.

Before formal approval of the major, the UCC suggested that some changes be made to the catalog entry, including the addition of wording that would discourage double-dipping, or the counting of one course for two majors, between the Language and Linguistics major and the Linguistic Anthropology track, according to Prof. Rick Parmentier (ANTH), chair of the Anthropology Department and head of the committee that submitted the proposal.

Students could take lots of courses that are the same and get two degrees. They want us to impose some limits on that, said Parmentier.

The UCC also asked that the Committee consider an addition to the catalog that would encourage the study of a second foreign language for honors or students considering graduate school. [The UCC committee] found [a second foreign language requirement] in some other undergraduate linguistics programs, and wanted us to consider saying something about that, said Parmentier.

The revised proposal will be sent to the UCC in the next few weeks, and then be sent to the Registrar before it becomes an official program at the University.

Current linguistics majors, and any student enrolled at Brandeis this year, can major under either the old requirements or the new requirements.

The proposal was authored by Profs. Janet McIntosh (ANTH), James Pustejovsky (COSI), and Joan Maling (LING), as well as Parmentier, and Prof. Ray Jackendoff, who is now a professor at Tufts University.

The new major of Language and Linguistics, as written, requires nine courses for all candidates, one less than the current major requires. Students will take four core linguistics classes, and four additional electives from the several available over nine departments.

The proposed new major would have a greater interdepartmental focus than the previous major. More departments would be incorporated into the concentration, including Anthropology, Computer Science, Philosophy, and Classical Studies.
Parmentier emphasized the expansion of the scope of the major. The scope is changing from the formal study of universal properties of language to the study of language from an aesthetic, artistic and literary point of view, from a social point of view, and from a computational point of view, he said.

Its a pretty fundamental change, said Parmentier.

Regarding Jackendoffs departure, Parmentier says that though he is missed, the linguistics program has an unusual opportunity for change. Sometimes you take something that happens and you work very hard to redeem the situation, make it a positive situation.

Parmentier also said he has been chosen to chair a search committee in order to find a new tenure-track assistant professor of linguistics to start in Fall 2006 as regular faculty. Were looking for someone who is in the field of pragmatics, discourse analysis, or sociolinguistics, as language in its contextual setting, so this person can teach the basic courses in linguistics as well as these other skills, he said.

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