Linguistics is the scientific study of language, its structure, use and acquisition. The Linguistics programme offers basic training in contemporary theories of language, and addresses such issues as the universal properties of natural language and the human mind, language acquisition in various modes and modalities, and language in different contexts of use.
Students are encouraged to apply linguistic theories to the investigation of a wide variety of languages, including endangered languages, minority languages and sign languages. They will gain an appreciation of linguistics as an interdisciplinary field that crosses the traditional boundary between the arts and the sciences drawing ideas and tools from various disciplines. At the practical level, linguistics training raises students’ bilingual and multilingual awareness and sharpens their sensitivity to the complexity of human language. Such training builds the linguistic resources necessary for students’ careers and postgraduate study, and enables them to make informed judgments about the language issues of their own speech community.
Starting from 2019, CUHK linguistics students are offered an option to participate in a dual degree programme with Peking University, studying two years in each campus. Upon successful completion of graduation requirements at both universities, students will be awarded with BA in Linguistics by CUHK and BA in Chinese Language by Peking University. Students will not only benefit from the strengths of the two programmes, enriching their training in linguistics, but also widen their horizon through immersing in a different learning environment, enhancing their competitive edge for their further studies and career development.
An Adventure in Languages
As a language enthusiast, Gordon Lo has been searching for the answers to his language-related questions since his secondary school years. He described his questions, such as ‘Is there a key to acquiring new languages quickly?’, or ‘Is language learning associated with the development of human brain?’, as ‘scattered puzzles’ in his mind. Not until he has joined the linguistics programme of CUHK that the pieces of jigsaw puzzles started to fall into places, giving Gordon a clearer picture for his adventure in language investigation.
‘Linguistics is the highly scientific, and strongly empirical study of language. Theoretical linguistics including phonetics, phonology, syntax, and semantics has equipped me with a strong foundation to analyse linguistic issues,’ said Gordon.
Throughout these four years in the programme, Gordon has gained broadened perspectives on how language can be observed and investigated. ‘Linguistics is a field which transcends the humanities and the sciences, and has connections with neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, etc. We learn to appreciate the human, cultural and social dimensions of language from the courses. All that I have learned in the last four years has strengthened my devotion to linguistics and provided me with real insight into language.’
Ranked 35th in the 2018 QS World Universities Ranking, the linguistics programme at CUHK offers practical training in contemporary theories of language and in objective analysis of language to raise students’ bilingual and multilingual awareness and to sharpen their sensitivity towards the nuances of language. Gordon loved the programme for its uniqueness. For instance, the linguistics programme at CUHK is the only one in Asia that offers sign language training, demonstrating how language transcends the modality of communication and how it transforms under exceptional circumstances. Modern languages programmes are also implemented in the curriculum, enabling students to understand how languages vary and to appreciate the significance of bilingual and multilingual competence and intercultural communication.
To Gordon, the most valuable asset he had earned from studying in this programme was the shaping and consolidation of his values and views concerning language, which also strengthened his aspiration to becoming an English teacher upon graduation. According to Prof. Thomas Lee, the former chairman of the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, the career choices for Linguistic graduates are of a large variety. Other than language education, the graduates are also in a strong position to pursue careers in business and public administration, interpretation and translation, journalism, media and communication-related services.
Professor Lee attributed students’ diverse career opportunities to their high language proficiency attained from the solid training in linguistics. The programme attaches a great deal of importance to students’ communication skills. Advanced courses are designed to prepare students for research writing. Students are also encouraged to participate in outgoing exchange programmes or pursuing double major or minor studies. In the past three years, over 40% of the students graduated with a minor in French, German, Japanese, Korean or Spanish.
Admitting only 20 students every year, the programme creates a home-like environment for students and the 30 teaching staff in the Department. ‘Through the intensive training and courses provided by the Department, I have developed an open-mindedness, humility, and curiosity in my quest for language. These values and virtues which are crucial for academic research could not have taken root in our minds without the patient and meticulous teaching of our professors,’ Gordon expressed his gratitude to the teaching staff as well as his fellow classmates. ‘With strong and special bonding, my classmates and I stand shoulder to shoulder in our studies of language, whether in times of happiness or adversity.’
If you’re not sure if you would be a suitable candidate for the programme, Professor Lee suggested a fun way to test it. Here are some statements regarding issues related to languages:
- I wonder why there are so many different languages.
- I want to know if it is true that ‘babies pick up languages like a sponge’.
- People often say language is unique to humans. I want to find out if animals have language systems too.
- I wonder how people suffering from language disorders communicate with other people.
- Some languages are endangered. I’d like to preserve and document them.
- I’d like to train robots to talk!
- I like to travel and learn more about other languages and cultures.
If you agree with more than one of the statements mentioned above, Professor Lee and Gordon would like to invite you to join the family of linguistics programme! ‘I’m glad that I had chosen to study a discipline that I am truly interested in,’ said Gordon, ‘As long as you are determined to study and explore languages, in the Linguistics department, your passion will bring you joy and different opportunities.”
Starting from 2019, CUHK linguistics major students are offered an option to participate in a dual degree programme with Peking University, studying two years in each campus. Upon successful completion of graduation requirements at both universities, students will be awarded with Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics by CUHK and Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Language by Peking University. Students will not only benefit from the strengths of the two programmes, enriching their training in linguistics, but also widen their horizon through immersing in a different learning environment, enhancing their competitive edge for their further studies and career development.
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2019