Why Linguistics?

What is Linguistics and why should I study it?

A German class held outdoors on a sunny day | UAF Photo
Linguistics is the study of human language. It provides tools for understanding how it works, how it is acquired, and how people use it to communicate and understand their world. It also helps us understand how people in different cultures use language to interact and express meaning. 



At UAF you can learn about the variety of human languages in the world and you can focus on a particular language, either from the Foreign Languages offerings or from the Alaska Native Language program. If you are interested in a career related to language, language teaching or the role of language in society, a B.A. in Linguistics is good preparation.



What can you do with a degree in linguistics?

Modern linguistics is a broad, interdisciplinary field in which the term ‘linguist’ is often qualified (e.g., linguistic-anthropologist, applied linguist, sociolinguist, computational linguist). Regardless of the type of linguist you choose to be, a degree in Linguistics builds critical thinking skills and helps you to understand the deeper connections inside of things. The skills acquired in linguistics prepare graduates for a variety of careers, including language teaching, speech language pathology, law, history, computer science, and (of course) more linguistics.
Native linguists Jim Kari, front, Edward Vajda, center and Larry Kaplan pose with a recently published volume outlining research which establishes an ancient language connection between people of Asia and North America. | UAF Photo by Todd Paris

Some careers linguistics majors go on to pursue are...


...and more!



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  • Attending graduate school in a Speech Pathology program
  • Teaching English in Japan in the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program
  • Teaching Siberian Yupik
  • Coordinating a language revitalization program for Athabascan languages
  • Working for a State Legislator
  • Teaching Spanish
  • Teaching English in the Peace Corps.
  • Attending graduate school in linguistics
  • Coordinating Native language teacher training programs
  • Directing tribal language programs
  Universal Skills
A degree in Linguistics provides excellent preparation for a variety of careers. You'll acquire many transferable skills such as analytical reasoning, critical thinking, communication and independent problem solving.




Linguistics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks




The Linguistics Program at UAF is committed to working with you to complete your BA. Our diverse faculty teach a range of courses both on campus and through distance delivery. Through our Start Here Finish Anywhere option, you can complete the first two years of the BA in Linguistics with face-to-face classes in Fairbanks, and finish up via distance learning from virtually anywhere! Whether you are considering an international year abroad or you are relocating for personal or professional reasons, our Linguistics Faculty Advisors are here to help you complete your BA in Linguistics.



Access unique resources and knowledge

Our Alaska Native Language Center is internationally recognized as the major center in the United States for the study of Eskimo and Northern Athabascan languages. Our Rasmuson Library is also home to the Alaska Native Language Archive, one of the most comprehensive indigenous languages resources in the world.

Rep. Scott Kawasaki, right, presents Alaska Native Language Center director Walkie Charles, center, and Charlene Stern, Vice Chancellor for Rural Community and Native Education, left, with a Legislative proclamation honoring the Alaska Native Language Center as the ANLC celebrates its 50th Anniversary in the Wood Center at UAF Tuesday, October 4, 2022. | UAF Photo by Eric Engman
Yupik 102 class | UAF photo by JR Ancheta.
Study Alaska Native Languages

Whether you’re interested in learning Alaska Native languages or other languages from around the world, you’ll find your passion at UAF. The languages we teach are:

  • Asian: Chinese, Japanese
  • Alaskan: Yup'ik, Inupiaq, Gwich'in, Koyukon (and others by independent study)
  • European: French, German, Greek, Latin, Russian, Spanish

Senior foreign languages major Lindsey Miller listens in her Hispanic Theater class during a recent meeting in the Gruening Building. | UAF Photo by Todd Paris

The linguistics degree at UAF is the only program of its kind in the state of Alaska. With a strong focus on student research and presentation skills, the bachelor’s in linguistics provides unique opportunities to prepare for careers and graduate study. You’ll also benefit from an exceptional level of personalized advising and support. Linguistics majors at the University of Alaska Fairbanks benefit from the variety of language studies available, a strong research emphasis and personalized advising.



How can I get involved around campus?

Because the Linguistics community at UAF is vibrant and diverse, you’ll find opportunities for mentorship and professional development outside the classroom as well.


Lawrence Kaplan, professor emeritus of linguistics, is the grand marshall for 2018 commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 5, 2018, at the Carlson Center. | UAF Photo by Zayn Roohi

Our faculty have broad expertise in linguistics, linguistic anthropology, language documentation, language revitalization and language acquisition. You’ll also have access to a dedicated advising team who are here to support and guide you throughout the program.