Linguistics at USM provides a rigorous undergraduate education focused on the nature, organization, acquisition, and origins of human natural language. The Linguistics major provides six pathways. The links below give general information on each one. For degree requirements, click here.

*Nationally accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education since December 9th, 2009, reaccredited October 2020.
The linguistics major consists of linguistics courses designed to foster a deep understanding of human natural language (spoken and signed), including an appreciation of the structure and organization of natural languages, the variety of natural languages, the commonalities that underlie the vast apparent differences among languages, the processes of language acquisition in children, the psychological and neurological bases of language use, and the form and significance of social variation in language. 

The goals of the linguistics major are 1) to help each student develop an understanding of the nature of natural language, 2) to help each student develop a foundation of more specialized expertise relevant to the student’s career goals, and 3) to help each student compile a record of achievement that will facilitate the student’s search for employment or further education.

The General Linguistics major is intended for students who are looking for a rigorous liberal arts major with rich connections to a variety of science, humanities, and arts disciplines. This track is also appropriate for students who intend to do graduate study in linguistics or related disciplines such as cognitive science, computational linguistics, law, or education, among others.

For students with an interest in ASL/English interpreting, we have in place a four-year interpreter training program, including courses in ASL and in interpreting theory and process. Launched in 1998 with support from the Maine Dept. of Education, these offerings are designed to serve undergraduate students at USM as well as working interpreters seeking to advance their skills. This program will prepare students to be eligible for licensure within the State of Maine. Visit the UMS State Authorization and Licensure page to learn more about the licensure requirements in other states and territories, and for contact information to inquire further about the licensure requirements associated with this program. The interim coordinator of the program is Dr. Regan Thibodeau.

The ASL Linguistics Concentration is intended for students interested in ASL, Deaf studies, and linguistics who intend to pursue a career other than interpreting that involves Deaf people and the Deaf community.

The French Linguistics and Spanish Linguistics Concentrations are intended for students interested in linguistics and specifically the French or Spanish language, and who intend to pursue careers or graduate study relating to the language. Students in each of these concentrations also have the option of doing the K-12 pathway to teacher certification in French or Spanish.

Students interested in Speech-Language Science will find that linguistics provides an excellent foundation for their professional training. First, linguistics will offer a broad understanding of how normal language works and how it varies both within and across human communities. Second, linguistics has proven to be an excellent base from which to apply for graduate school admission in speech-language pathology or audiology.

The USM Linguistics Department also offers minors in LinguisticsDeaf StudiesFrench LanguageGerman LanguageSpanish Language, and Wabanaki Languages, as well as a Certificate Program in Wabanaki Languages.

Many students in all of the concentrations study ASL. Our ASL course curriculum places a heavy emphasis on interaction with the Deaf community. Every ASL course in the program has a community interaction requirement that increases with the level of the course.

The Linguistics Department also offers courses in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Latin, Spanish and Wabanaki Languages. We offer occasional courses in additional languages as well. More information on our language courses is here.

Graduates of the Linguistics program have been admitted to masters or doctoral programs at Boston University, CUNY Graduate Center, Gallaudet University, McGill University (Montreal), MGH Institute of Health Professions, Syracuse University, UCLA, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, University of Illinois (Chicago), University of Kentucky, University of Massachusetts (Amherst), and Vanderbilt University, among others.

Student Learning Outcomes:

All linguistics majors will be able to:

  1. Explain the nature and goals of the discipline of linguistics and its major subfields.
  2. Explain in broad outline the research process in linguistics and allied disciplines (e.g., cognitive science, neurolinguistics, etc.), especially with respect to quantitative and experimental studies.
  3. Explain the relevance of linguistic theory to its applications (in particular to interpreting for students in the ASL/English Interpreting Concentration, and speech/language pathology for students in the Speech and Language Science Concentration).
  4. Discuss the ways the specific features of language interface with human thought and interaction in a variety of domains.
  5. Analyze, at a basic level, linguistic structures in English and other languages (specifically ASL, for students in the ASL Linguistics and ASL/English Interpreting concentrations, and specifically French or Spanish, for students in the French Linguistics and Spanish Linguistics concentrations).
  6. Argue persuasively that all naturally occurring languages/dialects are of equal complexity and value.
  7. Apply knowledge about language to situations outside of the context of courses.
  8. Read a significant research publication and present a formal review of the material.

Students in the ASL/English Interpreting, ASL Linguistics, French Linguistics, and Spanish Linguistics concentration will in addition:

  1. Demonstrate communicative skills in one or more languages other than English.
  2. Understand how people make sense of their lives and their world through the production of cultural representations such as ritual practices, artistic creations, and other products and performances. 
  3. Analyze and evaluate cultural representations in historical and disciplinary context, with the understanding that standards of evaluation are themselves historically produced and contingent.

Students in the ASL/English Interpreting concentration will in addition:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to effectively interpret in a variety of modes: consecutive, simultaneous (uninterrupted consecutive), escort, and sight translation.
  2. Be able to interpret for a variety of consumers, including Deaf signers of ASL, Deaf/blind signers, users of more contact language varieties of signing, and signers with cognitive challenges.
  3. Be able to explain the difference between using a language and the complex process of interpreting.
  4. Be able to engage in critical thinking and decision making with regard to ethical issues encountered in interpreting.
  5. Demonstrate the meta-cognitive abilities needed to talk about and self-reflect upon one’s own mental process in interpreting.
  6. Be able to talk with others about the interpreting process in a constructive and non-evaluative manner.
  7. Advocate for and work in teams, including hearing-hearing teams, Deaf-hearing teams, and ensemble interpreting.
  8. Be able to talk about their work within the Integrated Model of Interpreting and to apply this model in their interpreting process.

Mission Statement:

The only linguistics major in Maine is located in its major urban center where linguistic and cultural diversity abounds and opportunities to interface with community programs and businesses are plentiful. The mission of the linguistics major is to offer students empirically grounded, explanatory accounts of the major phenomena of human language — whether spoken or signed. It addresses the structure and organization of languages, their variety, and the commonalities underlying their apparent differences, stressing links to child language development, neurolinguistics, and language variation. It also gives careful attention to how insights are gained in these domains.

We provide a foundation for students planning careers in ASL/English interpreting, Deaf services, clinical disciplines (e.g., speech-language pathology, audiology), and French and Spanish K-12 education. Our major also provides an entry point for careers in language-related technologies (e.g., query analysis, machine translation, speech recognition), and ESL, among diverse others. These foci serve specific employment needs identified at the local, state and national level.

Practical application and community involvement apply and extend the student’s knowledge of the field, and help to compile a record of achievement, enhancing employability and opportunities for graduate education. Students participate in faculty-driven, often grant-funded, research programs. In addition, service learning and internship experiences are threaded throughout the curriculum. Examples of projects where students have played central roles include the annual Maine Deaf Film Festival, a state-wide program providing sighted guides to deaf/blind people, ESL tutoring in the community, research on child language, and the development of automated language analysis tools for a start-up company.

Curriculum Map:

This curriculum map shows how each course corresponds to the student learning outcomes listed above.

1LIN 105, LIN 185

LIN 185, required of all majors, introduces the field and has a section on each major subfield. LIN 105 specifically introduces the linguistic approach to the study of languages.
LIN 309-317

Each of these courses focuses on one of the subfields. Students gain experience with the subfield through research and exercises.
LIN 42X, LIN 490, LIN 435, ASL 416, FRE 416, SPA 416

All majors take at least one course in the 42X series. These courses study one or more areas in more depth. The others on the list are the capstone courses for the different concentrations. These courses require that students read primary sources and produce original work.
2LIN 185/186, LIN 105

In LIN 185 (as well as the lab, which students are encouraged to take), we emphasize the scientific method and introduce scientific approach to language. In LIN 105, students are introduced to theoretical linguistic work on ASL.
LIN 309-317

The research process is explored in more depth in these courses. In assignments, students reflect on methodology and in some cases conduct mini-experimental work on their own.
LIN 42X, LIN 490, ASL 416, FRE 416, SPA 416, LIN 498

In these courses, students read research articles and conduct their own research.
3LIN 105, LIN 211, 212, 213, LIN 309

Students in the Speech and Language Concentration take the 200-level series, which includes content connecting these theoretical fields to speech/language pathology and audiology. Students in the ASL/English Interpreting and ASL Linguistics Concentrations take LIN 105, which includes discussion of applications of ASL linguistics research to Deaf education and interpreting.
LIN 310, 317, 331-334

In LIN 310, students in the Speech and Language Science Concentration learn about aphasia, which is an important concern of the profession. LIN 317 focuses on second language acquisition, which includes consideration of language teaching pedagogy. LIN 331 is an introduction to the field of interpreting. LIN 332-334 focus on specific skills required for interpreters and include readings about the research about and application of the skills.
LIN 490, ASL 416, FRE 416, SPA 416, LIN 425, LIN 431-433, 435

The first four on this list are capstone courses. In these courses, students do individual research that relates to their field of interest. LIN 425 (topics) and LIN 431-433 (medical interpreting), and LIN 435 (practicum) focus on specific approaches to and models of interpreting.
4LIN 185, LIN 105

LIN 185 has a unit on each aspect of language: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics, as well as a unit on language and society. LIN 105 focuses on these topics specifically with respect to how they are parallel in signed and spoken languages.
LIN 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 332-334

LIN 311-314 each focus on one aspect of language. LIN 315 and 316 have units on each one that go into more depth than 185. LIN 332-334 focus on language in its pragmatic context and adapting linguistic information to cultural and cognitive factors.
LIN 490, ASL 416, FRE 416, SPA 416, LIN 435

The first four capstone courses on this list involve research on specific aspects of language. LIN 435 focuses on the intrapersonal and interpersonal demands that occur in the interpreting encounter and examine controls to deal with these demands.
5LIN 185/186, LIN 105

These courses include some analytical exercises on English and other languages (specifically English and ASL, for LIN 105).
LIN 311-316

These courses include more advanced analytical exercises on English and other languages.
ASL 416, FRE 416, SPA 416, LIN 490, LIN 435

The first three courses focus on analysis of ASL/French/Spanish. LIN 490 and 435 include advanced analysis of English, ASL, and/or other languages.
6LIN 185, LIN 105

This concept is introduced in LIN 185 and is the focus of one unit. The concept is threaded throughout LIN 105.
All LIN and language courses

Courses cover this issue to varying extents, but it underlies all study of linguistics and languages and it therefore arises at different points in all our courses.
ASL 416, FRE 416, SPA 416, LIN 490, LIN 435

This theme is returned to explicitly in all the capstone courses. An understanding of language equivalence is assessed in every written assignment and every interpreting assignment.
7LIN 185

Some assignments ask students to relate the concepts to observations they make outside of the classroom.
LIN 310-317

A component of these courses involves students relating their observations about language to the course material and to their interactions and experiences outside of the university.
ASL 416, FRE 416, SPA 416, LIN 490, LIN 435

The capstones require students to reflect on observations as part of their projects.
8LIN 185, LIN 105

In LIN 185, students are not required to read primary sources, but the course reading gives them exposure to academic writing, specifically in linguistics. In LIN 105, students read some primary sources that they present on in the form of a brochure.
LIN 310-317, LIN 333

In some of these courses (LIN 310, 317), students start reading primary sources. All of them require students to read and understand more in-depth writing in specific linguistic subfields. In LIN 333, students read a research article and do a formal presentation on it to the class.
ASL 416, FRE 416, SPA 416, LIN 490, LIN 435

Reading primary sources and presenting on them is required in all the capstone courses.
9100-level language courses

The ASL/FRE/SPA Linguistics concentrators and the ASL/English Interpreting concentrators take beginning-level courses in the specific language.
200-level language courses

The ASL/FRE/SPA Linguistics concentrators and the ASL/English Interpreting concentrators take intermediate-level courses in the specific language.
FRE/SPA 300, 301, 302, ASL 401, 402, 415, 416, 417

FRE/SPA Linguistics students take 300-level practical courses, as well as a 300-level conversation course. ASL Linguistics and ASL/English Interpreting students take 400-level advanced ASL courses, as well as courses specifically designed to build academic ASL skills.
10100-level language courses

All of the 100-level language courses meet the Cultural Interpretation requirement.
200-level language courses, LIN 203

All of the 200-level language courses meet the Cultural Interpretation requirement. LIN 203 is a full course focusing on language and culture.
Upper-level language courses, ASL 415, ASL 417

The upper-level language courses continue to include a cultural component. ASL 415 and 417 are advanced courses in aspects of Deaf culture focusing on literature and art/film/theater.
11100-level language courses

All of the 100-level language courses meet the Cultural Interpretation requirement.
200-level language courses, LIN 203, LIN 331

All of the 200-level language courses meet the Cultural Interpretation requirement. LIN 203 is a full course focusing on language and culture. LIN 331, in preparing students with a foundation in the field of interpreting, covers history of the Deaf community and the field of interpreting.
Upper-level language courses, ASL 415, ASL 417

The upper-level language courses continue to include a cultural component. ASL 415 and 417 are advanced courses in aspects of Deaf culture focusing on literature and art/film/theater.
12All beginning ASL courses 101-102 focus on BICS with a focus on the genres of inquiry and narrative.200-level intermediate ASL courses focus further on BICS with a focus on expository and persuasive genres.400-level advanced ASL courses (401-402) transition between BICS and CALP and ASL 415-417 focus specifically on Academic ASL and CALP.
13Deaf culture is addressed throughout the language curriculum. In ASL 101-102, famous figures and events in the Deaf community are addressed as are various perspectives on Deaf and hearing culture.ASL 201-202 introduces additional cultural issues and ASL and Deaf literature.  In addition, there is a specific course, LIN 203 Introduction to the Deaf World, which addresses Deaf culture and compares with other cultures.Deaf culture is further addressed throughout the language curriculum ASL 401-402. In addition, LIN 415 (linguistics), LIN 416 (literature), and LIN 417 (art, film and theater) specifically address these areas in detail.
14All 100-level ASL courses require community engagement activities for 5 hours.All 200-level courses require 10 hours of engagement and community service.ASL 401-402 require 15 hours of community service.
15LIN 331 introduces these modes of interpreting but does not require ability to effectively interpret them.LIN 332 focuses on consecutive interpreting and team interpreting; LIN 333 and 334 focus on consecutive, simultaneous, and escort from ASL to English; LIN 334 focuses on these from English to ASL as well as sight translation. We used to have a course specifically on Sight Translation but it hasn’t been taught for a while.For entry into Practicum, students must present a portfolio with video evidence of all of these modes of interpreting. Practicum I also specifically requires 10 hours of sight translation.
16LIN 331 introduces these varied consumers.LIN 332-334 all have segments on Deaf-Blind interpreting and working with contact signers. LIN 332 has segments on teaming with Deaf interpreters to work with Deaf signers with cognitive challenges. LIN 332 also has a segment where a Deaf Blind signer comes in and students work with him. We also have LIN 425 Interpreting topics courses on both Sighted Guide Training and Deaf-Blind Interpreting training.LIN 334 begins with training in sighted guide technique. LIN 435-436 involve practicum work with Deaf Blind Signers. One year we brought in a Deaf Blind signer from California and had students work with her intensively. Most students work with cognitively challenged signers during Practicum. Many of our advanced students also have jobs working in group homes with cognitively challenged signers. We have a LIN 425 Topics Course called Preparation for Seabeck that trains students in advanced sighted guide and DeafBlind interpreting and they apply to work as interpreter/guides at a Deaf Blind Retreat in Seabeck, OR.
17This is covered in LIN 331 as well as LIN 401-402 Foundations of Interpreting.Covered in all the 300-level interpreting classes as part of focusing on the CRP model of the interpreting process.These concepts are revisited in Pre-practicum as well as Practicum I and II.
18Lin 331 introduces the Interpreting Code of Professional Conduct (CPC). LIN 232 discussed the CPC as it applies to educational settings.Ethical decision making is addressed in all Fieldwork courses (LIN 236, 336) and in all intermediate interpreting courses (LIN 332-334).LIN 410 is a course specifically on Ethical Decision Making in ASL/English Interpreting. Students in Practicum I and II must journal about assignments related to ethical decision making.
19LIN 331 introduces students to the pedagogical model of interpreting (CRP) as well as the 10-step model of interpreting.LIN 333 and 334 specifically frame work within the CRP model. LIN 333 also focuses on Demand Control Schema. Students must discuss their work within this model.In Practicum I and II (LIN 335-336), students must journal with reference to the CRP model. Practicum students learn about and experience Process Mediation, which is a specific kind of mentoring dialogue focusing on meta-cognitive abilities and talking about the work.
20LIN 331 and LIN 232 introduce the concept of talking about our own and others’ interpreting work using non-evaluative language.All intermediate classes 332-334 reinforce talking about the work in a non-evaluative way.Practicum I and II discussions require non-evaluative dialogue. Practicum students are also prepared for the reality that there are interpreters they will encounter during Practicum who do not follow such a policy.
21LIN 331 introduces students to team interpreting and working with Deaf interpreters.LIN 332 is specifically focused on team interpreting, particularly with Deaf interpreters. There are specific role-play activities involving advocating for Deaf interpreters and interpreting teams. All intermediate level interpreting courses involve team interpreting.Practicum I and II require team interpreting, including working in a Deaf/Hearing team. In addition, interpreting for the Maine Deaf Film Festival always has at least one ensemble interpreting assignment.
22LIN 331 introduces students to the Integrated Model of Interpreting (IMI) and to talking about the interpreting process.All intermediate courses (LIN 332-334) are focused around IMI and applying IMI to their work.

LIN 401-404 Foundations of the Interpreting Process specifically train students in the Integrated Model of Interpreting.
Practicum I and II (LIN 435-436) require students to journal referencing IMI. Many students opt at this level to take the 4 advanced Foundations courses to further their work within this model.