The Department of Linguistics and the Graduate Group in Linguistics offer instruction on both the undergraduate (B.A.) and graduate (M.A. and Ph.D.) levels. The department was founded in 1947 by Zellig Harris, one of the most prominent American formal linguists of the post-war period. As the oldest modern linguistics department in the United States, it spearheads a comprehensive program for the study of natural language with special areas of concentration in formal linguistics (syntax, semantics, phonology, and morphology), computational linguistics, historical linguistics and comparative Indo-European linguistics, phonetics, sociolinguistics, pragmatics and discourse analysis, psycholinguistics, and descriptive linguistics. The program is especially attractive to those interested in the conjoining of empirical and theoretical perspectives in the study of language structure. The department was ranked as one of the seven strongest U.S. linguistics departments by the 1992 Research-Doctorate Programs report.
The Linguistics Department currently includes 14 standing faculty members, with three other faculty holding primary appointments in either Psychology or Computer and Information Sciences and two emeriti. An additional 14 Linguistics Graduate Group faculty have primary appointments in the language and area studies departments (Slavic, Germanic, Romance, South Asia), Anthropology, Education, Philosophy, Psychology, and Computer and Information Sciences. According to the 1992 Research-Doctorate Programs report, the number of linguistics faculty is above average compared with other U.S. research-doctorate programs in linguistics; the scholarly quality of its faculty was assessed as one of the top five linguistics faculties.
Although the number of B.A.s granted by the department each year is relatively small (approximately five per year between 1991/1992 and 1996/1997), undergraduate courses include students from disciplines spanning the humanities, social sciences, and the sciences. Fifty graduate students are currently enrolled fulltime in the department with approximately 10 to 15 entering each year. According to the 1992 Research-Doctorate Programs report, the graduate student body is large compared with other U.S. research-doctorate programs in linguistics. An average of six Ph.D.s and three M.A.s were granted per year between 1991/1992 and 1996/1997. Traditionally, those with graduate degrees have sought employment primarily in university teaching and research; however, other opportunities in industrial research are now opening up.
The research and instructional interests of Penn's linguistics faculty and graduate students are truly worldwide. Penn's Linguistics department offers instruction in seventy "uncommonly taught languages", a range surpassed only by Berkeley and Harvard (Directory of Programs in Linguistics in the United States and Canada 1995).
The broad nature of Penn linguistics is evident in the numerous collaborations with other departments and programs, focussing primarily in cognitive science and computational linguistics, applied linguistics, and linguistic anthropology.
Linguistics faculty and students collaborate with investigators in Mathematical Logic, Philosophy, Psychology, Computer Science, and Neuroscience in the activities of Penn's Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, founded in 1990 and funded since 1991 by the National Science Foundation as its only Science and Technology Center in the behavioral sciences. IRCS's inter-related scientific foci are language acquisition, structure, and processing, logic and computation, and perception and action. As part of the NSF STC mandate, IRCS's PENNlincs outreach program provides public school mentoring in mathematics and robotics and computer sciences, conducts curriculum development and research in early elementary science, and collaborates with local museums and other learning institutions on informal science learning.
The Graduate School of Education's Language in Education Division offers graduate degrees in several areas of applied linguistics. Linguistic anthropology has traditionally been a strong feature of the Anthropology Department's "four fields" approach. Descriptions of these two programs and related institutes are provided in the Education and Anthropology/Archaeology collection development policies.
The interdisciplinary Program in Language, Culture, and Society unites graduate courses in Anthropology, Communications, Education, Folklore and Folklife, Linguistics, and Sociology to provide instruction in sociolinguistics, ethnolinguistics, and acquisition of language and culture.