Linguistics is the systematic study of human language. There’s huge variation among the world’s languages as well as in the speech of individuals of the same language; linguists not only describe the diverse characteristics of languages but also explore patterns which all languages share and which may offer insight into the mechanics of the brain.
The interdisciplinary study of linguistics draws on methods and knowledge from a wide range of subjects. For instance, the study of meaning draws on philosophy, the analysis of a speech signal uses methods from physics, building language tools for technology (like predictive text or automatic translation) requires skill in machine learning and computer science, while the study of language acquisition and language processing draws on psychology and neuroscience. This variety is what makes linguistics fascinating - one day you might be studying a medieval text for clues to how the patterns of a language can change over time, and the next, you might be learning about how the larynx creates sound energy for speech, or how we can record brain responses to language.
Situated within the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, Theoretical and Applied Linguistics has internationally-acknowledged expertise across an unusually wide range of language-related disciplines, both theoretical and applied. It benefits from close research links with Computer Science, Engineering and Psychology.
Linguistics graduates find employment in a wide range of professions not limited to: academia, civil service, forensic linguistics, high tech industry, journalism, law, speech therapy, translation and interpretation. The broad interdisciplinary training means that our graduates emerge with transferable skills that are greatly sought after by employers; for example, students learn to analyse quantitative data, construct convincing arguments, identify and construct models of patterns in data, and test alternative hypotheses. Familiarity with the range of human languages is also a huge advantage in careers where rapid learning of unfamiliar languages may be involved, such as the Diplomatic Service.
Linguistics at Caius
We expect to admit two to four students per year at Caius. This makes for a friendly and supportive group across all three years. Dr Paula Buttery is Fellow and Director of Studies in Linguistics at Caius. Paula’s research interests are in Computational Linguistics. Caius is the only college to have a Linguistics Fellow who also teaches in Computer Science, providing a unique opportunity for our students to discuss the interesting and rapidly developing field of Language and Technology. Linguistics students at Caius also benefit from close links with students and Fellows in other related subjects, including Modern and Medieval Languages, Classics, Philosophy, Psychology and Computer Science.
We don’t expect candidates for Linguistics to have studied any particular combination of subjects at sixth-form. We welcome applicants with an outstanding academic profile, whether science-oriented or arts-centred. Some formal study of language, either through learning languages or through English Language A Level, can serve as a good preparation. It’s very important that, whatever your academic background, you’ve read beyond your syllabus to explore what the academic study of Linguistics is all about. The departmental website has some good recommendations for places to start.
We ask candidates to submit a short piece of work that demonstrates analytical or argumentative skills (whether it be a practical write-up from a science class, a piece of maths coursework or an essay) in support of their applications. We don’t mind what subject these are in. We invite all suitable qualified candidates to attend two interviews in December. Interviews will be with Lecturers in Linguistics, and will be academic in focus. Interviewers will want to discuss why you are interested in the subject, and what you have done to investigate the subject ambitiously. They will also want to explore conceptual and analytical problems which are relevant to the study of Linguistics. For instance, you may be asked to analyse a short text or problem as part of your interview. Above all, we’re looking to admit enthusiastic and hard-working students who have a serious interest in the subject. As for all colleges, applicants in Linguistics are required to take the short university-wide linguistics assessment on their interview day (details may be found here http://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/linguistics)
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