The Rice Linguistics Department is the home of an active community of scholars with a wide range of interests. Linguistics is the study of language, its structure, and how people use it. We offer a major that analyzes language as it relates to: social identities, diversity, and inequities; cognitive sciences and neuroscience; speech perception and vocal physiology; language history, evolution, and development; and the endangerment and revitalization of indigenous languages. Broadly defined, the department adopts a functional, usage-based approach to language and linguistic theory. A number of recurrent themes emerge in faculty research and the degree programs offered: in-depth investigation of languages, coupled with the search for cross-linguistic generalization; the effects of semantics, language-in-use, sociocultural factors, and other functional influences that motivate and constrain linguistic form; grounding of theories in solid empirical data of many sorts; an interest in the relation between language and mind; and interest in discourse and social/communicative interaction more generally. These interests lead to intensive research activity in empirically well-supported theoretical and descriptive linguistics:

  • cognitive/functional linguistics
  • typology and language universals
  • field studies in American Indian, Australian, Austronesian, African, and other languages
  • sociolinguistics
  • discourse studies
  • phonetics and speech processing
  • laboratory phonology
  • language change and grammaticization