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The Creation of a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics at William & Mary

The William & Mary linguistics department is currently creating a new Bachelor of Arts in linguistics to be offered through the College of Arts & Sciences making it the first in the state to do so. Historically, students taking classes in linguistics could pursue a major through the Roy R. Charles Center’s interdisciplinary program with a concentration in linguistics. This new major would mean that a degree in linguistics would reflect a major in linguistics instead of a major in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in linguistics.

This distinction, however, is central to the linguistics department and the hearts of the students who study linguistics. Associate Professor and new Director of Linguistics at the College, Anya Lunden, discusses the importance of this distinction, “linguistics certainly connects to different disciplines and domains, but is also a united field in and of itself and we are eager for the degree our students earn to reflect that.”

Linguistics has been offered through the interdisciplinary studies program for the last 43 years and with its growing presence on campus, the department is excited to have an official major. Although the coursework and requirements for the major will remain the same, this distinction will be invaluable to the students and faculty that study linguistics.

The proposal of a BA in linguistics was initiated after the department heard of other programs offered through interdisciplinary studies creating their own majors. The linguistics department was eager for the opportunity to take advantage of the new flexibility in how degrees are structured and create its own degree.

As the upcoming director of the linguistics department, Lunden understands the impact this new BA can have on linguistics majors at the college. “It clarifies what their field of study was. It can be difficult enough to explain what Linguistics is (and is not!) that it would be good to remove an unnecessary level of additional obfuscation” says Lunden.

The finalization of this degree will make William & Mary the first university in the state to offer a BA in linguistics for undergraduates. Many other schools offer linguistics through similar interdisciplinary studies programs but the College will be the first to pursue its own degree. 

Now that the board of visitors at William & Mary has approved the creation of the BA, the department is currently preparing an extensive proposal to submit to the State of Higher Education for Virginia. Once the proposal is submitted, it is hard to say when the department will hear back but this new opportunity will undoubtedly be worth the wait.