The major in Linguistics & African Languages enables students to combine the study of human language from a diversity of perspectives with the study of one or more African languages in cultural and historical context. In their linguistics courses, students explore the formal structures of language as well as language universals, variability across languages, social dimensions of language use, and historical language change. At the same time, in African studies courses they will gain a foundational understanding of the diversity of ethnicities, African languages, cultures, and societies, including the advent of Islam, Christianity, and colonization and their enduring consequences. This program thus fulfills the CAS commitment to diversity: “We strive to create environments for learning, working, and living that are enriched by racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity.” Courses that focus on the linguistics of African languages bring together the major’s two primary areas of study.

The joint major equips students with language skills and cultural competence, preparing them for a wide range of careers, or pursuit of graduate degrees in fields such as Linguistics, Forensic Linguistics, Cognitive Science, Anthropology, African Languages, African Studies, African History, Information Technology, or Translation and Interpretation. They will also be well prepared to pursue professional MA degrees in International Affairs, Diplomacy, and Global Development Policy at BU and elsewhere, and could find career opportunities in government and non-government organizations where interdisciplinary training in linguistic theory and practice and language and cultural competencies are increasingly in demand.

Learning Goals

Students graduating with this joint major will:

  • achieve an understanding of the fundamental questions that drive modern linguistic research, along with foundational knowledge in the core areas of linguistic theory
  • develop the ability to identify and describe with precision the empirical patterns found in sets of language data, and to construct well-reasoned linguistic analyses by formulating, testing, and refining hypotheses about these patterns
  • develop proficiency in an African language at an advanced level, with respect to the four skills (reading, writing in dual scripts, speaking, and listening), as well as an understanding of the linguistic properties of that language, and of African languages more generally
  • develop an understanding of the diversity and complexity of the African continent, beyond stereotypical representations in the media, including the watershed events that have shaped the continent
Undergraduate Fellowships

The African Studies Center offers financial aid in the form of the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship for undergraduates at the intermediate level of African language and area studies. The competitive awards consist of a scholarship and stipend:

Major Requirements

The Linguistics & African Languages major consists of 13 courses (to be completed with a grade of C or better): 7 courses in linguistics and anthropology, 2 courses in African languages (at or above the 5th-semester level), and 4 additional electives distributed across both Linguistics (300+ level) and African Studies.

7 Linguistics & Anthropology Courses
  • CAS LX 250 Introduction to Linguistics
  • CAS LX 301 Phonetics & Phonology: Introduction to Sound Systems
  • CAS LX 321 Syntax: Introduction to Sentential Structure
  • CAS LX 331 Semantics & Pragmatics: Introduction to Linguistic Meaning
  • CAS LX 391 Field Methods
  • CAS AN 521 / LX 341 Sociolinguistics
  • CAS AN 524 Language and Culture Contacts
2 African Language Courses, e.g.
  • Akan (Twi)
  • Amharic
  • Hausa
  • Igbo
  • Kiswahili
  • Wolof
  • isiXhosa
  • isiZulu
4 Additional Electives, e.g.
  • CAS courses in Linguistics (e.g., LX 311, 317, 327, 328, 342, 345, 346, 349, 355, 359, 360, 368, 394, 403, 405, 422, 423, 432, 433, 453, 454)
  • CAS courses in African Studies (AA 588; AH 317; AN 351, 532, 593, 594; LF 456, 569; HI 237, 489, 589; ID 116; IR 343, 352, 584; PO 571, 572; XL 386)
  • CFA courses in African Studies (e.g., MH 435)
Study Abroad

Study abroad is strongly encouraged through the linkages of the African Studies Center. Students may also take courses to fulfill some of these requirements (with advance approval of their advisor) in the BU Study Abroad and Internship programs. For further information, see BU Study Abroad’s website:

Honors Program

In addition to the standard joint major, we also have an Honors Program in Linguistics & African Languages. For further information, see the Honors Program page:


Director of Undergraduate Studies