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Ball State’s master of arts in linguistics empowers you to understand the scientific study of human language.

An important focus of linguistics is identifying properties common to languages through the study of linguistic structure (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics), and on understanding how languages change, how they are used by communities, and how they are acquired. As such, linguistics provides insight into both the structural and communicative properties of human language.

In analyzing linguistic structure and identifying patterns of language use, students apply this knowledge in an effort to better understand language use and language learning.

Throughout the MA program, you are exposed to linguistic structure and language use patterns of languages from around the world.

What You Will Learn

Learning outcomes include:

  • a deep understanding of languages as an organized, interrelated system with multiple subsystems
  • the ability to apply linguistic methodologies to analyze language (English and other languages)
  • the skills to recognize and interpret differences across speech communities in language use
  • awareness of cross-cultural difference and respect for diversity
  • the ability to conduct a scientific research project and produce a quality research paper

Why Linguistics?

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. In this field, your main focus will be to understand how languages work, and how they are acquired by both native speakers and second language learners. Like in other scientific fields, you will collect and examine data, identify patterns, and create and test different hypotheses. In doing so, you will develop crucial analytical and technical skills, which are directly or indirectly relevant to a wide range of career paths. Here are some examples.

For more information, visit the Linguistics Society of America website.

Career Options Involving Linguistics

Text mining (text analytics): Analyzing text can be extremely valuable to companies, but how do you make sense of thousands of lines of text...? One useful tool is called sentiment analysis, which seeks to identify patterns in text data. Companies often employ this type of analysis to investigate whether customers have positive or negative opinions about their products (this can be done by examining the words that customers use when writing about such products in reviews or blog posts online). This type of analysis provides unique insights into how people feel about services and products, which in turn inform companies' marketing strategies, for example.

Linguistics allows you to have a comprehensive understanding of sentence structure, meaning, words, and their sounds. This knowledge is crucial if you plan to teach any language to children or adults, in the US or abroad. Needless to say, language teaching plays a crucial role in a world where people migrate to different countries and cultures (as immigrants or refugees). Linguistics can also help you better appreciate the building blocks that underlie all languages, which in turn allows you to better understand the challenges that people face when learning a new language—and to predict such challenges on the basis of people’s mother tongues.

More and more tech companies rely on linguistic data. When you start typing certain words on your smartphone, specific words are suggested based on your typical typing patterns: your phone "knows" what you normally type, and it can help you complete your own sentences by predicting the next word(s)—saving you a lot of time in the long run. At the same time, you can talk to your phone and get an answer back almost instantly. Combined with computer science and data analysis, linguistics can equip you to explore domains such as natural language processing, speech recognition, computer-assisted language learning, and many other areas.

Positions involving editing, publishing and writing all benefit from a background in linguistics.

Within the field of linguistics, phonetics deals with how speech sounds are produced and perceived by humans. Among other things, you will understand what makes different accents sound so different sometimes---which is certainly an important skill in acting.

Our Alumni

Learn more about what our graduate-program alumni do.

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What Can You Do with an English Major?

We’re asked this question all the time. Our answer: A lot. You will learn skills that transfer across hundreds of possible careers and industries—some of which may not even exist yet. Our graduates go on to work in marketing, publishing, non-profit fundraising, speechwriting, as well as in countless other fulfilling occupations.

Explore Careers

A student and a professor working together.

Program Benefits

You will learn directly from and collaborate with your faculty members, who offer diverse areas of expertise in linguistics and are actively conducting research in their fields, often with support from their students.

Faculty and student research has included work on:

  • the indigenous languages of the Americas
  • German
  • Hmong
  • Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Thai
  • Arabic
  • Polish
  • Romance languages
  • American Sign Language
  • African languages

Read our faculty bios:

You’ll produce published work and gain experience in the professional field through projects with your faculty, working as an assistant, presenting your work at conferences, and publishing journal articles.

Many of our graduate assistants work in Ball State’s Intensive English Institute, which provides English instruction to nonnative speakers. Through the work in the institute, the GAs receive ample practical training and can put into practice what they learn through their courses.

Explore more professional opportunities.

Major Requirements

The MA in linguistics includes core graduate-level linguistics coursework, directed electives, and a research or creative project.

Total Credits



A few of the classes you may take include:

  • Research in English Studies
  • Morphology and Syntax
  • Phonology and Phonetics

We also offer open-topic courses in linguistics and applied linguistics. Some of the courses offered are:

  • Linguistics and Digital Communication
  • Bilingualism and Language Contact
  • Language and Gender
  • Psycholinguistics

For a complete list of all the courses you will take and their descriptions, please see our Graduate Catalog.

View Catalog


Depending on the nature of your research, you may also be advised to take one or more courses in experimental design and statistics in addition to other course work.

Some research topics of the linguistics faculty and students include:

  • pragmatics
  • discourse analysis
  • psycholinguistics
  • second language reading and vocabulary acquisition
  • TESOL pedagogy
  • syntax
  • lexical semantics
  • sociolinguistics
  • language documentation and description
  • typology
  • historical linguistics

Paying for Your Education

Department Graduate Scholarships and Assistantships

A graduate assistantship is an excellent opportunity to gain meaningful professional experience while helping cover the costs of your degree. Learn more.

Ready to Apply?

Review our admission requirements, dates and deadlines, and instructions. Then complete our online application.

More Information

If you would like to learn more about this program or about Ball State Graduate School in general, please complete our online form to request more information. Or if you’d like to speak with someone in our department directly by phone or email, please contact us.