The Department of Linguistics is home to one of the oldest and most distinguished linguistics programs in the United States. The study of linguistics at Harvard draws much of its strength from the unique range and depth of the University’s offerings in related fields, especially ancient and modern languages. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the full spectrum of Harvard’s resources in planning their schedules; they are also free to cross-register for linguistics and linguistics-related courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While all PhD candidates are expected to acquire a solid background in contemporary linguistic theory, the department places great emphasis on the inseparability of good theoretical work and detailed empirical research, and on the interrelatedness of diachronic and synchronic approaches to the study of linguistic phenomena.
Since the department is relatively small, discussion among faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates is ongoing and informal. Special workshops funded by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, together with frequent departmentally sponsored lectures and seminars, bring an unusually large number of outside speakers to Harvard every year. Widener Library contains a matchless linguistic and philological collection.