Gordon in the News: last updated 10/24/2008

New Linguistics Major Launches

August 21, 2008

Kristin Schwabauer
Office of College Communications


WENHAM, MA-The Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics at Gordon College recently announced its newest addition to the department-an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental linguistics major and minor. Co-directed by Dr. Graeme Bird and Dr. Gregor Thuswaldner, both from the Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics, the major will provide students with knowledge of the main pillars of linguistics, including syntax, morphology, phonetics, phonology, semantics and pragmatics. Courses will be offered as soon as this fall. This new major sets Gordon apart from most schools in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities-making Gordon one of the only schools to offer linguistics as a major.

Linguistics--which looks at the structure and usage of language--is a growing academic field and is linked to many other disciplines including education, psychology, sociology, English, computer science, philosophy, other languages and Biblical studies. "The study of languages and linguistics," says Bird, assistant professor of linguistics and classics, "as well as being fascinating in itself, has natural and obvious connections with such diverse fields as biblical exegesis, computer programming, and psychology. The range of options students will have in choosing their areas of study will be greatly enhanced."

The new linguistics major reconnects Gordon with the work of Kenneth Pike '33, a major pioneer in the field of linguistics and one of Gordon's most famous alumni. Pike is also one of the founders of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and was a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize 15 years in a row. Gordon's new program will have significant links to the program at SIL, allowing students, especially those with an interest in Bible translation, to spend one or more summers studying at one of SIL's campuses, and applying credit towards their Gordon major.

The study of linguistics combines naturally with majors in many other fields. "Communication arts students participating in the linguistics curriculum can enhance their understanding of language in relation to other forms of communication and culture," says Rini Cobbey, an assistant professor of communication arts and chair of the department. "In the Communication Arts Department for example, our major's emphasis on practice or performance of communications interacts really well with the many layers of linguistic theory."

Students in other majors are already responding to the new program with great interest. "For students interested in education, human development and psychology, linguistics offers deep insight into several problems regarding memory, concept acquisition/categorization and logic," says junior Gabe DiMauro, who shares in Gordon's passion for linguistics. DiMauro is part of the Kenneth Pike Honors Program, a program that allows exceptional students to design their own majors. This allowed DiMauro to major in linguistics before it was an official major at Gordon. "For students interested in philosophy," DiMauro continues, "linguistics has become a focal point in western philosophy since the 'linguistic turn' of the mid 20th century. For ancient history students, linguistics provides important tools for understanding and analyzing original source materials written in languages which are no longer spoken, as well as archaeological tools for tracing the origins of prehistoric groups such as the Proto-Indo-Europeans. For Biblical studies majors, linguistics is fundamental to Biblical exegesis and the analysis of Biblical languages. And of course for language majors, linguistics is critical to understanding the grammatical, phonological, and semantic components that constitute every language." Now a triple major in linguistics, French and history with a minor in the Classics, DiMauro studied two summers at SIL on the University of North Dakota campus.

In addition to taking part in a rigorous academic program on and off campus, exceptional linguistic majors may be eligible to participate in a summer internship program with Transparent, a well-known language software company located in Nashua, New Hampshire. "This is an exciting opportunity for our students," says Thuswaldner, "Working on the development of language learning software will significantly enhance a student's academic experience at Gordon."

Classes will include Sociolinguistics, Semantics and Pragmatics, Phonology and Phonetics, Syntax and Morphology and the History of the English Language and as well as one year of foreign language instruction.

Bird and Thuswaldner will bring much to this new program--Bird, who was a Teaching Fellow in Harvard's Classics Department, has a master of arts in linguistics from Harvard; Thuswaldner wrote his masters thesis on German sociolinguistics at the University of Vienna.

For more information or to set up an interview, contact Kristin Schwabauer in the Office of College Communications at 978.867.4037 or email .


Gordon College is a Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston's North Shore. The College offers majors in 37 fields and has graduate programs in education and music education. Leading the way in Christian college merit, Gordon is nationally ranked for its excellence in academics and its role in character building. These achievements recognize Gordon as one of the nation's top Christian colleges.