Ariel Goldberg, co-director of the linguistics minor, poses for a portrait in his office on Feb. 17. (Alexis Serino / The Tufts Daily)

Linguistics minor reinstated after year-long pause

The linguistics minor has been reinstated, effective immediately, after it was temporarily put on hold in spring 2016. The minor will continue to be housed in the Department of Philosophy, according to Department Chair Erin Kelly.

Kelly said that the linguistics minor was reinstated partly because 146 students signed a petition, submitted this fall, which requested the minor’s return. She explained that the philosophy department now has permanent members who can manage the program.

“[The department] feels optimistic that [it] will be able to sustain the requirements of [the] minor going forward,” Kelly said.

According to a Feb. 4, 2016 Daily article, the linguistics minor was paused last academic year in part because Professor of Philosophy Ray Jackendoff will retire at the end of the current academic year. Jackendoff was co-director of the linguistics minor and also served as the advisor for most linguistics students, the article noted.

Professor of Psychology Ariel Goldberg, co-director of the linguistics minor and director of the Psycholinguistics and Linguistics Lab, added that Jackendoff was responsible for teaching two of the linguistics minor’s core courses.

“It was not immediately clear at the time how we could continue to teach these courses [after Jackendoff’s requirement], and the administration decided to pause the minor to preserve its focus on linguistics — rather than say, restructure it — so that we could work out how these courses could be taught,” Goldberg told the Daily in an email.

Since then, Assistant Professor of Philosophy Dilip Ninan has offered to teach the introductory courses, Goldberg explained.

Dean of Arts and Sciences James Glaser said that the faculty is “in a more stable place now,” and it is therefore able to offer the linguistics minor consistently.

“Our ability to offer a minor depends upon having the right faculty and the courses. We had some changes and potential changes in the faculty that led us to put a hold on the minor,” Glaser told the Daily in an email.

Kelly noted that the minor’s requirements have not changed. According to Goldberg, the minor includes a core set of linguistics courses on language structure as well as a number of interdisciplinary offerings.

“The minor also includes courses from other fields that connect and build on the theory courses, covering topics such as how languages change over time, how children acquire language and topics in reading and dyslexia,” Goldberg said. “This interdisciplinary program allows students to learn about the structure of language and relate this knowledge to many areas of application.”

Nesi Altaras, chair of Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate’s Education Committee, explained that TCU Senate was involved in the reinstatement of the linguistics minor. He worked with Rati Srinivasan, the former committee chair and current TCU Senate Historian, as well as the Department of Philosophy on the initiative.

“Our work with [Dean of Academic Affairs for Arts and Sciences Bárbara Brizuela] and the philosophy department was critical to the restarting of [the minor],” Altaras, a sophomore, told the Daily in an email. “First, we got Tufts to notify students about the pause of the [minor]. Then we met with different professors teaching classes for linguistics and put out a survey gauging student interest. We asked whether students wanted to see these minors exist, and almost everyone who responded said they wanted to see the minors exist, which is not the same as expressing interest in doing the minor themselves.”

Goldberg said that he is looking forward to the minor’s reinstatement. He encouraged students to minor in linguistics and expressed enthusiasm for the minor.

“Anyone who is interested in language can find a course of study within the minor to suit their interests,” Goldberg said.

Jackendoff added that he hopes the linguistics program will be successful.

“I’m delighted that the relevant faculty and the deans have found it possible to reinstate the linguistics minor,” Jackendoff told the Daily in an email. “Ironically, perhaps it was the pausing of the minor that has evoked greater student interest than we’d seen in previous years.”

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