Language & Linguistics

What is linguistics?

Linguistics is the close study of the nature of human language. Language is universal in human society and a prerequisite to civilization, culture, science, history and technology. The study of linguistics then, is the study of a defining characteristic of the human species.

The linguistics faculty in the University of Nevada, Reno's English Department conduct research in many sub-fields of linguistics, including sociolinguistics (the relationship between social factors and language use), phonetics and phonology (the physical nature and mental organization of speech sounds), morphology (the structure of words) and language documentation. Our faculty members focus on a similar range of languages around the world, including English and its varieties, Paiute, Navajo and Scottish Gaelic.

Our linguistics students develop excellent analytical and problem-solving skills that are essential to professional careers or advanced study in fields like information technology, law, business, education, finance and medicine.

English class reads, studies and talks outside on the lawn

Interested in exploring linguistics more? Consider declaring it as your major or minor.

Major in linguistics

Minor in linguistics

Master's in linguistics

Opportunities for students

A range of resources and opportunities are available for students to become involved in faculty research and to conduct original research of their own. Many of our undergraduate students have presented their work at regional and national conferences.

Faculty in linguistics

Ian Clayton

Ian Clayton

I work in the areas of phonetics, phonology and language documentation. Some of my recent phonetic research investigates how English is spoken in the Scottish Hebrides and in the western United States. My language documentation work is focused on Scottish Gaelic, an endangered language spoken in the Scottish Highlands.

Frandsen Humanities building covered in ivy

Valerie Fridland

My interest in linguistics began as an undergraduate at the School of Languages and Linguistics at Georgetown University. I received my Ph.D. in linguistics, with a specialization in sociolinguistics, from Michigan State University. After a visiting professorship at Bogaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey, I began teaching here at the University of Nevada, Reno. My teaching areas include general linguistics, sociolinguistics, syntax, language and gender and language and social life.

My research interest mainly focuses on differences in the production and perception of varieties of American English. My goal is to better understand how variability in speech production relates to variability in speech perception and how social identity (such as being female, rural or LatinX) affects speech.

Frandsen Humanities building covered in ivy

Ignacio Montoya

I received my Ph.D. from The Graduate Center at the City University of New York prior to coming to the University of Nevada, Reno. For my dissertation, I focused on the morphology (i.e., word structure) of three languages: Hebrew, Navajo and Spanish. I continue to be interested both in the linguistic sub-field of morphology and in those three languages and their language families. While in graduate school, I volunteered with the Endangered Language Alliance. From these experiences, I developed a strong interest in Indigenous languages, which is the main focus of my current research. Right now, I am working on Northern Paiute, one of the languages indigenous to the area. My research includes describing the grammatical structure of the languages I study and finding ways to support community efforts at maintaining and fortifying those languages. I am also exploring the role that decolonization can play in language documentation, revitalization and theory.

Frandsen Humanities building covered in ivy

Tamara Valentine

I am a native Chicagoan of Lithuanian descent and have my Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I work in the area of sociolinguistics and have published articles and presented papers on topics related to English as an international language, South Asian languages and linguistics, discourse analysis, language and gender, and cross-cultural communication. I specialize in the contextualization of indigenized varieties of English within a sociolinguistic framework, particularly taking an integrative sociocultural approach to the study of Indian English and the construction of gender. I have taught linguistics and English as a second language at the University of Illinois, Michigan State University and the University of South Carolina, Upstate.