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General Linguistics (B.A.) (two subjects)


At first glance, the diversity of languages is breathtaking. But what do they have in common? What are the cognitive foundations of linguistic competence? How do languages change and why? What can we infer from documented languages for languages spoken in the prehistory of humankind? In the Göttingen program "General Linguistics" students acquire techniques and theories of modern linguistics and become familiar with the analysis of languages from different parts of the world and different times.

General Linguistics
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) (2 subjects)
Standard period of study:
6 semesters
Start of studies:
winter semester
Teaching language:
(enrolment without previous application)
Orientation events:
Orientation events are offered

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The subject "General Linguistics" covers the methods and theories of modern linguistics in its entire breadth. General Linguistics has the totality of the world's languages as its object of investigation and study. The research areas of General Linguistics encompass phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics/pragmatics, language change, language comparison and typology, experimental fieldwork, corpus analysis, language documentation.

The Department of General Linguistics at the University of Göttingen complements the wide range of languages offered by the different philological departments in the Faculty of Humanities with a focus on Ancient Indo-European languages, minority languages of Europe, Caucasian and West African languages, and indigenous languages of the Americas.

The department collaborates in teaching and research with the linguistic groups in the philologies (English, German, Romance, and Slavic). These groups form Linguistics in Göttingen or LinG which is part of the university research focus "Language and Cognition". They organize a joint international MA program, MA Linguistics and a Research Training Group dedicated to basic linguistic research. Furthermore, the General Linguistics department participates in the University Center Text Structures, where experts from linguistics, literary studies, psychology, and computer science develop an interdisciplinary understanding of the structure of texts and their role in communication. In addition, the department has many collaborations in teaching and research with other departments of the Faculty of Humanities, e.g. Classical Philology, Finnougristics, Turkology, etc.

The subject "General Linguistics" comprises first of all the core disciplines of linguistics, which are dedicated to the analysis of linguistic phenomena: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics. Furthermore, our program introduces methods for conducting empirical investigations, such as textual investigations and linguistic experiments. In addition, the students will be familiarized with the interfaces of linguistics with other linguistic disciplines, e.g. the cognitive foundations of language and communication in general (psycholinguistics) or the interaction between social phenomena and language (sociolinguistics). The program also conveys key competences, such as the techniques of processing language data for phonetic analyses or statistical evaluation. These skills can be used in a wide range of scientific activities and professional fields.

General linguistics traditionally has two major areas: comparative and historical linguistics. These are reflected in the two specialization areas between which students in the General Linguistics program at the University of Göttingen can choose from the 3rd semester, namely "Language Typology and Theory" and "Indo-European Linguistics".

From the 3rd semester onwards, two study specializations are offered:

  • Profile 1: Language Typology and Theory

    This profile focuses on language diversity: What explains the similarities and differences between languages? Properties common to all languages lead to insights into the foundations of human cognition as well as the specific foundations of language competence. Cross-linguistic differences are informative as to the potential range of variation of language evolution in various cultural-historic conditions, as well as its limits. In this profile, students acquire techniques for working with highly diverse languages, compare familiar European languages with languages from all regions of the world, engage in documentation and analysis of endangered languages, and reflect on the impact of social factors and ongoing transformations on language use (e.g., migration and multilingualism, urbanization and dialect levelling).

  • Profile 2: Indo-European Linguistics

    This profile delves into historical linguistics. It focuses on the ancient Indo-European languages (such as Latin, Greek, and Old Indian), which have a long documented linguistic history and have been at the core of historical linguistics for more than 200 years. A central aim of this profile is to apply modern empirical and analytical methods of linguistics to the analysis of ancient languages. Modern empirical methods promise to unlock insights from languages that can only be approached with text-based research due to the absence of native speakers. Current linguistic theory enables us to investigate aspects of these languages that are less understood, such as the interaction of phonological or syntactic phenomena with prosody. Beyond the study of ancient Indo-European languages, this profile integrates general aspects of language change and language contact, classical analytical methods of historical linguistics such as the reconstruction of undocumented proto-languages, and current research on phylogenetics.

Foreign language skills are very important for linguistic reflection. A particularly broad spectrum of languages can be selected through the courses offered by the Linguistics Department as well as other departments of the Philosophical Faculty and the University of Göttingen. Further details on the languages offered can be found on the website of the General Linguistics department .

A good knowledge of English is required. Through the international courses of the BA program, you will have the opportunity to practice your English skills (written and oral) and gain experience in international academic communication.

As part of the BA program, knowledge of further languages, e.g., French, Spanish, Russian, can be acquired and trained in various contexts, e.g., in the communication with speakers from different regions of the world (e.g., speakers from French-speaking West Africa or Spanish-speaking Central America) or in working with relevant linguistic literature (e.g., Russian, French, or Spanish grammars on various languages).

The central didactic goal of the study program is the acquisition and practice of the competence for independent scientific work. The conception of the study program is based on student projects, creative forms of examination, modern teamwork, training in current forms of scientific communication. Courses by international guests are regularly offered in English, providing students with an excellent opportunity to train their skills in international scientific communication. The use of modern methods offers training in key competences (empirical methods, processing of linguistic data), which apply in a wide range of disciplines/professions. The professional challenge of understanding linguistic phenomena within the framework of scientific models trains analytical thinking and opens up new possibilities for complex argumentations.

The profiles offer the opportunity to acquire a further specialization. Graduates of the BA-program who chose the profile "Language Typology and Language Theory" are familiar with current theoretical approaches to language and empirical methods of data collection. Those who chose the profile "Indo-European Linguistics" are familiar with the historical comparative method, methods of data acquisition, and theoretical approaches to language change.

General Linguistics offers a broad field of study that can be a starting point for very different specializations. The BA program offers a variety of career prospects:

  • Research

    The scientific foundations laid by the program are applied directly in research. Further qualification is recommended within the framework of the MA Linguistics which is offered by the Linguistics in Göttingen.

    Linguistic research is carried out in universities and Special Research Centers, as well as in research institutions such as the Max-Planck Institutes or the Academies. With a qualification in General Linguistics, you can work in projects on various issues on linguistic theory or description, in projects for the documentation or revitalization of endangered languages, in projects on language change or typology.

  • Professional fields in applied linguistics

    Further qualification opportunities after a BA in General Linguistics are offered in applied linguistics, e.g. Intercultural Communication, Computational Linguistics and Text Technology, Clinical Linguistics, Translation or Language Teaching.

    The following MA programs at the University of Göttingen offer possibilities to develop a qualification in this direction: Digital Humanities, Intercultural German Studies Germany - China and Intercultural German Studies/German as a Foreign Language.

  • Professional fields in language and culture

    Further career opportunities arise if you combine your competence in general linguistics with a regional focus. This may result in a versatile qualification that can be very useful in professions with the corresponding regional focus.

    The MA Cultures and Languages of the Mediterranean offers an interesting opportunity for such a further qualification. Especially for students of the Indo-European Linguistics major, the MA Ancient Cultures can open up relevant perspectives.

  • Other professional fields

    The General Linguistics major provides expertise in the humanities combined with key skills like the processing of linguistic data and the application of empirical methods of psychology and social research, which are in demand in a wide range of professional fields in the non-academic sector. The skills taught in this program are relevant to all professional occupations in the fields of communication, science-based services, publishing, translation and processing of linguistic data. Linguistic expertise in combination with foreign language skills are an excellent basis for job opportunities in the area of intercultural communication.

    The program is interdisciplinary in nature. Combined with a philology, but also with ethnology, psychology, computer science, mathematics, philosophy and other subjects, it opens up a wide range of possibilities.

Related and consecutive/graduate programmes


In the two-subject Bachelor's programme, two subjects are studied on equal terms.

A total of 180 credits are earned for the Bachelor's degree Bachelor of Arts (B.A.).

The two subjects each account for 66 credits. The area of professionalisation accounts for 36 credits.

The following credits must be earned for the subject General Linguistics:

  1. Compulsory modules

    Two compulsory modules "Fundamentals of Linguistics" and "Language Structure", totalling 14 credits, must be successfully completed.

  2. Compulsory elective modules

    Compulsory elective modules totalling at least 52 credits must be successfully completed. 36 Credits depend on a chosen specialisation:

Regulations and module directory


Winter semester only
1st subject semester:
open admission (enrolment without previous application)
2nd to 6th subject semester:
open admission (enrolment without previous application)

Non-German citizens without a German educational qualification

Citizen from a non-EU country (or stateless person)

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Study and examination advice Faculty of Humanities

Tina Seufer and Eva Wolff

Humboldtallee 17
DE-37073 Göttingen

Phone: +49 (0)551 39 21888 (Seufer)
Phone: +49 (0)551 39 26713 (Wolff)



Academic Advising

Dr. Georg Höhn

Sprachwissenschaftliches Seminar

Käte-Hamburger-Weg 3
SPW 0.111
37073 Göttingen

Phone: +49 551 39 29297