- The Language and Mind major explores the human mind through the study of language.
- Research is a large part of the program, with opportunities at six affiliated labs as well as through independent study or honors-track projects.
- Career options include medicine, law, tech, linguistics, and more.
What happens in the brain as we use and interpret language? How do children acquire speech? And why do small changes in sentence structure and wording drastically impact our understanding of laws and policy? At the NYU College of Arts and Science, students in the Language and Mind major explore the human mind through the study of language, tackling fascinating questions like these. For anyone whose curiosity spans multiple fields, the interdisciplinary major combines courses in linguistics, psychology, and philosophy.
“The Language and Mind major is a neat combination that I didn’t see at other schools,” says senior Johanna Bunn. “You need a certain number of classes in each area. However, within that, you really can tailor it to your interests.”
A Hotbed of Research Opportunities
Through research in and out of class, many Language and Mind students pursue their unique interests. Independent study is common, with the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fund providing grants of up to $1,250. Students can also design interdisciplinary research projects through the honors track, working with faculty advisers from two separate departments. Each project culminates in roughly one year of work and a 40-plus-page thesis.
What’s more, Language and Mind majors can take advantage of everything research labs offer. Six labs are affiliated with the program, including the Child Language Lab. Here, Johanna has spent two semesters investigating how children interpret key language concepts. Lab groups meet almost every week for presentations and discussions, and any student is welcome to attend. In fact, that’s how senior Anvita Guda—a Language and Mind major on the prehealth track with a Chemistry minor—got involved with the Neurolinguistics Lab. As a first-year student, Anvita observed lab meetings. Eventually, she began supporting the Kid-Lang Project, which uses neuroimaging to observe the brain during language-related processes.
“I’m particularly interested in language-related disorders. Understanding the linguistic basis as well as the neurological basis of those disorders is invaluable,” says Anvita, who recently presented her research at a linguistics conference at the University of Toronto. “The more I pursue both the linguistics angle and the premed angle, the more aware I am of connections between the two.”
On-Ramps to Law, Health Care, Tech, and More
While Anvita is preparing for medical school, Johanna wants to gain a year or two of professional experience in health research first. Then, she’ll seek a graduate degree in cognitive psychology or public health. Many Language and Mind graduates also go on to pursue advanced studies in areas like speech pathology, linguistics, and neuroscience.
On the other hand, some students are drawn to law school, like senior Matthew Tsai. He is double majoring in Language and Mind and Politics (on the honors track) and minoring in Data Science. “The Language and Mind major is an intersection of my interests in science, philosophy, and psychology,” says Matthew. “The knowledge I’ve gained from the program will assist me in my law school endeavors, as understanding the systems behind human language gives me insight into written and verbal communication that’s otherwise difficult to learn.”
In the technology industry, advances in artificial intelligence and the rise of tools like ChatGPT are also driving demand for linguistic knowledge. To help students hone these skills, the Language and Mind program is partnering with the NYU Center for Data Science to develop more courses in computational linguistics.
But no matter a student’s career goals, Language and Mind faculty are committed to helping everyone pursue their passions and reach their potential. “The channel of communication between professors and students in the department is more open than I’ve ever experienced. The professors want your input as a scientist and a student,” says Anvita. “They are incredibly receptive to hearing not just what support you need but also the ideas you have. Furthermore, they care about questions that are unrelated to course material. You can really get to know the people you learn from. And, they are excited to learn from you as well.”