Overview of Computational Linguistics Bachelor's Degree Programs
Computational linguistics programs combine computer science and linguistics. Computational linguistics students study how computers process and produce human language, which requires advanced computer science skills and an in-depth understanding of how language works. Coursework in these programs tends to be both theoretical and practical, and experts in this field are increasingly sought after by a variety of industries. This article provides more detail about computational linguistics coursework and program admission requirements, as well as career and salary information.
Admission Requirements for Computational Linguistics Programs
In general, there are no special admission requirements for computational linguistics programs. If you are interested in applying, you will therefore need to follow the admission procedure for the university overall. This might include submitting former transcripts, standardized test scores and letters of recommendation through the online application process. Some programs may require that you be accepted to the university and make an appointment to meet with the program's academic advisor before you are permitted to declare a major in computational linguistics.
Computational Linguistics Program Coursework
This program is typically offered within a linguistics department, so you can expect a core curriculum focusing on traditional linguistics, with computational topics added in as you progress through the program. Some of the program coursework is described below.
Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology
This course is an introductory survey of the sound properties of human language. Students will become familiar with and practice the production, articulation and transcription of speech sounds in multiple languages. The course may also cover human vocal tract anatomy. Different experimental techniques in linguistics will be introduced in practical sessions.
Syntax and Semantics
The purpose of this course is to describe the grammatical structures of language. It is both theoretical and practical, including practical experience with linguistic data sets. The course will likely cover multiple language systems, perhaps in a comparative approach. This course serves as the foundation for further study in writing and reading, particularly for the teaching of English as a second language, a common concentration offering within linguistics.
Computer Programming and Problem Solving
Programming is at the heart of computer science. This course is taken early in a computational linguistics program because later practical coursework depends on a working knowledge in a high-level programming language. This course covers different datatypes, functions and structures. It also allows students to practice skills like data abstraction, algorithm development, and designing, testing and troubleshooting programs.
After completing a basic programming course in a language such as C++, students enrolled in this course will learn about standard data structures in that language. These include linear and nonlinear structures, files, linked lists and balanced trees. The course also covers management and manipulation of structures, through techniques such as searching and sorting.
Human Language and Technology
This course truly delves into the field of computational linguistics. It studies how much we know currently know about human language and the technologies that simulate it. The course typically has a laboratory component, and builds on basic linguistics and computer science knowledge. It focuses on how computers make and recognize language. Topics include speech recognition, semantics, phonetics, text generation, parsing and grammar.
How to Choose a Computational Linguistics Program
The location of a computational linguistics program might be something to consider when deciding. Computational linguistics graduates are in demand all over the country, but there are certain geographical hubs where technology firms focusing on voice technology are clustered, and where programs may form valuable connections with these companies. You may also want to compare the capstone or internship opportunities offered by each program, to see which one best prepares you for the type of career you are most interested in.
Career Options for a Degree in Computational Linguistics
Computational linguists are increasingly employed by the technology industry to work on the human language competencies of robots and computers. While the US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have data specifically for computational linguists, the site reports a median salary in 2016 of $102,280 for all software developers. Job numbers in this field are expected to grow much faster than average from 2016-2026, at 24%. Some other careers to consider include: