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This fall, Yale College is offering a new computing and linguistics joint major for students interested in the computational study of human language. 

Led by newly-installed Director of Undergraduate Studies Robert Frank, the major will require students to undertake coursework in four core areas: math, statistics, linguistics and computation. Students have the option of completing either a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science program, with the Bachelor of Arts program requiring 11 credits beyond the prerequisites and the Bachelor of Science program requiring 14 credits beyond the prerequisites. Regardless of degree program, all students must complete two math core courses, one statistics core course, two linguistics core courses, two computation core courses and a senior requirement.

“I noticed a need for this major through my experience working with Yale College students on projects in computational linguistics,” Frank said. “I found that there is interest from both computer science majors who lack linguistics training and linguistics majors without programming experience. The major comes out of a desire to provide a path for students to learn about all of the relevant areas within a single program.”

Computing and linguistics joins an expanding list of joint majors that include computer science coursework. Yale College also offers degrees in computer science and economics, computer science and mathematics, computer science and psychology and computing and the arts. Other joint majors offered to undergraduates include mathematics and philosophy, physics and philosophy and economics and mathematics.

The news comes after the University increased computer science hiring and expanded course offerings in response to record-high demand. Today, computer science is the second-most popular major in Yale College. Total enrollment in computer science courses reached a new record high of 3,260 students for the fall 2022 semester.

For Hannah Szabo ’25, the major offers the opportunity to pursue a more personalized program of study while also merging her interests in computer science and the humanities. 

“I was planning on studying computer science, but I’ve always been especially interested in NLP [natural language processing], so this major really suits my interests well,” Szabo said. “One of the most exciting ways that computer science and humanities connect is through computational linguistics. Also, I like the idea of being in a smaller major that’s a little more personal.”

Like other joint majors, computing and linguistics will allow students to complete the core requirements of two different subjects without having to double-major, which would require roughly double the amount of courses.

Key requirements for the new major include proof-based discrete mathematics, linear algebra, probability, introduction to computer science and data structures and programming techniques. On the linguistics side, students must take courses concerning phonology, syntax and semantics.

William Palmer ’26 explained that he is interested in using computational methods to better understand what it means to be human.

“I wasn’t really sure what to major in, but I knew I was going to take a lot of linguistics courses because linguistics is so fascinating in describing the mind and describing what it means to be human,” Palmer said. “I really liked the idea of using computational and mathematical techniques to describe the structure of language and potentially the structure of the mind.”

According to Frank, the computing and linguistics major opens up a wide range of opportunities. Students may decide to pursue anything from academia and research to tech, banking and consulting. 

In addition to the courses offered, students pursuing computing and linguistics can also look for research opportunities at the Computational Linguistics at Yale lab led by Frank and the Language, Information and Learning at Yale lab led by computer science professor Drago Radev.  

Frank underlined the diversity of research areas open to students in the major. A list of labs with work relevant to the major, compiled by Frank for interested students, included principal investigators with various affiliations including the School of Management, Divinity School and the School of Music. 

“I’m really excited by the combination of computer science and linguistics because of my deep interest in natural language processing,” Seth Goldin ’26 said. “It’s a field where new research is coming out constantly.”

Yale College offers 83 majors to undergraduates.

Alex Ye covers faculty and academics. He previously covered the endowment, finance and donations. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, he is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight majoring in applied mathematics.