AMHERST, Mass. – The linguistics department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst ranks third worldwide, according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject for 2017, which were released March 8.
The latest subject rankings place UMass Amherst behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in the field of linguistics. The guide refers to UMass Amherst as the “highest climber in the top 10,” having jumped from No. 7 last year. In 2015, the department placed at No. 10.
“UMass linguistics has a long tradition of excellence and is known for ground-breaking research in the core areas of the field,” says Julie C. Hayes, dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. “Through activities such as the Center for the Study of African American Language and the Cognitive Science Initiative, as well as its many projects and experimental labs, members of the department collaborate with colleagues and students throughout the university and beyond. Their rise in the QS rankings points to both a superb track record and a trajectory of increasing accomplishments.”
“The QS World University Rankings are the most highly regarded and widely read rankings of higher educational institutions and programs,” explains Seth Cable, head of the department of linguistics. “The prestige of this ranking, as well as the specific factors that determine it are a strong indicator of the outstanding quality that our Linguistics department enjoys at the national and international level,” he says, citing QS World University Rankings’ methodology of assessing academic peer review, faculty-to-student ratio, citations per faculty member, institutional reputation, and international student ratio.
Among the leading theoretically-oriented departments in linguistics, UMass stands out for its long tradition of employing a variety of empirical methods to address theoretical questions. From its founding, it has sought to inform linguistic theory by using data and results from psychology (psycholinguistics), child language acquisition, fieldwork on endangered languages, and laboratory phonetics.
In response to the growing popularity of the field, the UMass program in linguistics was founded in 1967, within the English department, in order to offer a Ph.D. The first Ph.D. was completed in 1970. In 1971, the department of linguistics was established at UMass Amherst, becoming one of the first such departments in the country to be devoted to the development of formal linguistic theory. The faculty has always been made up of leaders within the field, and UMass has developed an international reputation as a major center for work in theoretical, experimental, and field linguistics. The top-ranked doctoral program focuses on educating a small number of Ph.D. students as high-quality researchers and teachers. Undergraduate linguistics majors are able to train their focus toward the humanities or social sciences and participate in substantive research with graduate students and faculty.