The Linguistics Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of the oldest, largest, and most distinguished departments of linguistics in the United States, attracting students from all over the world. With faculty members covering all major areas of linguistic research, the department offers a large number of undergraduate and graduate courses, as well as B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degree programs.

Formally established in 1965, the Department of Linguistics quickly became one of the leading linguistics departments in the nation. While its focus was originally on research and the training of graduate students, the Department has also developed an undergraduate program that has attracted some of the best students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Our M.A. program in Teaching English as a Second Language is one of the oldest in the United States, having celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016. However, the program traces its history back over 70 years to 1947, when it began as a program focusing on the teaching of English to students from other language backgrounds.

Timeline of the Department of Linguistics at Illinois

  • 1946: ESL instruction first began on campus
  • 1961: Graduate Program in Linguistics organized
  • 1965: Department of Linguistics founded by Henry Kahane
    • Original faculty members: Braj B. Kachru, Henry Kahane, Howard Maclay, Charles E. Osgood, and John F. Yegerlehner; Robert Lees appointed as first head
  • 1966: Division of English as a Second Language founded
  • 1967: Phonetics Lab founded (Chin Woo Kim, Director)
  • 1968, 1969: LSA Summer Institutes hosted
  • 1971: First issue of Studies in the Linguistic Sciences (SLS) published
  • 1978: LSA Summer Institute hosted at Illinois
  • 1986: First issue of Issues and Developments in English and Applied Linguistics published
  • 1990: 25th anniversary, including lecture series and special volume of SLS describing the history of the department
    • Invited alumni speakers: Ronald Langacker, Jerry Sadock, Fritz Newmeyer, David Odden, Lise Menn, Peter Lowenberg, Gabriella Hermon, and S.N. Sridhar
  • 1999: LSA Summer Institute hosted
  • 2008: Merger of Linguistics and the Division of English as an International Language
  • 2009: First Illinois Language and Linguistics Society (ILLS) conference
  • 2015-16: 50th anniversary celebration, including six invited alumni lectures at ILLS8
    • Invited alumni speakers: Peter Cole, Laura Downing, Khalil Iskarous, Nkonko Kamwangamalu, John Levis, and Jerry Sadock