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Comparative Languages & Linguistics

A Foundation for Critical Thinking

Overview   |   Meet an Earlhamite   |   Our Faculty   |   Plan of Study   |   Courses  


Comparative Languages and Linguistics combines the study of two or more languages with an exploration of linguistics and language-related content areas such as literature or film.

As a CLL major, you will learn multiple languages and understand how language broadly influences people’s sense of reality. Because an off-campus study experience is required, you will experience languages within their cultural context.

Given Earlham’s globally diverse community, most students don’t even have to leave campus in order to converse with native speakers in the languages they are studying.


You can study Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Latin and Spanish.

Current alums are teaching English around the world, working in publishing and doing graduate work in international studies.

You can find Earlham CLL alumni in law, social service, translation, education, speech therapy, non-profit organizations and international business.

Meet An Earlhamite
Sierra Newby-Smith
Revealing history

A self-described “history geek,” Sierra Newby-Smith always knew that history would be an important part of her education and career.

Eboni Stevens
Working Toward Making a Change

Eboni Stevens '15 saw the disconnect between social classes here in Richmond. After her third year at Earlham, she saw education as the key and she and four friends set out to make a change.

Responding to Military Occupation
Responding to Military Occupation

Informed by the commitment to critical questioning and social justice fostered at Earlham, Lilly Lerner ’13 is headed to Palestine, where she will live and work in a refugee camp in the West Bank.

Our Faculty

Ferit Güven
Professor of Philosophy

Kari Kalve
Professor of English

Yasumi Kuriya
Associate Professor of Japanese

Aletha Stahl
Professor of French and Francophone Studies; Co-Director of the Center of Social Justice

Chris Swafford
Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies

Tracy Lautzenheiser
Administrative Assistant
Plan of Study

The Major

CLL majors must be intrinsically motivated and entrepreneurial given the interdisciplinary structure of the program and unique combination of languages each student pulls together. Students who do not arrive at Earlham with substantial skills in at least one language must plan carefully beginning in their first year. All students choose an academic adviser in CLL to help guide them through the program. In their senior year, they consult with a thesis adviser from among CLL faculty and at least one other faculty member on their Senior Capstone experience.

All CLL majors must complete the following:

  • One course designated as Writing Intensive (WI) and one course designated as Research Intensive (RCH).
  • One semester-length, off-campus study with courses taught in one of the selected languages.
  • One course in linguistics, chosen from:
    • CLL 345 Linguistics
    • CLL 348 Sociolinguistics
    • JAPN 422 Japanese Linguistics
    • SPAN 336 Linguistics, Language, and Pedagogy
    • SPAN 406 Topics in Linguistics
  • At least three other courses that focus on language as the topic. These may be chosen from the linguistics options above, the following courses, or an adviser-approved substitution:
    • ENG 469 Contemporary Literary Criticism
    • CLL 407 Translation: Theory and Practice
    • FREN 458 Contemporary Thought
    • JAPN 351 Teaching Japanese as a Second Language
    • JAPN 422 Japanese in Social Context
    • JAPN 431 Literacy in Japanese
    • PHIL 252 Philosophy and Film Theory
    • PHIL 330 Postcolonial Theory
    • PHIL 365 Philosophy of Language
    • PHIL 460 Contemporary Philosophy
    • SOAN 341 Contemporary Social Thought
    • TESO 344 Studies in Language Learning and Teaching
  • CLL 480 Colloquium
  • CLL 488 Senior Capstone Experience

In addition:

  • For Spanish, French and German, students must take a minimum of two courses numbered above the 310-level and taught in the target language.
  • For Arabic, Chinese and Japanese, students must complete two language courses at the 300-level or demonstrate the equivalent proficiency level. They also must take two courses related to literature, film or culture for the chosen language. These courses may be listed or cross-listed under Middle East Studies, Chinese Studies, or Japanese Studies.
  • For Latin, students must complete ANCS 342 Reading Latin and take a minimum of 12 additional non-language credits (four courses) related to the study of Latin.
  • Neither language can be the student's first or "mother" tongue.

* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (ES) = Earlham Seminar
  • (IE) = Immersive Experience
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

This course combines independent study with the structure of a class to allow students to learn a language not offered at Earlham. Students choose their language, set learning goals, locate materials,and help determine how progress is evaluated. All students complete a presentation, a mapping project, a connections project, and a reflective journal. Learning is measured in part through external means such as online tests. Students must have learned English in high school and have an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher. Prerequisites: Sophomore standing or above, placement into 300-level course in a language Earlham offers, Earlham language course at 102 level or higher with grade of A- or A, a semester or year off-campus program with significant language component, or permission of the instructor.

CLL 345 LINGUISTICS (3 credits)
Introduces students to the nature of human language: its use, evolution and diversity. Approaches language as a system of communication and human behavior. Provides students practice in using certain basic skills when thinking about language: analyzing data, making generalizations, proposing hypotheses, providing argumentation and formulating proposals

Designed to help students interested in language learn how language functions in a social context. Topics include language and cultural meaning, connections between language variation and geographical/ethnic backgrounds, social class and social networks, age and gender, forms of address and politeness, non-verbal communication, language for social change, and language education and policy. Also listed as TESO 348. (D-I) (AY)

CLL 480 COLLOQUIUM (1 credit)
Through readings, lectures, discussions and research on practical and theoretical aspects of language, students develop a critical understanding of linguistic and cultural differences, connect to other disciplines through languages, and begin to identify a literary, linguistic, and/or cultural topic in preparation for their senior capstone experience.

An internship or practicum organized by the student in consultation with the adviser. Credits for the experience must be negotiated between the adviser and the on-site supervisor. The experience involves one of the following: (a) teaching or tutoring a second language, (b) a special research project or (c) interpreting / translation. Depending on the experience, students enhance their communicative skills, develop a critical understanding of linguistic and cultural differences, connect to other disciplines through languages, come to a deeper understanding of the role of translation in cross-cultural communication, and/or reflect on career and life goals.

Students complete a comprehensive thesis that is comparative in nature and present their work publicly. For their thesis, they analyze complex literary, visual, and/or cultural texts in a comparative framework; demonstrate their knowledge of and engagement with sociolinguistic, literary, and cultural theories and methodologies; locate and use quality information correctly; and produce oral and written argumentations on a literary, linguistic, and/or cultural topic.