Combining Math and Linguistics

  • #1
honestrosewater
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I'm getting ready to return to school and am trying to figure out how to combine my interests. I plan on attending grad school, so I'm looking at my undergrad work as just preparatory.
I have a specific, long-term project in mind that covers four areas: math (mainly logic and foundations), computer science, linguistics (especially computational linguistics and stylistics), and English (only literature and creative writing). I think my best option is to double-major in math and linguistics. Depending on how much work I can handle (I'll be working full-time) and what the requirements are, I could either tack on minors in computer science and English or just use my electives for the same purpose. Most of my work will be in math and linguistics, and I think the overlap between math & computer science and linguistics & English should give me a solid foundation. I don't expect things to really get interesting until grad school anyway.
The school I'll be at for my Associate's has an interdisciplinary program that combines all of the humanities, arts, and social sciences classes, 3/4 of the requirements, into only three classes, so I'll have some spare time. I'll also take advantage of similar programs wherever I go for my Bachelor's.
Has anyone else taken a similar path? Sound like a good plan? Any advice? A heavy courseload doesn't scare me, in fact, I prefer it; I'm chiefly concerned with planning and spending my time wisely.
 

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  • #2
Math Is Hard
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wow! are we ever kindred spirits! I am a returning student like you ('cept probably much older than you :redface: ) and I needed something very interdisciplinary. I settled on cognitive science. What do you think about that? - it sounds like a field where you might be happy, and would combine your diverse interests.
I also work full-time and I do a full-time course load as often as I can - it's tough! Feel free to PM me if you ever want to commiserate. :biggrin:
 
  • #3
honestrosewater
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Math Is Hard said:
wow! are we ever kindred spirits! I am a returning student like you ('cept probably much older than you :redface: ) and I needed something very interdisciplinary. I settled on cognitive science. What do you think about that? - it sounds like a field where you might be happy, and would combine your diverse interests.
I did consider cognitive science a while ago- it was actually while browsing around MIT's Brain & CogSci Department's site that I decided to return to school- I even remember the night: October 9th, 2001 :smile: (Yeah, it's taken me a while.) Anyway, my focus has narrowed (and shifted a bit) to language- not just natural languages but formal languages also. I think I want and need much more math than cogsci would cover, and I'm not interested in its biological aspects, at least not as far as the work I want to do is concerned. I'll look it over again though; My interests do cross into artificial intelligence, but I'm not sure to what extent.
I also work full-time and I do a full-time course load as often as I can - it's tough! Feel free to PM me if you ever want to commiserate. :biggrin:
Congratulations and thanks. :biggrin:
 
  • #4
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Wow, I just want to say good luck to the both of you! :smile:

I know the feeling of preferring a heavy course load. Its more fun. At least in reading your posts there are people here who can help with you figure out what it is you want to do in college and grad school. :smile: Good Luck!
 
  • #5
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I do mean that sincerely as well. Really.
 
  • #6
robphy
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You might find "The Language of Mathematics" (by Warren W. Esty, Montana State University) interesting
http://augustusmath.hypermart.net/ [Broken]
I haven't read the text. But it sounds interesting.

from http://augustusmath.hypermart.net/ [Broken]

Mathematical results are expressed in a foreign language.

That language, like other languages, has its own grammar, syntax, vocabulary, word order, synonyms, negations, conventions, abbreviations, sentence structure, and paragraph structure. It has certain language features unparalleled in other languages (for example, theorems expressed using the letter "x" also apply to "b" and "2x-5").

Purpose: To teach essential language concepts which have been underemphasized in the usual mathematics curriculum. To emphasize the basic patterns of mathematical expression and thought.
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  • #7
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Nice idea, but try not to spread it out too thin. I have to say that minoring in English here is a pain, so I would recommend you just to take the courses you want to learn. Also, some philosophy courses would also help, like Philosophy of Language and Philosophy of Mathematics. Grad schools all look at your courses, so you do not actually need a minor or anything. Good luck!
 
  • #8
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Actually, a lot of the people I know who are doing math are also doing linguistics. Math and linguistics together seem to be a relatively common combination.
 
  • #9
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I would suggest outright majoring in linguistics and math. It seems to me that you don't have to worry about minoring in English because wouldn't linguistics have to touch upon that in order to properly analyze languages? I would, instead, only minor in computer science. Ironically, minoring in computer science (I did that in my day) isn't that much and the only I didn't major in it was because it required some math courses I couldn't fit in. in your case, as math major, you can probably accidentally major in computer science as well. So I'd recommend continuing where you're going except not minoring in English.
 
  • #10
honestrosewater
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Thanks to everyone for the advice.
 
  • #11
Math Is Hard
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misskitty said:
Wow, I just want to say good luck to the both of you! :smile:
thank you, misskitty. meow meow!
good luck to you too! :smile:
 
  • #12
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Wowzers! That is quite close to what I am doing. I plan on getting my degree in Math Education while taking certain English (English, communication, and linguistics, whichever I feel will help me the most) and Computer Science classes. My goal being to write math learning programs, and of course teach.

I am not sure of what degrees your school offers and what they require, but the Math Ed program here lets me substitute a few computer science classes for math classes. Look into all of the possibilities, and ask around, because you might be able to get away with substituting certain classes.
 
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  • #13
Gokul43201
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Math and linguistics are dear to me too. Coming from a background where it's hard to rake in the bread as a linguist, I chose to major in engineering (and am now doing a phD in Physics). Linguistics is still a hobby for me, and I'm a little unhappy that I've not gotten much in terms of a formal education in the field.

As far as interdisciplinary fields go, two narrow areas come immediately to mind. The first - one that you've been thinking about, I believe - involves the development of language recognition, analysis and translation software. The second is related to cryptography/cryptanalysis - especially but not limited to the field of (ancient) language decipherment.

You might want to try a few courses in these areas if they sound interesting to you. Many math departments offer courses on cryptography. Finding computer science courses related to language recognition/translation may be harder, but you may be able to find a prof under whom you can do a project. In any case, the skills needed for this are better gained through a varied selection of courses.
 
  • #14
honestrosewater
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Thanks, you all have given me some great ideas. It's wonderful to see there are so many people with similar interests. My project acutally has more to do with creative writing than anything else, but now I've said too much. :biggrin:
 

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