5 Linguistics Courses for NLP Practitioners

This collection of 5 courses is intended to help NLP practitioners or hopefuls acquire some of their lacking linguistics knowledge.

5 Linguistics Courses for the NLP Practitioners
Photo by Charl Folscher on Unsplash


Most NLP practitioners who are also readers of KDnuggets, I would assume, have come to natural language processing via the computational route (recall that computational linguistics is another term for what we also call NLP). That is, these practitioners will have a solid technical foundation. This is in direct contrast to trained linguists coming to NLP from the linguistics route. The likely difference in skill sets should be relatively apparent.

Depending on which path you take, the expertise you are equipped with from the outset will differ. While linguistics have to take on the effort of learning the required computational skills, those coming from a computational background need to catch up on their linguistics knowledge.

This collection of 5 courses is intended to help NLP practitioners or hopefuls acquire some of their lacking linguistics knowledge.


1. Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics

From Universiteit Leiden & Meertens Instituut (via Coursera)

The goal of this course is to get you a quick introduction to linguistics. It claims to be especially useful if you are considering studying linguistics further, you will be studying a related discipline, or if you are looking to develop your analytical skills.


The Miracles of Human Language introduces you to the many-faceted study of languages, which has amazed humans since the beginning of history. Together with speakers of many other languages around the world, as well as with famous linguists such as Noam Chomsky and Adele Goldberg, you will learn to understand and analyse how your native tongue is at the same time similar and different from many other languages. You will learn the basic concepts of linguistics, get to know some of the key features of big and small languages and get insight into what linguists do.


Basically, if you want to know how language works, and how language can be used to understand the human mind, If you are curious to understand how language works and how it gives insight into the human mind, Miracles of Human Language is for you.


2. Applied Linguistics

From University of Leicester

The applied linguistics course from University of Leicester takes a decidedly less theoretical approach than the previous, focusing on how to use the skills of the linguistics discipline in the real world.


This online course will introduce you to practical, real-world applications including language teaching, language assessment and forensic linguistics. From reducing gender bias to simplifying legal texts, applied linguistics is crucial to effective communication. Working through a series of case studies with the help of experts who teach on our Applied Linguistics degrees, you will learn techniques and research methods that will let you see language usage in a whole new light.


The demographic aim of the course are those interested in linguistics or language teaching, as well as those who may be considering postgraduate linguistics studies.


3. Introduction to Comparative Indo-European Linguistics

From Universiteit Leiden (via Coursera)

The Indo-European language family is a large one, consisting of some of the world's most prominent languages.


Build your knowledge of Indo-European languages, how they changed through time, and how to reconstruct ancient languages. Every language belongs to a language family; a group of languages that are genetically related to each other. Indo-European is the name of the language family to which English belongs, along with many sub-families such as Germanic languages and Romance languages.


The course will look at the structure and origins of the many branches of this tree, demonstrate language comparison, and discuss linguistic reconstruction as you work to put together the Proto-Indo-European language.


4. Corpus Linguistics: Method, Analysis, Interpretation

From Lancaster University (via Future Learn)

This course from Leicester University is a little more specific in its practical focus than the previous offerings. The intention of this course to provide an introduction to the methodology of corpus linguistics from a research point of view.


Over eight weeks, you’ll build the skills necessary to collect and analyse large digital collections of text (corpora).

You’ll be introduced to a number of topics demonstrating the use of corpora in areas as diverse as discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, and language learning and teaching.


This is the only publicly available course on research corpus construction, and it looks incredibly interesting.


5. Introduction to Sociolinguistics: Accents, Attitudes and Identity

From University of York

This course focuses on how people interact with language.


This course is for anyone interested in finding out more about sociolinguistics. Topics include: attitudes to accents in the UK; how sociolinguists measure accents and attitudes; the relationship between accents and identity; why accents matter in the real world


This is another highly-specialized course, with a sociolinguistic bent. The study of accents, attitudes toward them, and how they help form identity are the topics covered, which is a fresh perspective into the world of linguistics.

Matthew Mayo (@mattmayo13) is a Data Scientist and the Editor-in-Chief of KDnuggets, the seminal online Data Science and Machine Learning resource. His interests lie in natural language processing, algorithm design and optimization, unsupervised learning, neural networks, and automated approaches to machine learning. Matthew holds a Master's degree in computer science and a graduate diploma in data mining. He can be reached at editor1 at kdnuggets[dot]com.