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Profile - White

Shelby White '10
Waco, Texas

Unlike many Baylor students with English-related majors, linguistics major and Waco native Shelby White didn't come to Baylor with a desire to work with words. Shelby didn't come to Baylor-at first-for linguistics at all. "I initially came to Baylor because they had an equestrian team," she says. "And I actually started out as a forensic science major. I used to think linguistics was just a glorified English major." Her initial view changed, though, when she realized that studying language didn't mean studying texts, and that she could study language for its own sake. "I found out that I really like tracing the history of English, from Old English to Middle English up till today. Now, I'm majoring in linguistics with an emphasis in historical linguistics. But I'm not only taking historical linguistics classes, of course. I've taken some sociolinguistics too. My favorite class was Middle English. That class was the first time I got a taste of why we speak English they way we do right now, and how dependent our modern speech is on what happened in the past."

After she finishes her degree, Shelby hopes she'll be able to extend her knowledge of language into a career in law. "I plan on going to law school in the future," she says. "My father is a lawyer-that's part of the reason why-but I also really want to see the ways in which language and the law connect. I've thought about grad school, too, but we'll see."

In her years at Baylor, Shelby has had off-campus experiences that helped her explore both language and law. "I've had an internship with a lawyer already, which I enjoyed," she says. "I also went on a study abroad to Italy, which was wonderful. I completed my Latin language requirement there."

Back at Baylor, Shelby is taking a graduate-level course in Old English, tracing present-day English even further back into the past. When asked why she thinks people should study linguistics, she shrugs and smiles. "Because they like it," she says first. "But more seriously, I think the people who enjoy linguistics are people who like languages, but who are also willing to drop preconceived notions of why a language is the way it is. One of the reasons I really like historical linguistics is simply because it really makes you think."