My own reasons for majoring in linguistics were even more
accidental. I entered college with sophomore standing, and so I had to
declare a major right away. I wanted to major in math, but this
required an interview with the department chair, Prof. Gleason, who was
distinctly not encouraging.
"Tell me, young man," he said, peering at me coldly over the top of his glasses, "what new theorems have you proved?"
"Well", I said, taken aback, "just the ones I was assigned for homework, or on tests. But those weren’t new, I guess…"
he said. "As a rule, we find that mathematical talent shows itself
early. So if you haven’t made an original contribution by the time you
enter college, the chances are that you won’t ever do so. I tell you
this for your own good."
I felt somewhat disappointed, since no
one had told me before that perfect scores on the SAT mathematics and
AP calculus exams were an inadequate qualification for undergraduate
study in mathematics. But I could take a hint, and so I decided to seek
my fortune elsewhere.
Read the whole thing. I think linguistics is a lot like geography or statistics, in that it can take you to problems in wide variety of interesting disciplines.