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Ph.D. in Linguistics

Ph.D. student are required to successfully complete 72 credit hours, as indicated below.

Core courses

Syntax 1 (LIN515); Phonology 1 (LIN532); Phonetics (LIN531); Semantics 1 (LIN538); an advanced Syntax course (currently, Typology and Universals, Role and Reference Grammar, or Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar); Semantics 2 (LIN543);

Specialization courses

4 additional courses/seminars in the student area of specialization

M.A. supervision course

Linguistics 600;


3 other 500 level courses;

Method courses

2 Methods courses (2 semesters of Fields Methods; 2 semesters of Quantitative Methods; 2 semesters of Computational Methods). Students should consult the DGS to determine which Methods courses are more appropriate given their intended specializations.


4 other 500 or 600 level courses.

The remaining 12 credits are “free”. Students may decide to do an Independent Study with a particular faculty member (so long as the faculty agrees to direct the Independent Study), or may wish to take courses in other departments. (Students in the Cognitive Science track will be able to take up to 5 courses in other departments.)

Qualifying Paper
The qualifying paper is required of students who have been admitted to the Doctoral program in the Department of Linguistics, and it must be completed before the student can be passed onto Phase 2 of the program (i.e., the phase during which students conduct their Ph.D. thesis research).

The QP is intended to give the student experience in carrying out a research project that goes beyond what is normally required of a course paper; however the project certainly can evolve out of a course paper. The paper should have the format of a journal submission. The paper should be about 9,000-12,000 words in length.
Early in their second year of graduate study, the student should choose a faculty member who will advise the student while he or she is working on the QP. (The faculty member may be, but does not have to be, the same faculty who will direct the student’s dissertation.) The role of the advisor is to guide the student as he or she is carrying out the research and the writing. The student, together with the advisor, select a second committee member (or “reader”), who will read and comment on the QP.

Once the QP has been approved by the advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies will assign a third committee member (or “reader”), and the other members of the QP committee will then read the QP and provide feedback or simply approve the paper if no additional revisions are necessary. When the committee has approved the QP, the three faculty sign the approval form. Return the form to the DGS after all three faculty have signed the form, and (s)he will also sign it. Then the form goes to the graduate secretary, so that she can enter the information into our student database and file the form in the student’s file.

Students are required to make an oral presentation of their QP research at the end of their fifth semester at the latest and to finish their QP by the end of the sixth semester at the latest. Upon completion of a student’s QP, the faculty as a whole will either determine whether (s)he should passed onto Phase 2 of the Ph.D. program.

Upon completion of a student’s QP, the faculty as a whole will determine whether (s)he should be passed onto the Ph.D. phase pf the program. If a student is not passed onto the Ph.D. phase of the program, (s)he will earn a terminal M.A. and will leave the program.

Dissertation proposal and dissertation defense

The dissertation proposal is not intended to be a “paper” in the sense that the QP is. Rather, the dissertation proposal should be viewed as a very long abstract. It should include a statement of the topic (or hypothesis, or claim), the context for the research (why should other linguists be interested in the research; how does it fit into previous research), the methodology and nature of the data or evidence that the student hopes to collect or find, and, perhaps, a preview of the conclusions the student hopes to present or the contribution the dissertation will make. Generally, the proposal should not be any longer than 20 pages; however the dissertation advisor ultimately determines the form of the proposal.

The proposal defense is simply a meeting of the committee members and the student so that everyone is clear about the nature of the topic, the scope of the research, and the methodology. Typically, no one “fails” a proposal defense, since the primary goal is to clarify and comment on the research before the research is begun. The student should be aware, however, that the proposal defense may result in significant changes in the research plan.
Once the proposal defense has taken place, the committee members sign the form, the form is returned to the DGS so that he or she can sign it, and then, as usual, the form goes to the Assistant to the Chair.