The goal of the linguistics doctoral program is to prepare graduates to design and conduct original, empirically based research within a theoretical framework. Doctoral students prepare for careers in academic research and teaching or applied work in industry or other organizations.

We encourage doctoral students to begin engaging in research projects early, as this engagement contributes to the development of the research program that will lead to the thesis project. Early projects may also lead to preliminary exam topics and/or publishable papers, and importantly, they may enable students to pilot the methods they'll use for the dissertation project. Projects may be extensions of coursework and may involve a faculty advisor other than the thesis advisor. 

Students should select a specialization and begin their own research as early as possible. The department offers specializations in:

  • sociolinguistics
  • phonetics
  • semantics
  • syntax
  • morphology
  • laboratory phonology
  • conversation analysis
  • historical linguistics
  • typological comparison
  • Native American and Indigenous linguistics
  • linguistic anthropology
  • psycholinguistics
  • corpus linguistics
  • language development
  • cognitive linguistics
  • computational modeling of language knowledge

Students wishing to pursue graduate work in linguistics should carefully read the Doctoral Degree Requirements section of this catalog and the detailed degree requirements available from the department office.


Admission Requirements

Applicants should hold a recognized baccalaureate degree. They should have considerable knowledge of a language other than their native language. This knowledge may have been gained by formal study or by use of the language in a country, community or institution where it is the usual means of communication. The department may require formal study of a foreign language by graduate students whose proficiency in this area is less than the equivalent of the college junior level. GRE scores are optional. TOEFL or IELTS scores are normally required from foreign applicants.

To be admitted to the PhD program, students must have completed coursework equivalent to 4 of the following:

LING 5030Linguistic Phonetics3
LING 5410Phonology3
LING 5420Morphology and Syntax3
LING 5430Semantics and Pragmatics3
LING 5570Introduction to Diachronic Linguistics3

Degree Requirements

Thirty credit hours of coursework are normally required for the PhD. Four linguistics courses are required at the 6000 level or above, and the remaining six courses may include up to three courses in other departments appropriate to the specialization.

Required Courses
Both of the following courses must be taken:
LING 6450Syntactic Analysis3
LING 7100Field Methods 13
Select two of the following linguistics courses:6
Phonetic Theory and Analysis
Social Semiotic Theory
Phonological Theory
Syntactic Theory
Semantic Theory
Advanced Diachronic Linguistics
Select six courses appropriate to the specialization, up to three of which can be from other departments.18
Total Credit Hours30

Language Requirement

All PhD students must demonstrate the ability to read linguistic literature in a language other than English.

Preliminary Examination

As a PhD preliminary examination, students submit a data-based research paper early in the second year in the PhD program.

Comprehensive Examination

The university comprehensive examination requirement is completed in two steps: the completion of a synthesis paper followed by the defense of a dissertation prospectus.

Doctoral Thesis Credits

To complete the requirements for the PhD degree, a student must register for a minimum of 30 dissertation credit hours. These are distinct from the 30 credit hours of coursework that are required for the PhD. A student may not register for more than 10 dissertation credit hours in any one semester. A minimum of 5 credits must be taken each semester following passing of the comprehensive exam.