Course of study

Courses offered by the department

Schematic of PhD Program

Year 1 & 2: Core Requirements
  • 6 core courses in the department, organized in at least two sequences, at least one of which is theoretical (18 credits). The core courses are the 600-level LING courses, plus 723 and 773. The core sequences are below.

Years 2 & 3: Electives and LING895
  • 2 courses in Minor Area of Specialization (6 credits)
  • 2 Ling 800-level electives (6 credits)
  • Ling 895: due in the fifth semester of the graduate program (6 credits)

Years 4 & 5: Minor paper & Dissertation
  • Minor area paper due: due in the seventh semester of the graduate program
  • 1 or 2 Ling 800-level electives (3 credits each)
  • Ling 899: PhD dissertation research (12 credits)

Core sequences

  • Ling 610, 611 Syntax
  • Ling 620, 621 Phonology
  • Ling 640, 641 Psycholinguistics
  • Ling 660, 661 Semantics
  • Ling 723, 773 Computational linguistics


Course of study in detail

Students pursuing the Ph.D. take at least 33 graduate-level credits of course-work, of which at least 9 credits are at the 800-level (seminars) and 6 credits correspond to the Minor area of specialization (possibly in another department). These minimum requirements are usually fulfilled by formal classes and not by independent studies, although the latter may be used to supplement a student's program of study. Normally the student's first year is devoted primarily to the "core", foundational coursework in the department's three primary research areas: (i) theoretical linguistics (syntax, semantics, pragmatics, phonology), (ii) psycholinguistics/neurolinguistics/language acquisition, (iii) computational linguistics. Within their first two years students must take at least 6 core courses, comprising at least two 2-semester core course sequences. At least one of these core course sequences must be in an area of theoretical linguistics. The core courses are the 600-level LING courses and LING723 and LING773. The core sequences are above.

In addition to satisfying (part of) the 9 credit requirement for seminars, the next two years are devoted to satisfying 6 credits (beyond any core courses) in the Minor, as approved by the Graduate Director. Some students choose to pursue the Certificate in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, which may count as the minor area.

By their fifth semester, students write a substantial paper (Ling 895), under the supervision of a faculty member. This paper enables students to demonstrate a capacity for productive research and to make an original contribution to the literature, often forming the basis for the dissertation research. It is submitted to an examining committee of at least three members, is defended publicly two weeks later, and must be approved by the committee after the defense. The student must then upload the completed 895 paper to the 895 folder in the department PDF locker, and inform the Graduate Director that this has been done.

In addition, by their seventh semester students must also write a paper in their Minor area of specialization (or some other area that is not their major area). The paper must be prepared under the supervision of a member of the faculty. Once the paper is completed to the satisfaction of the supervising faculty member, it must be uploaded to the 896 folder in the department PDF locker, and the Minor Area Paper Approval presented to the Graduate Director.

(Under special circumstances, upon the written recommendation of the student's advisor and with the approval of the faculty of the department, a student may satisfy the Minor area paper requirement by instead taking a third course in the Minor area.)

Ling 895 and the Minor area paper replace the "comprehensive examinations" held in some departments.

To help ensure satisfactory progress towards the degree, students are required to submit to the Graduate Director a Ph.D. Roadmap, once each semester, completed in consultation with their advisor.

After satisfactory completion of the 895 paper, students are admitted to candidacy and write a proposal for a dissertation, which a faculty member agrees to supervise. Students enroll in LING 899 while working on the dissertation, and must take at least 12 credits of this course. The dissertation must make a substantial and original contribution to knowledge. The supervisor, in consultation with other committee members (selected by the student and the supervisor), determines when there is a draft which will be defended publicly at an oral examination. The dissertation is approved by a five member examining committee. On completion of the approved dissertation, a hard copy will be submitted to the department, along with a 2nd hard copy or else an electronic version for the department web page. Students are strongly encouraged to upload a final draft of their dissertation into our publications database, by clicking "Add a publication" here, and choosing "PhD Dissertation" as the type of publication.


Under exceptional circumstances, students are awarded an MA degree on completion of the core coursework requirements (six courses, see above), four further classes and writing either a MA thesis which is defended publicly (Ling 799) or two comprehensive papers in different areas of language study (Ling 798). Two of the post core-level class requirements should be taken in the Department of Linguistics, with the rest being taken either in Linguistics or in other departments satisfying a secondary area of specialization and complementing the student's work.



Back to the graduate page