Ph.D. Program

Ph.D. Curriculum

The program is structured by the guiding idea that linguistics is a unified discipline, with crossfertilization between subdisciplines a major source of growth and innovation. Students study each of the three core areas intensively over the first year and a half, and then specialize according to their interests.

From the start, the curriculum is designed to facilitate original research: in addition to course-related work, students present two qualifying papers, written in close consultation with faculty, one at the end of the second year, the other at the end of the third year. Dissertation research and writing take up the fourth and fifth years. Students are encouraged to gain expertise in other areas related to linguistics. Many students work closely with faculty in Cognitive Psychology, Philosophy, or Computer Science. The Center for Cognitive Science (RuCCS) supports a Cognitive Science Certificate Program to be pursued alongside the Ph.D., which offers special opportunities for research in psycholinguistics and computational linguistics.

  • Graduate courses are listed here.
  • The learning goals and assessment are listed here.
  • The formal requirements are detailed below.

Formal Requirements

The requirements stated below are binding on all graduate students in the Linguistics Ph. D. Program as of January 2016, and they supersede all previous statements of the program requirements. Some adjustments of these policies may be forthcoming, but students may count on the enforcement of requirements here stated.

A. Course Work

Students are required to take two courses in each of the core areas in their first year: Syntax I and II, Semantics I and II, and Phonology I and II.

Students must also take a third course in each of these three core areas (Syntax III, Semantics III, Phonology III) by the end of year 2. If there is a course conflict, one may be taken during the third year. The Graduate Program Director will advise such matters. 

Students are required to register for the Qualifying Paper Workshop (QPW) in the Fall of Year 2 and the Spring of Year 2. A third semester of QPW may be taken in the Spring of Year 3.

In addition, students must take five "contentful"  three credit courses (not research or independent study credits) by the end of year four.

Years 4 and 5 are devoted to work on the dissertation.

A typical timeline for coursework is presented in the following table

Semester year 1 year 2year 3  years 4-5
FALL Syntax I Two Courses from Area III One Course from Area III Dissertation requirements
  Semantics I QPW One Contentful Course or QPW  
  Phonology I      
SPRING Syntax II Two Contentful Courses Two Contentful Courses Dissertation requirements
  Semantics II QPW    
  Phonology II       
Summer     6 Research Credits  

An Area III course is one of Syntax III, Semantics III and Phonology III. Students must have taken all 3 Area III courses by the end of year 3.

A full course load 9 credits per semester, but students can register for up to 12 credits with the permission of the GPD.

The Graduate School requires a minimum of 72 credits for a Ph.D degree, divided into 48 course credits and 24 research credits.

TA's get 6 credits towards their minimum workload for each semester and are expected to register for 6 research credits during the summer.

B. Qualifying Papers

Students are required to write two Qualifying Papers (QPs): one in the second year, and the other in the third year.

The QPs must be in distinct areas and use different methodological approaches.

Each QP must be defended before a Qualifying Paper committee, which assigns the QP one of two grades: Pass or Fail.

The committee comprises three members of the Graduate Faculty for Linguistics (Full Members of the Linguistics Department and Associate Members from other departments). Prior approval of the Graduate Program Director is needed to include members from outside the Graduate Faculty for Linguistics. Of these, the chair and at least one other member, must be full members of the Linguistics Department.

The timeline for the first two QPs, including key deadlines, is presented in the following table:

Fall SemesterSpring Semester
By Oct. 1
Identify committee Chair and
get QP topic approved by Chair
By May 1
Submit final QP draft to committee
By Dec. 1
Form a committee of 3 Graduate Faculty
By May 15
Defend QP before committee
By Dec. 15
Discuss a written QP proposal with committee

On obtaining a Pass on BOTH QPs and completing the contentful course requirement discussed in (A), students must file the appropriate paper work with the Graduate School for Advancement to Candidacy. The Graduate School requires Advancement to be completed at least two semesters prior to Dissertation defense.

C. Dissertation

Ph.D students are required to write a dissertation.

The dissertation must be defended before a Dissertation committee, which will assign one of two grades: Pass or Fail. The committee compromises three internal members and one external member.

The three internal members must belong to the Graduate Faculty for Linguistics (Full Members of the Linguistics Department and Associate Members from other Departments). Of these, the chair and at least one other member must be full members of the Linguistics Department.

The fourth member must be from outside the Graduate Faculty for Linguistics

Beginning in Year 4, the following steps are involved in the Dissertation process:

  • By September 30 of year 4: Form a committee of at least three faculty members, including one designated as Chair
  • By the end of the Fall semester of year 4: Defend a dissertation proposal before the committee, and obtain a Pass on it
  • By the end of Spring semester of year 4: Add an external committee member. The appointment has to go through the Graduate Program Director and needs the approval of the chair of the Dissertation committee.
  • By the end of Spring semester of year 5: Defend the dissertation before the committee (the external member may be absent), and obtain a Pass from all the four members.

The Graduate School requires that the dissertation be completed within 7 years of entry into a program, with the proviso that the candidate must apply for 1-year extensions thereafter. The Linguistics Department will grant no more than three such extensions, except in the most extraordinary circumstances. Students must make a formal request for extension to the Graduate Program Director at least two months in advance.

D. Language Requirement

There is no formal language requirement. Students without sufficient exposure to languages other than English are vigorously encouraged to take appropriate measures to correct this. 

E. Standing in the Ph. D. Program

  1. The faculty will meet each semester to discuss student progress. For each student the faculty will decide whether the student's current standing is Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory (otherwise). This decision will represent the overall assessment by the faculty and will be based on all aspects of the student's work, including the completed course work, any incompletes (how many and why), progress on the qualifying papers, dissertation research, and any other relevant factors.
  2. For any student in unsatisfactory standing the faculty will further decide on the appropriate course of action. Normally, this will be either (a) or (b):
    (a) the student may be allowed to continue in the program, subject to meeting specified conditions for regaining satisfactory standing by a specified deadline; 
    (b) alternatively, the faculty may decide that option (a) is not feasible. Normally, this will imply that the student cannot continue in the Ph. D. program. However, the student may still be awarded a terminal M.A. degree at the discretion of the department.
  3. Reporting on these decisions, the Graduate Director will write a letter of standing to each student every semester. The letter will inform the student about his or her current standing as well as any recommendations made by the faculty at the meeting. Furthermore, if the student is in unsatisfactory standing, the letter will also convey the faculty decisions in regards to the aforementioned points discussed above, as appropriate.