Other Requirements

Language requirement

  • Reading proficiency in two languages other than English is required. Oral proficiency in one language other than English is also required (the language fulfilling the oral requirement may be the same as one of those fulfilling the reading requirement). This requirement is satisfied by examination.
  • Students whose native language is not English and who complete their core courses with a grade of B+ or better will be considered to have completed the oral and reading requirements for one language. Such students will still need to demonstrate reading proficiency in another language.
  • If a student speaks two languages natively and one of these is English, the student need only demonstrate proficiency in one further language.
  • In addition to the basic foreign language requirement in (1), the department requires one term of study with a grade of B or better in a language that is not Germanic, Greek, Italic (Romance, including Latin), or Slavic. If a student studies such a language for one of the other language requirements, no extra language need be taken. For applied linguists, however, this requirement must be fulfilled by classroom study. This requirement cannot be fulfilled by Field Methods.

Example 1: A student may pass an exam reading Spanish, and then take two years of Vietnamese to allow her/him to pass a reading and oral proficiency exam. In this case all language requirements have been fulfilled.

Example 2: A native Spanish-speaking student passes all core courses with an A grade. She/he then takes one semester of Japanese. This student has fulfilled the language requirement.

Preliminary exam

The preliminary exam is fulfilled by submitting a portfolio of previous coursework. Students entering with an MA degree may petition to have core courses waived. In order to waive phonetics, phonology, morphology or syntax, a student must demonstrate knowledge by providing course syllabi and passing an oral interview.

Comprehensive exam

A comprehensive examination precedes admission to candidacy and dissertation research. To fulfill this requirement, the student must write two papers of publishable quality on substantially different topics, evaluated by and defended before a committee of at least 3 faculty. The student must present one (1) of these papers in a department colloquium. A maximum of 18 comprehensive credits may be taken.

View course descriptions

When the student has successfully completed the PhD comprehensive examination, she or he must prepare a dissertation proposal and present it in a formal dissertation proposal defense. A four-person doctoral committee will direct the dissertation and administer the required proposal defense after the proposal has been submitted. The student chooses the chair of the doctoral committee, and together they select the remaining committee members, subject to the approval of the department chair. One of the committee members must be from outside the core faculty of the Department of Linguistics. A dissertation proposal must have at least two elements: a knowledge essay and a proposal. The dissertation advisor will determine exactly the format for these two elements. For example, the advisor may require the first few literature review chapters of the dissertation for the knowledge essay portion, and then require a student to provide a proposal based on those chapters. Alternately, the advisor may construct a series of questions about the topic that a student must satisfactorily answer (in written essay form) in addition to providing a proposal. Upon approval of the proposal, the student will be admitted to candidacy for the PhD. Up to nine credits of dissertation study credits may count toward the total required number of credits.


The student must prepare and submit a dissertation that is a contribution to linguistic knowledge. A four-person doctoral committee will direct the dissertation and administer the required oral defense after the dissertation has been submitted (see the Arts & Sciences Graduate Bulletin for regulations governing the dissertation committee and defense). The dissertation defense is open to all members of the University community, and all graduate faculty members who attend have the right to pose questions to the candidate.

Sample Progression through MA/PhD Program (Milestones)

Year Courses
one Core coursework

Core courses and electives

Complete thesis


Elective courses

Defend comprehensive 1

Present comprehensive paper in colloquium (can wait until year 4)


Defend comprehensive 2

Present comprehensive paper in colloquium (if not done in year 3)

Dissertation proposal defense

five Dissertation research or fieldwork, possibly defend dissertation
six Defend dissertation

Evaluation of Students

For progression from MA to PhD in MA/PhD program:

At the end of their first year, a written evaluation is presented to all faculty that assesses the student’s work in courses and TA assignments. If unsatisfactory, students are put on notice that they will only be permitted to continue through the next year (i.e. 2nd year). The faculty may also elect to warn the student that unless their performance improves in the next semester, they will only be permitted to finish their MA. A final continuation evaluation will be based on the thesis defense. For students entering with an MA, the first year is probationary. Students must complete the year with a GPA of 3.5, and their performance will be reviewed in the spring semester.

For funding:

All currently-funded students, current students without funding, and newly admitted students are evaluated at the funding meeting each January.