Skip to main content
Skip to main content

Ph.D. Curriculum

Our Ph.D. program combines current theoretical research in phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics with state-of-the-art experimental research in psycholinguistics, first language acquisition, language processing, neurolinguistics and computational linguistics

The Ph.D. is a research degree. That means you will advance the scientific understanding of language, and explain what you have discovered to others, including peers, students, and interested parties outside of the field. Training for this degree has at least four aspects, all of them important: coursework, research, presentation of your research, both written and oral, and teaching. Progress requires work in all of these areas, and students in the program are actively mentored in each.

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 888

  • 2 courses in Minor Area of Specialization (6 credits)
  • 2 LING 800-level electives (6 credits)
  • LING 888: a major research paper due in the fifth semester of the graduate program (total of 6 credits)

Years 4 & 5: Minor Paper & Dissertation

  • 896 minor area paper: due no later than the seventh semester of the graduate program
  • 1 or 2 LING 800-level electives (3 credits each)
  • LING 899: Ph.D. 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 coursework, 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) phonology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics, (ii) psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics and language acquisition and (iii) computational linguistics. Within their first two years students must take at least six core courses, comprising at least two 2-semester core course sequences. At least one of these core course sequences must be within area (i). 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.
At the start of the fifth semester, students must form an "888 committee" of at least three faculty members, one or more of whom are the appointed supervisors, and must submit the 888 Committee Form to the graduate director. Then by the end of this semester, the student should have completed a substantial paper (LING 888) under the direction of the supervisor(s) and in consultation with the rest of the committee. 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 the committee, defended publicly two weeks later and must be approved by the committee after the defense. The student must then upload the completed 888 paper to the 888 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 must be 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 888 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 888 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 second hard copy or an electronic version for the department web page.

Under exceptional circumstances, students are awarded an M.A. degree on completion of the core coursework requirements (six courses, see above), four further classes and writing either a M.A. 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.