Master of Arts in Linguistics

Wayne State's Master of Arts in Linguistics offers a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to the scientific study of language. Designed for individuals seeking to explore the complexities of language structure, acquisition and use, our program covers key areas such as phonetics, phonology, syntax, semantics, sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics.

Students engage with both theoretical frameworks and empirical methodologies, gaining skills in linguistic analysis, fieldwork and data interpretation. The linguistics master's program emphasizes research and critical thinking, providing opportunities for original research projects and collaboration with faculty experts. Graduates are well-prepared for careers in academia, language education, computational linguistics and various language-related industries that require the precise use or analysis of speech or writing, or for further doctoral studies in linguistics and related fields.

At a glance ūüéĮ

  • Classes: Small class sizes led by world-renowned faculty
  • Schedule: Flexible for working students
  • Completion: Two years or less
  • Credits: 33

Milestone guidelines for master's students

  • Incoming students

    Incoming students should:

  • Mid-point students

    Mid-point students should:

    • Meet with your master's advisor in your first or second semester to discuss course selections and fill out and submit a plan of work¬†no later than by the time twelve credits have been earned.
    • Meet with master's advisor to discuss essay topic selection. You should find a topic and an academic advisor in the semester before your graduation.
    • If needed, meet with your master's advisor to submit a change in plan of work form, change of status forms, request for extension of time forms, etc. See¬†for students page¬†for forms.
  • Graduating students

    Graduating students should:

    1. Apply for graduation at the beginning of the semester when you're graduating. If you do not graduate that semester, you have to reapply.
    2. Establish the timetable for the master's essay with your academic advisor:
      1. Work from a date for the defense. The defense date should be held no later than one week before the college deadline for paperwork submission.
      2. At least two weeks before the defense, students should receive suggestions for revision from their committee members.
      3. At least a month before the defense, students should send a full draft, approved by their primary academic advisor, to all of the committee members.
      4. In the months before that, from at least the beginning of the semester in which you're graduating, students work closely with their primary academic advisor on successive drafts of the essay. You need to negotiate this timeline with your academic advisor. Students are responsible for communicating with all the members of your committee and for scheduling your defense date.

    After graduating, keep in touch and let us know what you are doing so that we can include that information in our alumni communications.

Master of Arts in Linguistics requirements and curriculum

The linguistics master of arts degree requires students to satisfy the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences group requirements and the overall linguistics master's requirements. A student must achieve at least a B (3.0) overall grade point average to be awarded a graduate degree. The master of arts program consists of a basic core of five general linguistics courses, some of which may be waived if the student has recently completed them as an undergraduate. Students may then take elective courses.

Explore linguistics courses

Plan of work

Students must file a plan of work with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that lists the courses taken and those they plan to take after completing nine credits of work and before they've completed 12 credits of work. If you have completed 12 credits of work without filing the plan of work, a "candidacy hold" will be placed on your record and you won't be able to register. Once you file the plan of work, your official status will change from "applicant" to "candidate" for the Master of Arts. You will fill out the plan of work with the graduate advisor.

Master's essay

Begin by reviewing the preparing the master's essay guide by Professors Geoffrey Nathan and Margaret Winters.

  • Consideration points

    Include the following in your essay:

    • What have you encountered in your studies that you would like to know more about and that also represents a problem and an opportunity for research?
    • The essay should be original.¬†This is the time for you to add to the world's store of knowledge, not synthesize the work of others.
    • Feel free to discuss your ideas with any faculty member. We'll¬†try to help you focus your interests on a well-defined topic that you can actually finish in a year's time.
    • If your first language is not English, it makes sense to write about your own language, since you yourself represent a data source. You do not have to do this, of course, but many of our students have done so and have produced excellent essays on Japanese, Ukrainian, Berber, Chinese, etc.
    • If your essay requires collecting data from human subjects, you must apply for and receive approval from the¬†Human Investigation Committee¬†before you collect a single word, waveform, or narrative. This requires web-based training and the submission of an application to the HIC. Do not skip this crucial step, or all of the data you collected before you received approval will have to be thrown away. Talk to your advisor (your advisor needs to be up-to-date on the web-based training, too).
  • Registration

    Students must register for three credits of LIN 7999 Master's Essay Direction toward the end of their program. You don't have to register for all three credits in the same semester, nor does the time you sign up for these credits need to correlate with the time you actually spend working on the essay.

  • Select advisor

    Students will choose a faculty member to serve as their primary essay advisor. This person should obviously have the expertise to guide you in writing about the essay topic you have chosen, so pick a phonetician for a phonetics essay, a syntactician for a syntax essay, etc. This person will work closely with you throughout the process. You may also ask two other faculty members to serve as members of your essay committee as readers. They may be involved from the beginning, but are usually only brought in toward the end of the process, to comment upon a full draft of the essay.

  • First draft

    Students need to have a rough draft completed by the beginning of the semester in which they plan to defend the essay and graduate. To set up a timetable for essay completion, we work backward from the strict college deadline for submission of the essay in final form, which is usually the Friday of the first week of the last month of the semester (but check for the exact day).

    The oral defense of the essay (which only needs to involve you and your committee, but which you may open to students and friends) is usually held two weeks before that deadline, to allow time for final minor adjustments based on feedback given on the day of the defense. Two months to six weeks before the defense, your two readers should be given a copy of the full draft of the essay. This will allow them time to read it, give you their suggestions for improvements and give you time to make those changes.

Going beyond the master's

If you're interested in pursuing in a Ph.D. in linguistics, you must complete your applications during the fall before the September in which you plan to begin your studies. That means you'll need to decide which programs to apply to before that.

Our faculty will be happy to talk with you about the Ph.D. programs with which they are familiar. Talk with as many people as possible in making your decisionyou don't want to overlook a program that would suit you well. Most application deadlines are in December or January, although a few programs have later deadlines.

You should plan to take the GRE exam in the fall and you should study for it beforehand. Most Ph.D. programs use GRE scores to figure whose applications to take seriously.

Career insights

This tool provides a broad overview of how major selection can lead to careers and is provided without any implied promise of employment. Some careers will require further education, skills, or competencies. Actual salaries may vary significantly between similar employers and could change by graduation, as could employment opportunities and job titles.