Master of Arts in Linguistics curriculum

As a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences requirement, a student must have achieved at least a B (3.0) overall grade point average to be awarded a graduate degree.

Required courses and credits

See the required courses and electives.

Plan of work

You must file a plan of work (PDF) with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that lists the courses you have taken and those you plan to take after you have completed nine credits of work and before you have 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.

The essay

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

Points to consider and include

  • 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 will try to help you focus your interests into 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)

Practical matters

You need to register for three credits of LIN 7999 Master's Essay Direction toward the end of your program.

You do not 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.

You decide which faculty member to ask to serve as your 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

You need to have a rough draft done at the beginning of the semester in which you 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 on the basis of 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 and give you their suggestions for improvements, and will give you time to make those changes.

Going beyond the master's

If you are 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 decision—you 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.