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College of Arts & Sciences
Linguistics Program


Degree Requirements

For the most current description of the requirements for the Linguistics Ph.D., please consult the Graduate Studies Bulletin.

The Graduate School requires at least 60 post baccalaureate credit hours for a doctoral degree. All requirements for the Ph.D. must be completed within 8 years of first enrolling.

Course requirements
Foreign language requirement
Admission to candidacy and the qualifying process
Comprehensive examination
Dissertation
Time to completion
Special note on grades


1. Course requirements 

A. Core courses: 6 courses (18 credit hours)

LING 710 Introduction to Phonology (3)

LING 720 Introduction to Syntax (3)

At least one of LING 711 Phonological Theory (3), and/or LING 721 Syntactic Theory (3)

Three more graduate level core linguistics course (9 credit hours) in one of phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, or pragmatics, exclusive of LING 600 Survey of Linguistics. Other courses may be used to satisfy this requirement pending the approval of the student’s advisor and the graduate director.

Note: Students who proceed from the M.A. to the Ph.D. will need to take one more core course to satisfy the Ph.D. core requirements if LING 600 Introduction to Linguistics was counted as an M.A. core requirement.

B. Primary Field: 4 courses (12 credit hours)

Ph.D. students should take at least 4 courses (12 credit hours) in an area approved by the student’s Ph.D. committee.

Note: The graduate school's official policy on independent study (LING 806 Directed Reading and Research) is to allow up to 9 hours towards the Ph.D.

C. Secondary Field or Breadth Requirement: 3­-4 courses (9­-12 credit hours)

Students may decide on a secondary field in which they will take 3 to 4 courses (9­-12 credit hours). Alternatively, students who do not wish to declare a secondary field will take course work in Linguistics outside of their primary field of at least nine hours.

Note: The secondary field may consist entirely of LING-designated courses; however, it also could include both LING-designated courses and courses from other departments. A student may also choose a secondary field made up entirely of courses from a cooperating department.

D. Methodology: 1­2 courses (3­6 credit hours)

Students are required to take at least 1 and up to 2 approved methodology courses. Approved courses include any Linguistic methodology course, in addition to the following courses offered by other departments: BIOS 700(J), EDRM 710, EDRM 711, PSYC 709, PSYC 710, STAT 515, STAT 516.

E. Elective Courses: 2 courses (­6 credit hours)

Up to 2 courses (6 credit hours) approved by the program, in elective LING courses. Additional credit hours may be taken in coursework approved by the student's Ph.D. committee.

F.  Dissertation Hours: (12-30 credit hours)

No less than 12 and up to 30 credit hours in LING 899 Dissertation Preparation.

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2. Foreign language requirement

Candidates must also demonstrate knowledge of two approved languages other than their native language. For the second language, a student may, with the approval of the student’s advisor and the graduate director, substitute a research methods, statistics, or computer science course. Demonstrating knowledge of a foreign language can be accomplished in one of the following ways:

  • successful completion of an intensive reading course in a language - approved by The Graduate School - while a graduate student at USC (e.g., FORL 615),
  • successful completion of a course at the intermediate level of language proficiency no more than six years prior to award of the degree,
  • a passing grade on a language reading proficiency examination administered by the USC Department of Language, Literatures, and Cultures,
  • completing 6 hours of coursework in a non Indo-European language with a grade of at least a B.

Students will have three opportunities to pass the language course or satisfy the reading proficiency examination. Non-native speakers of English may select English as a foreign language, upon submission of Graduate School form.  

Further information about the Graduate Reading Proficiency Exams.

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3. Admission to candidacy and the qualifying process

Students must pass a qualifying examination as part of the procedure for admission to candidacy.

Consult our page on the Ph.D. Qualifying Process.

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4. Comprehensive examination

Students must pass a comprehensive examination and defend a dissertation proposal.

The format, content, and timing of the comprehensive examination  are set by the student's Ph.D. committee, in accordance with the program's established examination policies.

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5. Dissertation

The candidate must prepare and defend a dissertation on an approved topic.

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Time to completion: Normally, it takes a student four to five years to complete all requirements. The maximum time permitted to complete a Ph.D. is 8 years. See our detailed timetable for Ph.D. completion.

Special note on grades: Graduate students whose GPA falls below 3.00 will be placed on academic probation by The Graduate School and allowed one calendar year in which to raise the cumulative GPA to at least 3.00. Students who do not reach a cumulative 3.00 grade point average during the probationary period will be suspended from graduate study and will not be permitted to enroll for further graduate course work as a degree or a nondegree student.

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