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College of Arts & Sciences
Linguistics Program


Graduate Program

The Graduate Program in Linguistics at USC is comprehensive in its scope. Its mission is to train students to pursue research and teach in a wide range of linguistic subdisciplines. The program strives to develop students' analytical skills and to encourage creative and critical approaches to data, models, and theories. In addition to requiring all students to have a theoretical foundation in general linguistics, phonology, and syntax, the interdepartmental structure of the program affords students the opportunity to take coursework in various areas of concentration: Psycholinguistics and Cognitive and Formal Linguistics; Second Language Acquisition and TESOL; and Social, Cultural, and Historical Linguistics. The program's dual emphasis on theoretical and applied aspects of linguistics is one of its major strengths, and the great variety of research conducted by faculty and graduate students is a reflection of the intellectual diversity that characterizes the program.

The Ph.D. Program in Linguistics does not focus on the training of theoretical linguists, but instead sees its mission as that of training historical linguists, language acquisition specialists, sociolinguists, and others, who can apply linguistic theory to the pursuit of their research. Thus, it is typical for a student in this program to use current syntactic theory in investigations into language contact or language variation, or to apply phonological theory to research on second language acquisition.

The M.A. in Linguistics at USC is a degree in general linguistics. Our M.A. program is designed to provide students with the broadest possible background in linguistics and encourages them to take advantage of the wide range of opportunities presented by the program's faculty and to discover connections between the various subdisciplines in the field.

The TESOL Certificate Program trains future teachers of English as a second language by providing a foundation grounded in both linguistic and pedagogical theory paired with practical experience.

In addition to offering graduate degrees to its own students, the Linguistics Program also provides cognate or minor field courses to graduate students in a number of other departments. Minor fields of study have been designed and approved (or are being planned) for Ph.D. students in the following programs: Comparative Literature, Computer Science, English Composition and Rhetoric, English Literature, Experimental Psychology, Philosophy, and Communication Sciences & Disorders. 

Areas of Concentration

How to Apply

Ph.D. Program

M.A. Program

TESOL Certificate Program

Funding and Awards

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The mission of the Ph.D. Program in Linguistics is to train students to pursue research and teach in the areas of general linguistics and a chosen subfield. The Ph.D. in Linguistics at USC typically involves a much broader range of coursework than what is found at more traditional Linguistics Departments and Programs in the United States. The program does not focus on the training of theoretical linguists, but instead sees its mission as that of training historical linguists, language acquisition specialists, sociolinguists, and others, who can apply linguistic theory to the pursuit of their research. Thus, it is typical for a student in this program to use current syntactic theory in investigations into language contact or language variation, or to apply phonological theory to research on second language acquisition.

The Ph.D. course requirements (see degree requirements) involve six core courses, plus a primary field of study of at least 12 hours, and either a secondary field of 9-12 hours or at least 9 hours breadth requirement outside the primary field. Approved special fields are the following: linguistic anthropology, English/French/German/Spanish linguistics, historical linguistics, philosophy of language, phonological theory, psycholinguistics, second/foreign language acquisition, sociolinguistics, syntactic theory, and teaching English as a second/foreign language.

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. Examples include English Composition and Rhetoric, Medieval and Early Modern English Literature, Experimental Psychology, Philosophy, or Communication Sciences and Disorders. It is possible for all credit hours earned in a graduate certificate program in TESOL at USC to apply to this degree. Please speak to an advisor to see how these hours apply in your situation.

Learning Outcomes

Students will demonstrate knowledge of theory and research in core areas of linguistics. Success at the Program level would be achieved for this outcome if at least 75% of students scored in the positive range (a score from 1-3) on the measures used to evaluate their performance. 

Students will demonstrate advanced knowledge in a subdiscipline in the field of linguistics. Success at the Program level would be achieved for this outcome if at least 75% of students scored in the positive range (a score from 1-3) on the measures used to evaluate their performance. 

Students will demonstrate the ability to formulate and conduct a plan of linguistic research that advances the state of knowledge in the area of inquiry. Success at the Program level would be achieved for this outcome if at least 75% of students scored in the positive range (a score from 1-3) on the measures used to evaluate their performance. With respect to professional presentations and publications, we would hope to see every student (100%) publishing and/or presenting at least a couple of times prior to graduation. However, there is no set number of such publications/ presentations that we require. Some students will be more successful than others and have multiple such presentations/ publications by the time they graduate. 

Students will progress through the program in a timely manner and find suitable employment in the field of linguistics (or in a profession where their linguistic skills are being meaningfully used) at the completion of their doctoral degree. Success at the Program level would be achieved for this outcome if 75% of our students had some sort of degree related permanent job placement at graduation and 100% had such placements three years out from graduation.