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College of Arts & Sciences
Linguistics Program


Ph.D. Program

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: English/French/German/Spanish linguistics, historical linguisticslinguistic anthropologyphilosophy of languagephonological theorypsycholinguisticssecond/foreign language acquisitionsociolinguisticssyntactic 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.

For those interested in connecting another field of study at the M.A. level with doctoral training in Linguistics, the Linguistics Program seeks to develop connections between M.A. degrees offered in other departments and the Ph.D. in Linguistics. Currently, the French, German, and Spanish Graduate Programs each offer an M.A. with a Linguistics concentration (French or Hispanic linguistics, respectively). These degrees are designed to lead to a Ph.D. in Linguistics with a minor in French Literature, a Ph.D. in Linguistics with a minor in German Literature, or a Ph.D. in Linguistics with a minor in Hispanic Literature.

Students who do not already hold an M.A. or M.S. degree in linguistics are encouraged to consult with the Graduate Director before submitting their application online to discuss the option of concurrent enrollment in the M.A. and Ph.D. programs.

The following links provide more information: 

Degree Requirements

Ph.D. Qualifying Process

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination Policies 

Suggested Timetable of Courses

Recent Dissertations