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College of Arts & Sciences
Linguistics Program


M.A. Degree Requirements (non-thesis option)

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 of the field. 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.

I. Course requirements

Candidates must take a minimum of 12 courses (36 credit hours) of graduate work, to include:

A. Core courses: 3 courses (9 credit hours)

LING 710 Introduction to Phonology (3)

LING 720 Introduction to Syntax (3) and

One (1) more graduate level core linguistics course in one of the following: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics or pragmatics (including LING 600: Survey of linguistics (3)).

Note: Other courses may be used to satisfy this requirement pending the approval of the student’s advisor and the graduate director. Students may choose depth (another syntax or phonology course) or breadth (another core area).

B. Special field: 3 courses (9 credit hours)

MA students should take at least 3 courses (9 credit hours) in a LING area approved by the student’s advisor.

C. Secondary field: 3 courses (9 credit hours)

MA students should take at least 3 LING courses (9 credit hours) in an area outside of their special field.

D. Elective Courses: 3 courses (9 credit hours)

MA students should take 3 additional LING courses approved by the student's advisor (9 hours).

Permission is required for the inclusion of any non­-LING course in the program of study.

Note: The graduate school's official policy on independent study (LING 806 Directed Reading and Research) is to allow up to 6 hours towards the M.A.).

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.

II. Foreign language requirement

The study of languages is a necessary tool for linguists and candidates must demonstrate knowledge of at least one foreign language. This 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 Languages, Literature, and Cultures,
  • successful completion of 6 hours of coursework in a non­Indo­European language with a grade of at least a B.

Students seeking master's degrees will have three opportunities to pass the language course or satisfy the reading proficiency examination. Non­native speakers of English may select English as a foreign language, upon submission of Graduate School form. Further information about the Graduate Reading Proficiency Exams.

III. Comprehensive examination

Students must pass a comprehensive exam that includes an oral component in which students must demonstrate effective oral communication of their knowledge of general linguistics and the core areas of phonology and syntax as they apply to the student's primary field. Students will be examined by a committee of two Linguistics Program faculty members, typically including the faculty advisor and a faculty member representing the student's special field.

Students who pursue the non­thesis MA option will submit to their comprehensive exam committee one written work product from one of their specialization courses that will serve as the foundation for the oral examination.

The exam committee will produce an overall rating of Pass/Fail by assessing basic knowledge of general linguistics; basic knowledge of phonology; basic knowledge of syntax; ability to apply knowledge to a given problem.

The oral examination should be scheduled no later than the middle of the fourth/last semester. Upon successful completion of an oral comprehensive examination, the examination committee chair will inform the Graduate Director.