Program Requirements for Linguistics

Applicable only to students admitted during the 2010-2011 academic year.


College of Letters and Science

Graduate Degrees

The Department of Linguistics offers the Master of Arts (M.A.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees in Linguistics.


Program Name



3125 Campbell Hall
Box 951543
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1543 


(310) 825-0634 


Leading to the degree of

M.A., Ph.D.

The Linguistics department admits only applicants whose objective is Ph.D. 

Admission Limited to


Exceptions only in special cases. 

Deadline to apply

December 10th 

GRE (General and/or Subject), TWE

GRE: Not required 

Letters of Recommendation 

3, from scholars under whom the applicant has studied 

Other Requirements

In addition to the University’s minimum requirements and those listed above, all applicants are expected to submit a statement of purpose that includes their background for graduate study in linguistics and immediate and long-range goals in the field, and a copy of a research paper or other piece of writing in linguistics or a closely related field.

While not required for admission, Linguistics 103, 110, 120A, and 120B are prerequisite to graduate courses in the corresponding areas. An admitted applicant is notified by the department which, if any, of the above courses must be taken or audited. Any question of whether courses taken elsewhere are equivalent to the above courses is discussed with the adviser.

Applicants who previously received an M.A. in Linguistics from another department or institution, are expected to fulfill all the requirements expected of a UCLA M.A. candidate, including the course work, which must be fulfilled unless work elsewhere is deemed equivalent and satisfies the course requirements. Then there are two possible procedures: (1) a master’s thesis written at another institution or department may be submitted or (2) if a thesis was not written elsewhere, a paper equal in depth and scope to a thesis may be submitted. In either case an evaluation committee is appointed. This committee makes a recommendation to the entire faculty, which then assesses the applicant’s qualifications for admission into the Ph.D. program. 

Master’s Degree


During their first year, students discuss their academic program with the departmental new student adviser. Once students have established a particular area of interest in linguistics, the chair appoints a graduate adviser for them. This adviser helps students work out their course of study. All members of the faculty serve as graduate advisers. At any time students may request a change of adviser through the chair. Students are expected to meet with their adviser each quarter to plan their study list. Advisers record their recommendations in students’ permanent files.

At least one quarter before completing the master’s thesis, students select a thesis committee, which is subject to the agreement of the committee members and approval of the chair. The chair of the thesis committee becomes the official adviser. The chair appoints the examination committee for students who opt for a terminal master’s degree by taking a comprehensive examination.

Areas of Study

Consult the department.

Foreign Language Requirement

Students must demonstrate knowledge of one research language before receiving a master’s degree. Knowledge can be demonstrated by one of three methods: (1) a reading examination administered by the department; (2) a research paper based on extensive sources in the language; or (3) a conversation examination showing knowledge in depth. The language must have either substantial literature on linguistics or serve as a contact language for field research. The latter option must be approved by the departmental language committee. International students who native language is not English may use English to meet the foreign language requirements.

Course Requirements

The master’s degree requires the completion, with a B average or better, of nine graduate courses in linguistics. All students are required to take Linguistics 200A, 200B, 200C, 201, and 206. Students also must take one course chosen from Linguistics 185A/209A, 213A, 213B, 213C, or 217. The remaining three courses must be chosen from Linguistics 202 through 209B, 211 through 219, 232 through 236, or C244. All first-year students must take courses Linguistics 411A-411B, and all second-year students must take Linguistics 444.

The following undergraduate courses or the equivalent are prerequisite to graduate courses in the corresponding areas: Linguistics 103, 110, 120A, and 120B. Linguistics 103, or an examination in practical phonetics, must be completed with a grade of B or better as a prerequisite to Linguistics 210A, a required course for the doctoral degree that may be taken at the pre-master’s degree level. 

It is strongly recommended, but not required, that students take Linguistics 210A and 210B during the second year of study.

A student may petition to apply up to a maximum of two courses toward the master’s degree that were completed with grades of B or better at institutions outside the University of California and not used toward another degree.

Teaching Experience

Not required.

Field Experience

Not required.

Comprehensive Examination Plan

The comprehensive examination plan is only for students who will be receiving a terminal degree. After completing the required courses and the foreign language examination, the student must pass a comprehensive examination administered by a committee of the faculty. The committee, consisting of four members, is appointed by the chair. This examination is normally an oral examination, general in scope, and results in a terminal master’s degree. Requirements for receiving a master’s degree include the filing of a petition for advancement to candidacy form early in the quarter during which the student expects to receive the degree.

Thesis Plan

Every master’s degree thesis plan requires the completion of an approved thesis that demonstrates the student’s ability to perform original, independent research.

The thesis plan is the normal option and is required for all students who are continuing on for the doctoral degree. After completing the required courses for the master’s degree and the foreign language examination, the student submits a thesis based on original research to a thesis committee for approval. For students who wish to be considered for advancement into the doctoral program, copies of the thesis, complete and clearly legible but not necessarily in final form, must be given to the committee and the student affairs officer at least two weeks before the last day of classes of the quarter. Requirements for receiving a master’s degree include the filing of a petition for advancement to candidacy form early in the quarter during which the student expects to receive the degree. Before filing in the library, the thesis must be prepared in accord with formatting standards set by the University; information on these is available on the Graduate Division website.

By petition to the department chair, students may request one additional quarter of time to complete the master’s thesis. Justification for this additional quarter includes time needed to conduct field work or experimental work. Leaves of absence may also be considered.

If earlier graduate work was done at UCLA, admission into the doctoral program is considered on the basis of the following: (1) completion of all requirements for the master’s degree and (2) the faculty’s evaluation of the quality of the master’s thesis and of overall work and promise.


Six quarters is considered the normative time to the master’s degree (excluding pre-approved quarters required to make up deficiency courses, to complete field work/experimental work, and approved leave of absence). All students must complete the master’s degree requirements and be considered by faculty vote for further advancement through the program. Students who are not considered for admission to the doctoral program by the end of seven quarters are required to take an oral comprehensive examination and a terminal master’s degree, or are recommended for dismissal from the program for insufficient progress to degree.

Doctoral Degree


Students are required to formally nominate a doctoral committee prior to the oral qualifying examination. The chair of the doctoral committee is the primary adviser at this stage, and provides intellectual guidance and advice in the student’s area of interest. Students are encouraged to consult the department’s director of graduate studies at any time and for any academic advice or purpose.

Major Fields or Subdisciplines

Students may specialize in syntax, semantics, phonology, phonetics, language change, typology, neurolinguistics, psycholinguistics, computational linguistics, and many language areas, notably African languages and American Indian languages. Other specializations may be possible, depending on the availability of faculty expertise.

Foreign Language Requirement


Course Requirements

To receive the doctoral degree, students are required to take 36 units of graduate coursework beyond the master’s degree requirements. Normative time to complete these 36 units is by the end of the 10th quarter of graduate study. These units must include Linguistics 210A, 210B, and eight units in an area distinct from that of the student’s major area of concentration. The 36 units may not include Linguistics 275 (colloquium), any 300- or 400-level course, 597, or 599. Of the 36 units, no more than 12 units may be in Linguistics 596A. A maximum of four two-unit seminars may be included in the 36 units. At some time, some of the results of the student’s research must be presented at a meeting of the Linguistics Department Colloquium. This is a requirement for the degree.

In the tenth quarter of doctoral study, students are required to meet in a dissertation prospectus meeting with the appointed doctoral committee to discuss the topic of the dissertation research, and the background necessary to pursue it. A written prospectus of the dissertation is to be submitted to the doctoral committee, with a copy for the departmental file, at least one month prior to this meeting. Following the meeting, the doctoral committee is to report, via a departmental form, to the department that the filed prospectus is satisfactory, and that the student has completed the required 36 units of post-master’s coursework

Students who fail to provide an approved prospectus and/or complete the required 36 units of post-master’s coursework by the end of the tenth quarter may not be eligible for departmental teaching assistantships or fellowships.

At some point in time, some of the results of the student’s research must be presented at a meeting of the Department of Linguistics Colloquium. This presentation is a requirement for the degree.

Teaching Experience

Not required.

Written and Oral Qualifying Examinations

Academic Senate regulations require all doctoral students to complete and pass University written and oral qualifying examinations prior to doctoral advancement to candidacy. Also, under Senate regulations the University oral qualifying examination is open only to the student and appointed members of the doctoral committee. In addition to University requirements, some graduate programs have other pre-candidacy examination requirements. What follows in this section is how students are required to fulfill all of these requirements for this doctoral program.

In order to be advanced to candidacy, the student is required to prepare and submit one substantive research paper.

The University Oral Qualifying Examination is administered by the doctoral committee. Students must satisfactorily complete this examination and advance to candidacy no later than the tenth quarter of graduate study. This examination may coincide with the prospectus meeting.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students are advanced to candidacy and awarded the Candidate in Philosophy (C.Phil.) degree upon successful completion of the written and oral qualifying examinations.

Doctoral Dissertation

Every doctoral degree program requires the completion of an approved dissertation that demonstrates the student’s ability to perform original, independent research and constitutes a distinct contribution to knowledge in the principal field of study.

Final Oral Examination (Defense of Dissertation)

Required for all students in the program.


Full-time students with no deficiencies upon admission to graduate study in the department should be able to complete requirements for the doctoral degree in 15 academic quarters (five calendar years). The normative time-to-degree cannot be changed, but accrued time may be adjusted to allow time for students to make up deficiencies and for leave of absence. The absolute time limit for the doctoral degree from the first quarter of graduate study in the department, including leaves of absence or interruptions of any kind, is seven calendar years.

In addition, there are departmental policies that link progress through the program to financial support. These policies are based on the normative times for advancement through the program, not on the absolute limits mentioned above.

Termination of Graduate Study and Appeal of Termination

University Policy

A student who fails to meet the above requirements may be recommended for termination of graduate study. A graduate student may be disqualified from continuing in the graduate program for a variety of reasons. The most common is failure to maintain the minimum cumulative grade point average (3.00) required by the Academic Senate to remain in good standing (some programs require a higher grade point average). Other examples include failure of examinations, lack of timely progress toward the degree and poor performance in core courses. Probationary students (those with cumulative grade point averages below 3.00) are subject to immediate dismissal upon the recommendation of their department. University guidelines governing termination of graduate students, including the appeal procedure, are outlined in Standards and Procedures for Graduate Study at UCLA.

Special Departmental or Program Policy

A student who does not complete the M.A. degree in seven quarters, excluding quarters needed to make up deficiencies and quarters of approved leave of absence, is subject to a recommendation for termination. Any student who has not completed the M.A. degree in three years and one quarter is subject to a recommendation for termination. A student who completes the M.A. degree but who is denied admission into the Ph.D. program will not be permitted to continue to register beyond the end of the academic year in which the M.A. degree is awarded.