The Graduate Program


UCLA’s Linguistics Department began as an interdepartmental graduate M.A. program in 1960; a Ph.D. program was introduced in 1962, and a B.A. program in 1965. The department was established in 1966, and has flourished ever since; its doctoral program has consistently been ranked in national surveys as one of the top two or three programs in the country.

At the undergraduate level, the department currently administers ten majors in addition to its basic Linguistics major; the joint majors in Linguistics and Asian Languages & Cultures, English, French, Italian, Scandinavian Languages, Spanish, Philosophy, Anthropology, Computer Science, and Psychology. The department also offers a linguistics minor, and a Specialization in Computing.

At the graduate level, the department offers M.A. and Ph.D. degree programs in Linguistics, and its faculty participate in interdepartmental Ph.D. programs in Applied Linguistics (the study of second language acquisition, discourse, and questions of language teaching pedagogy, methodology, etc.), Biomedical Engineering, American Indian Studies, Asia Insititute and African Studies. Our faculty and graduate programs are internationally acclaimed, and we attract some of the best and brightest graduate students from this country and abroad, with a current graduate student population of between 45 and 50 students from almost every continent.

The goal of the UCLA Linguistics Department’s program is to provide a basic education in the nature of human language and linguistic theory for undergraduates, and to train graduate students as university teachers and as researchers in the major areas of linguistics.

Theoretical Orientation

The department has a strong theoretical orientation committed to research in formal linguistic theory, addressing questions in the fields of phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics, and at the interfaces of these fields with the fields of psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics, computational linguistics, mathematical linguistics, historical linguistics, and the linguistic study of particular language areas (especially African languages and American Indian languages). A number of factors distinguish the UCLA linguistics department from other departments with similar emphases.

Field Work

Linguistics as an empirical science uses cross-linguistic evidence to develop and test theories of human language. In keeping with this goal, the UCLA program is committed to training its graduate students to analyze primary data in the Field Methods sequence, in which the students work with a native speaker consultant of a little-studied language. Substantial opportunities to develop fieldwork skills and to test theoretical ideas against novel data are provided, along with department funding for native speaker consultants. Several of the faculty have long experience in fieldwork and provide practical guidance to students embarking on their own field study. Los Angeles is probably the most linguistically diverse city in the United States, thus providing a living laboratory for field work research.
In addition, the department has a long history of teaching and research in less commonly taught languages. Current and former faculty have had experience teaching or supervising classes in African and American Indian Languages. Other departments at UCLA offer courses in a wide range of languages.

Graduate Student Career Development

The UCLA Linguistics Department emphasizes the development of professional skills among its graduate students, particularly in presenting their own research at conferences and for publication. The present department budget offers travel funding for students to present papers whose work has been accepted for presentation at regional, national, and international conferences. The department also offers some funding to its graduate students to pay for native speaker consultants and experimental subjects.

Graduate Student Support

The Linguistics Department undertakes to provide support packages for all the students that it admits, with support commitments lasting for up to five years, subject to maintenance of satisfactory academic standing. All support packages include the cost of tuition, fees, and a salary or living stipend; consult the department for current stipend levels. Almost all support packages involve a mixture of fellowship, Research Apprenticeship (RA), and Teaching Apprenticeship (TA) positions, spread out over the 5 year period.

We admit only as many students as can be supported. Prospective applicants should apply for an extramural fellowship (such as a Mellon Fellowship, Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, or National Science Foundation Fellowships (NSF); or an equivalent type of fellowship from another country, such as the Canadian SSHRC fellowship) where possible. Prospective applicants who have been granted such fellowships generally have an excellent chance of admission.

Available financial awards vary from year to year. The following outlines the principal sources:


UCLA Fellowships – Chancellor’s Fellowships, President’s Fellowships, Dean’s Fellowships, Pauley Fellowships, Cota-Robles Fellowships, and Departmental Fellowships are combined with a mixture of TA and RA appointments to make up the full support package. All students who have been advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. are also eligible to apply for Dissertation-year Fellowships for their fifth year; these are awarded on a competitive (university-wide) basis. In recent years UCLA Linguistics graduate students have had considerable success in winning these fellowships.

National Resource Fellowships (Title VI)–for language and area studies: e.g. Africa, the Near East, Latin America, East Asia. Applications are selected by the relevant area studies centers and the department. (For information see the admissions packet.) Title VI fellowships require students to enroll for one 4-unit course per quarter in the relevant language area and include a stipend which is supplemented by additional departmental support (RAship, TAship, etc.) to bring them up to the general annual support level.

Teaching Apprenticeships

These are awarded to students on the basis of admissions fellowship commitments, timely progress in graduate work, student specialization, and need. They are normally available only to students in the second year of graduate study and beyond, and sometimes to first years during Spring quarter.

Courses and Degree Requirements

Young Research Library

Upper Division Undergraduate Courses, some of which may be taken by students to make up deficiencies, include courses in phonetics, phonology, syntax, semantics, syntactic typology and universals, language change, child language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and language disorders.

Graduate Courses cover every major area of linguistics, including: phonological theory, syntactic theory, typology, language change, phonetic theory and experimental phonetics, morphological theory, formal semantics, mathematical linguistics, computational linguistics and natural language processing, field methods, learnability theory, psycholinguistics, linguistic areas and linguistic structures, history of linguistics, disorders of language development, and linguistic anthropology.

Proseminars are advanced graduate special-topics courses in the areas mentioned above. Most faculty offer proseminar courses in their area approximately once per year, often on the topic of their current research.

Area Seminars are informal talk series, meeting once per week, in which faculty and students present their current research to colleagues for comment and discussion. There are active seminars in Native American languages, phonetics, phonology, psycholinguistics, and syntax/semantics.

Additional courses in various topics, including thesis preparation, college teaching practicum and practical phonetics, are also regularly offered.

Degree Requirements

Although the department offers both the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, each with its own set of requirements, completion of the M.A. degree is normally just a milestone towards the completion of the Ph.D. requirements. We normally admit students to the graduate program only if they have the Ph.D. as their ultimate degree objective, and new graduate students are normally admitted directly into the Ph.D. program, regardless of whether they have already completed an M.A. elsewhere.

Furthermore, all students, including those who already have an M.A. degree, are normally expected to complete all of the M.A. degree requirements at UCLA, as part of the normal progress toward the Ph.D. The M.A. requirements include six obligatory core courses, three additional courses selected by the student from a list of survey courses covering various areas of the field, and completion of an M.A. thesis (an original research paper of approximately 50 double-spaced pages). There is also a language exam requirement: students must demonstrate reading ability in a foreign language. Students who choose to withdraw from the program and who wish to receive a terminal M.A. degree may elect to undergo a comprehensive oral exam instead of completing an M.A. thesis.

The Ph.D. requirements involve taking a few additional courses, including our two-quarter sequence in Field Methods and various seminar and proseminar courses selected by the student. Other requirements include delivering a department colloquium, and completion of the Ph.D. dissertation.

Typical Progress

Most of our students take about five years to complete the full graduate program. Of course, students’ backgrounds and work patterns are diverse; some take less time and others take more.

Since the normal course load for graduate students is three courses per quarter, it is usually possible for students to complete all or most of the M.A. course requirements within the first year of the program. Students who enter the program with deficiencies in certain areas may need to take longer to satisfy the M.A. course requirements, since they may have to enroll in certain upper-division undergraduate courses during their first year.

All students must have completed the M.A. thesis and all other M.A. requirements by the end of the spring quarter of the second year. Third-year students are encouraged to explore the field, take advanced seminars, prepare original research for publication or presentation at conferences, etc.

By the end of the third year, students should have a good idea of the area they plan to concentrate on for their dissertation, and they should have a Ph.D. committee assembled before the end of the spring quarter. Fourth years students should be advanced to candidacy before the end of the fall quarter; this entails the completion of all Ph.D. requirements other than the dissertation, including defense of a prospectus of their dissertation in an oral exam conducted by their committee.

The last two quarters of the fourth year, as well as the entire fifth year, is devoted to the completion of the dissertation and job-market activities.

More details about the graduate sequence can be found here.


Click on the links below for descriptions of department research facilities.

We have a conference room on the second floor (2122) and a lounge on the third floor (3103C). Each floor has its own seminar room (the Syntax/Semantics Seminar Room in 3103D, the Phonetics Lab in 2101K).

Other resources

The strong research culture of the UCLA Linguistics Department is supported in many tangible ways by the department itself, by the Humanities Division, and by the university:

  • Free statistics consulting on campus
  • Free poster printer
  • Experimental subject pool
  • Phonetics Lab staff engineer
  • Weekly research group seminar meetings
  • Access to undergraduate RAs
  • Access to laboratory facilities
  • Staff assistance with IRB applications

and specifically for grad students:

  • Funding for subjects/consultants
  • Ladefoged Scholarship (research support for grad students)
  • Conference travel funds
  • Experimental methods course offered every Fall (Ling. 237)
  • A Professional Development course (Ling. 444)

In addition, the Linguistics Department maintains a department library, and provides office space to its graduate students.

The library system at UCLA, with over seven million volumes and several open-source agreements, is ranked in the top ten university libraries in the United States, and has strong collections in linguistics and language description.

Getting In Touch With Us

For information about applying to our graduate program, please visit our Graduate Admissions Information page.