Jul 22, 2024  
USC Catalogue 2021-2022 
USC Catalogue 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

Linguistics (PhD)

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Students pursuing the PhD in Linguistics are required to complete a minimum of 60 units of course work beyond the baccalaureate. In addition to the 32 units completed toward the MA, students are required to take three 600-level seminars in linguistics and a minimum of 4 units of 794ab Doctoral Dissertation. No more than 8 units of 794 may be applied toward the PhD degree. A maximum of 30 transfer units, approved by the university and the department may be applied to the PhD degree.

Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores are not required for applications for admission to the graduate program in linguistics.

After successfully completing the screening procedure, students will establish a qualifying exam committee to determine a PhD course program in preparation for the dissertation. This course program must be approved by the Graduate Studies Committee.


The student in his or her first semester will have the option of either selecting a faculty adviser or postponing such a selection until, but no later than, the last day of classes of the first year in the program. The Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) will serve as a provisional adviser until the student makes a selection.

The student has the option of changing advisers at any time without the need to seek the original adviser’s approval. The student should inform the GSC and the previous adviser of the change.

At the beginning of the second year of graduate study, the faculty adviser will assist the student in planning a program of study appropriate to the student’s interests leading to the screening procedure.

Required Core Courses in Linguistics

Students pursuing the PhD program in linguistics are required to complete 32 units of course work toward the MA degree. See Waiver and Substitution of Course Requirements  for possible exceptions.

Additional Requirements

Screening Procedure

Before a doctoral qualifying exam committee can be established for applicants to the PhD program, a student must pass a screening procedure. This procedure consists of a review of the student’s graduate work at USC by Linguistics Department faculty. The review will be based on the following criteria: course work completed, including grades and papers; faculty recommendations; and evaluation of both the student’s MA research paper and a PhD screening paper. The MA research and PhD screening papers must be in two different sub areas of linguistics, for example: syntax and psycholinguistics, or phonology and semantics, or sociolinguistics and typology.

The MA research paper must be completed and defended prior to the end of the fourth semester of graduate study, and the PhD screening paper must be completed and defended prior to the end of the sixth semester. The set of courses leading to the MA research paper and the PhD screening paper are determined through recommendation of the screening committee and approval of the Graduate Studies Committee.

Qualifying Exam Committee

Following the successful completion of the screening procedure, the student will establish a five-member qualifying exam committee. The qualifying exam committee is composed of at least five members; a minimum of three, including at least one tenured member, must be from the Linguistics Department and one must be a faculty member from outside the Linguistics Department. The Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Programs is ex officio a member of all qualifying exam committees. (Refer to the Graduate School Policies and Requirements  for instructions on forming a qualifying exam committee.)

The Request to Take the Qualifying Examination Form is the means by which the qualifying exam committee is formally established. This form should be filed with the qualifying exam committee and the Graduate School the semester prior to taking the qualifying examination but no later than 30 days before the date of the student’s written examination. In order to take the written examination, the student must submit a dissertation prospectus to each member of the qualifying exam committee.

Qualifying Examination

The examination qualifying a student for candidacy for the PhD degree is comprehensive in nature, partly written and partly oral. Prior to taking the qualifying examination, the student must have met all of the departmental requirements for doing so and have the recommendation of the qualifying exam committee. The committee will determine and administer the written examination.

The written examination consists of a limited number of questions in the fields related to the student’s research. Students will receive the written examination two weeks after submitting the qualifying prospectus and will have 30 days to complete the questions. An oral examination will be scheduled by the qualifying exam committee two weeks after the written examination has been submitted.

The successful completion of the qualifying procedure is represented by the approval by the qualifying exam committee of (1) the prospectus, (2) the written examination, and (3) oral defense.


The final stage of the program is the submission and defense of a dissertation that makes an original and substantial contribution to its field of study. Refer to the Graduate School  section of the catalogue for the policies and procedures governing the submission of a dissertation.

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