Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degree in the field of Linguistics

Program Learning Outcomes for the PhD Degree in the field of Linguistics

Upon completion of the PhD degree in the field of Linguistics, students will be able to:

Requirements for the MA and PhD Degrees in the field of Linguistics

The Linguistics Department is not accepting new students into the graduate program for Fall 2017. 

For graduation requirements, see Graduate Degrees. The doctoral linguistics program at Rice emphasizes the study of language use and functional/cognitive approaches to linguistic theory. Rice faculty engage in a broad range of research specializations, all of which play an important role for in-depth graduate training. These interrelated areas include cognitive linguistics, language change, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, language documentation and description, phonetics, laboratory phonology, and typology. Other faculty research interests include phonological theory, acoustic phonetics, speech sciences and technology, syntax, language revitalization, neurolinguistics, and forensic linguistics. The program only admits students planning to study for the PhD degree full-time. Undergraduate preparation ideally should include language study and coursework in linguistics or disciplines related to linguistics, such as anthropology, applied linguistics, speech and hearing sciences, psychology, sociology, or studies of particular languages, although an advanced degree is not required. Students will earn a master's degree upon advancement to candidacy. Students admitted to the program are generally offered financial support in the form of tuition scholarships and/or stipends for living expenses.

During the first year of residence, each entering student works closely with the graduate advisor to choose a plan of study congruent with the demands of the program and the student’s interests. Emphasis throughout the program is on a close working relationship with faculty. Students should select areas of specialization that fit well with faculty research interests and activities.

Students will, in general, take five years to progress through the degree program. With no prior linguistics background, course work in the first three years will include:

  • one problem-solving course in linguistic analysis (LING 500) to be taken in the first year of study
  • two courses in the area of phonetics/phonology (LING 501 and LING 511)
  • two courses in the area of syntactic/semantic analysis (LING 504 and LING 515)
  • the two-course sequence in field methods (LING 407 and LING 408) to be taken normally in the second year of study
  • two seminars in the department usually to be taken in the second and/or third year of study
  • five additional elective courses, including two courses in other subfields of linguistics

Prior preparation in linguistics will be assessed with regard to its equivalence to particular Rice courses. Graduate students are required to register for at least 12 credit hours per semester before advancing to candidacy. The department requires a minimum semester GPA of 3.0 to avoid probationary status.  Students are expected to serve as teaching assistants for one course per year for four of the five years during the time they are receiving departmental support, and this service is included in the normal course load.

Before advancing to candidacy, students must prepare two in-depth research papers. Each paper must represent a different area in the field of linguistics (as determined by the linguistics faculty); a separate committee of two members of the faculty reads and referees each paper. The committees are chosen by the student and approved by the student’s faculty mentor. The first publishable paper must be approved no later than the end of the fifth semester. Students who fail to meet this deadline will be dismissed from the program. The second publishable paper must be approved by the beginning of the eighth semester. In addition, one of the papers must be presented in the departmental colloquium, and it is expected that students submit their work for presentation at relevant professional meetings and publish their work in venues such as conference proceedings and/or journals when possible.

Finally, students must fulfill the departmental language requirement of competency in at least one language other than English. See the department web page and Linguistics Graduate Student Handbook for specific details.

In the course of the first three years in the program, the student should work toward establishing a close working relationship with various members of the faculty such that multiple faculty members are familiar with the student’s work. During the first year, the graduate advisor serves as the student’s advisor, but after the first year, the student selects a faculty mentor to provide more personalized advising in addition to the general advice of the graduate advisor. After the student’s second paper is accepted, a dissertation advisor is selected and a doctoral committee is formed, by mutual agreement of the student and the anticipated committee members. During the fourth year, students present to their committee members a third research paper, called the dissertation prospectus, consisting of a substantial dissertation proposal and a comprehensive bibliography. It may be based on a grant proposal to an external funding agency, particularly in the case of proposed fieldwork.  Upon completion of the prospectus, students will submit to an oral qualifying exam to be administered by the dissertation committee. The exam will consist of two parts, a general exam demonstrating the student’s knowledge of the field and a dissertation prospectus hearing. Upon completion of this qualifying examination, the student will advance to candidacy.

Following advancement to candidacy, the student works full time toward the completion of the dissertation. The student is expected to consult regularly with the committee members during the data collection and writing process. Upon completion of a complete and acceptable draft of the dissertation, the student will then, in consultation with all members of the dissertation committee, schedule a public defense of the work. When the final version of the dissertation is accepted by the doctoral committee and filed with the university, and all other requirements are certified as fulfilled, the degree is then granted.

For more in-depth information about the linguistics graduate program requirements, consult the official Linguistics Graduate Student Handbook and the departmental web page at


Total Credit Hours Required for the PhD Degree in the field of Linguistics 90

MA Degree Program

The MA degree is a non-thesis masters degree. For general university requirements for non-thesis masters degrees, please see Graduate Degrees. Although students are not normally admitted to study for an MA, graduate students may earn the MA after obtaining approval of their candidacy for the PhD. After all the requirements necessary to advance to candidacy have been met, the student may apply for a candidacy master's degree.


Total Credit Hours Required for the MA Degree in the field of Linguistics 30

Policies for the PhD Degree in the field of Linguistics

For additional information, please see the Linguistics website:

Opportunities for the PhD Degree in the field of Linguistics 

For additional information, please see the Linguistics website: