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Degree Requirements

PhD Program Requirements and Guidelines

Sixty (60) credits of course work; including 16 credits corresponding to the required courses, plus a minimum of 24 credits within Linguistics, distributed as follows:

  • 4 content courses (12 credits)
  • 4 additional courses (may include research courses and Independent Studies as well as content courses)  

Required Core Courses (16 credits):

  • Ling 70100 Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics + practicum
  • Ling 71300 Phonology I + practicum
  • Ling 72100 Syntax I + practicum
  • Ling 72300 Semantics I + practicum

Linguistics Content Courses (choose a minimum of 4):

  • Advanced Phonology
  • Advanced Syntax
  • Bilingualism
  • Corpus Analysis
  • First Language Acquisition
  • Historical Linguistics
  • Introduction to Learnability
  • Introduction to Psycholinguistics
  • Language Technology
  • Linguistic Phonetics
  • Linguistics Typology
  • Methods in Computational Linguistics I & II
  • Morphology
  • Phonology II
  • Pragmatics and Discourse Analysis
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Semantics II
  • Seminars in Bilingualism and Urban Linguistics
  • Seminars in Computational Linguistics
  • Seminars in Linguistics
  • Seminars in Phonology, Morphology, and the Lexicon
  • Seminars in Psycholinguistics
  • Seminars in Second Language Acquisition
  • Seminars in Semantics
  • Seminars in Syntactic Theory
  • Sentence processing
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Spanish in the US
  • Structure of an Individual Language
  • Syntax II


In Addition:

  • Students must pass the First Examination, or the Qualifying Paper 1 (QP1), before completion of the 45th credit.
  • Students must fulfill two foreign language requirements. The language requirements may be satisfied at any time after entering the program, but before the completion of 60 credits.
  • Student must pass the Second Examination, or the Qualifying Paper 2 (QP2), before completion of the tenth semester.
  • Finally, PhD students must defend their Dissertation, the Third Examination.

Masters Program Requirements and Guidelines

M.A. (Linguistics) Requirements:

  • The program requires 30 credits of course work, including 15 credits of required core courses.
  • Students must write a thesis that results in a pass for the Supervised Research Project.
  • Students must show proficiency in or familiarity with one language other than English. See Foreign Language Requirement section below.

Required Core Courses (Required 15 credits):

  • Introduction to Linguistics + practicum (4 credits)
  • MA Supervised Research / Independent Study (3 credits)

And any two of the following courses:

  • Phonology I + practicum (4 credits)
  • Semantics I + practicum (4 credits)
  • Syntax I + practicum (4 credits)

Electives (15 credits):
No more than 6 credits of which may be taken outside of linguistics.

Consult the Mina Rees Library or click on the following link for MA thesis deposit procedures.

Masters Program (Computational Linguistics)

M.A. (Computational) Core Courses:

  • The program requires 32 credits of course work, including 26 core credits.
  • Students must write and give an oral presentation of a thesis that results in a pass for the Supervised Research Project​.

Required Core Courses (26 credits):

  • Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics + practicum (4 credits)
  • Syntax I + practicum (4 credits)
  • Methods in Computational Linguistics I + practicum (4 credits)
  • Methods in Computational Linguistics II (3 credits; prerequisite: Methods I)
  • Language Technology (3 credits)
  • Corpus Analysis (3 credits)
  • MA Supervised Research Thesis / Independent Study (1 credit)   A Supervised Research Project and approval form is required. (Click hyperlink for the form.)

And one of the following:

  • Phonology I + practicum (4 credits)
  • Semantics I + practicum (4 credits)


  • 6 credits; may be taken outside of Linguistics

Note: Students with a strong computational or programming background may be able to replace one or both of the Methods in Computational Linguistics courses with other courses from the electives list. See Computational Linguistics page for more information.

Foreign Language Requirement

Master’s students (except Comp. Ling MA) are required to show proficiency in or familiarity with one language other than English.

Doctoral students are required to show proficiency in, familiarity with, or scholarly knowledge of two distinct languages (spoken, signed or written) other than English.

Proficiency in a foreign language will be satisfied if any of the following hold:

   a)  you are a native speaker of the foreign language
   b)  you are literate in the foreign language
   c)  you can demonstrate the equivalent of 2 years of college study of the foreign language
   d)  you can pass a translation exam in the foreign language, composed and graded within our program
   e)  you can pass an oral proficiency exam in the foreign language, organized and graded within our program


Familiarity with a foreign language will be satisfied if:

   a)   you have done significant fieldwork on the language
   b)  you have completed Linguistics 73100, The Structure of a Language, with a grade of B or better
   c)  you can document extended first-hand contact with the language (spoken, signed, or written) during your course of graduate study to the satisfaction of the Executive Officer.

The "scholarly requirement."

The scholarly requirement is satisfied by demonstrating competency of a scholarly project/paper in a language other than English. The paper will demonstrate a linguistic property that is commonly studied in the program. The project/paper should:

  • be about a syntactic, semantic, or phonological aspect of the language;
  • concern sociolinguistic issue of the language;
  • be written in connection with a computational linguistics problem;
  • deal with a question concerning acquiring the language, as a first or second language;
  • focus on variation within or use of the language

The preceding list is only suggestive; a student may select an appropriate project under the guidance of any member of the doctoral faculty. The faculty member will be responsible for determining if the project satisfies the language requirement.

First/Second Exams

Exam Rules and Regulations

Please consult the Student Handbook for the information on En Route M.A., Advancement to Doctoral Candidacy, Dissertation Proposal, Dissertation Committee, and the Third Examination (Oral Defense)


First Examination / Qualifying Paper 1 (QP1)

Each student writes a QP1 demonstrating that the candidate controls the literature in one or more core area (s) of linguistics relevant to the topic of the QP1 (i.e., Phonology or Phonetics; Morphology; Syntax; Semantics). The content of the QP1 must be the student’s original research. The research question may be in any area of linguistics, but the analysis applied to it must be informed by knowledge of a core area commensurate with 30-45 credits of study.  The final supervisor-approved QP1 is due July 1st. Eligible advisors are to be chosen from list of linguistics faculty members.

A QP1 should be written with a linguistically informed audience in mind, including readers not specialized in the topic area. It must conform to a consistent style accepted by some standard journal; it must be in 12-point Times New Roman or Arial font, double spaced with one-inch margins. The body of the paper, excluding the bibliography or appendices, must be between 6,000 and 10,000 words.

The student must secure the participation of two faculty advisors, one of whom shall be the main advisor. Advisors will be selected by the student and approved by the Executive Officer (EO). It is strongly recommended that, at the outset of preparing for the QP1, the student meet with both advisors to establish a reasonable working plan.

Time limits:
Students must pass the QP1 before registering for the 46th credit. Students are advised to start the writing process around the time they have 30 credits (approximately 10 courses).

QP1 Workshop:
Students preparing to submit their QP1 are required to enroll in the QP1 Workshop. The QP1 Workshop will be offered every Spring semester as a regular three credit course. The purpose of the QP1 Workshop is to enhance students’ research, argumentation and writing skills.  For the content of the QP1, students should consult with their advisors and other faculty members specializing in the chosen topic.

Statement of Research Question:
The student will submit a supervisor-approved statement of the research question that includes the core area and names of advisors no later than October 15th.   

The student will submit a 1 page supervisor-approved abstract no later than January 27th.  It will include a brief description of the topic including examples, diagrams and references, if appropriate. The abstract must specify the core area, a title, and names of the two advisors. The EO will offer advice or request clarification if it is not clear that the chosen topic is able to fulfill the content requirements.

Submission Guidelines:
Guidelines for submission of final supervisor-approved paper is as follows:
The final supervisor-approved First Exam/QP1paper is due no later than 5pm on the due date. 
1. Save the QP1 paper and abstract as a .pdf document, using the title of the QP1 for the file name. Do not include names of supervisors, and acknowledgment/thank you notes.) To ensure anonymity for graders, remove your name from the document. Check your attachment/file to ensure that you are not listed as the creator of the file (see how to remove sensitive information on the links below).  
2. Email the .pdf document to the Program's Executive Officer, copying your advisors and the Assistant Program Officer.  
3. Submit a 2-sided stapled hardcopy to the Assistant Program Officer.
Removing sensitive information:
For a pdf:[]
For a word document:[]

Procedures and Evaluation of the QP1:
The QP1 will be evaluated within three to four weeks of the submission deadline, July 1st.  If the QP1 is submitted early, e.g. in the Fall, evaluation will begin on January 15th.
Students who anticipate not being able to meet the deadline must consult with their advisors and the EO at least 1 month prior to the submission date.

Evaluation Procedures:
Evaluation will be done by one of the original two QP1 advisors, and one external faculty member chosen by the original two advisors. Every QP1 will receive a grade of  Pass, Pass with revisions, or Fail. Comments are required in case of a Fail or Pass with revisions. The EO may call on the advice of a third reader in case of a disagreement between the two Faculty Readers.  In the case of a Pass with Revision, the student must follow the readers' comments to revise the QP1 under the supervision of the main advisor. In the case of a Fail, the student will be allowed to re-take the QP1 once, within one year of having submitted it initially. For the re-take, the student may change advisors, topic or core area(s). In the case of a Fail the student will receive written feedback, detailing the reasons for the Fail. Students may not continue in the Program following a second failed submission.

QP1 Timeline:

Second Examination / Qualifying Paper 2 (QP2)


Students write a Second Examination, which is a Qualifying Paper (QP2) in any area within Linguistics. The QP2 is an in-depth examination of a topic that provides both theoretical background for the problem being addressed as well as original research that advances our knowledge of the topic. The paper topic may overlap with that of the First Exam if it is a substantial advance (as determined by the student's Advisory Committee) on the First Exam. As part of the exam, the student will orally present and defend the QP2.

The subject matter of the QP2 may be the subject matter of the student's dissertation but the two need not overlap, nor need the QP2 Advisory Committee overlap with the dissertation committee. The QP2 is nevertheless an opportunity for the student to acquire the knowledge and skills that will prepare him or her for the larger project of the dissertation.

The QP2 is evaluated by a three member Advisory Committee which consists of a primary advisor from the Linguistics Program, who serves as chair of the committee, and two other faculty members who are also usually from the Linguistics Program. The student chooses the primary advisor, and, generally in consultation with the primary advisor, requests the participation of the other two (who need not be an expert on the topic of the QP2) faculty members. The Advisory Committee's composition must be approved by the Executive Officer. The Advisory Committee decides whether the QP2 constitutes a Pass or Fail of the Second Exam. In the case of a Fail, the student will be allowed to re-take the Second Exam once, within one year of having taken the exam for the first time. For the re-take, the student may ask the Executive Officer for permission to form a new committee or choose a new area or topic. Graduate Center regulations require that students successfully complete the Second Exam by no later than the end of their fifth year (tenth semester).


Statement of Objectives:
The student writes a statement of the problem he or she will address and outlines the basic approach that the QP2 will take in attempting to resolve it. The statement should be between 1 and 2 single-spaced pages in 12-point type with one-inch margins. The statement must be approved by the Advisory Committee. The due date for the Statement of Objectives is 5 weeks after the last day of classes of the semester following satisfactory completion of the First Exam. Students should thus begin developing ideas for their QP2 topic in advance. An independent study with a faculty member may be an appropriate way to develop an approach to the Second Exam. The topic can also develop from a paper that the student has written for a course.

QP2 Content and Process:
There are no limitations on the topic of the QP2, as long as it is a topic in linguistics for which the student can assemble a three-person Advisory Committee. The QP2 identifies a problem or question and proposes a solution or answer to the question. It involves a thorough review of the relevant background to the problem and original research to address the problem. The student should meet at least monthly with the primary advisor. Students and their primary advisors should establish their expectations for the content, form, and length of the QP2 at the beginning of their work together. The student and the Advisory Committee will work together to set realistic goals so that the QP2 can be completed in a timely fashion. The QP2 should be in the style and approximate length of a published journal article, typically between 35-50 double-spaced pages in 12-point type with one-inch margins. Students must submit a final draft of the QP2 to all members at least three weeks prior to the date of the defense.

Defense of the Second Exam:
Students will set a date for the presentation and defense of the Second Exam, generally scheduled for a two-hour period. The student's presentation is expected to take thirty to forty-five minutes, to be followed by questions from the Advisory Committee.
The Advisory Committee will decide whether the QP2 constitutes a Pass or a Fail of the Second Exam. In case of a Fail, the student will be allowed to resubmit the QP2 once, within one year of having submitted the QP2 for the first time. The student may choose a new Advisory Committee, a new topic, both, or neither for the resubmission.

Students may put the Second Exam into perspective by considering their desired progress through the Program. Full-time funded students should aim for a degree within ten to twelve semesters. Since three to five semesters are commonly required for the dissertation, full-time students should aim to defend their QP2 within the first six to eight semesters. The Graduate Center requires that students take the Second Exam no later than the end of their tenth semester, but that requirement, if taken as normative, would lead to failure to graduate within a reasonable time period. Prospective employers assessing likely future productivity attend to the length of time a student has taken to complete their degree. Part-time and unfunded students may of necessity require the longer time span permitted by the Graduate Center regulations provide. All students should discuss their time line with their Advisory Committee to establish a workable plan.

1. Develop ideas for QP2.
2. Select primary advisor.
3. Consult with primary advisor to select other Advisory Committee members and have Executive Officer approve Advisory Committee.
4. Write draft of Statement of Objectives.
5. Get Statement of Objectives approved by Advisory Committee.
6. Submit Statement to Executive Officer 5 weeks after the last day of classes of the semester following satisfactory completion of QP1.
7. Meet with primary advisor on a monthly basis.
8. Recommended: Meet at least once with full Advisory Committee.
9. Schedule QP2 defense and submit final draft to Advisory Committee at least 3 weeks before defense.

Timeline of Statement of Objectives

(Semester After Passing QP1)

QP2 guide

Dissertation Proposal and Defense

The Dissertation Proposal

Upon fulfillment of requirements for advancement to candidacy (completion of 60 credit requirement, First and Second Exam pass, two foreign language requirement) a dissertation supervisor/Chair is selected by the student in consultation with his/her advisor and/or the Executive Officer. A Dissertation Committee is then also selected (see below). The student now prepares a dissertation research proposal in close consultation with the members of the Dissertation Committee. This process constitutes part of the student's professional training in how to write realistic research proposals and should be so viewed by the committee members and by the student.

No later than one semester after passing the Second Examination, a meeting of the student and the members of the Dissertation Committee shall be scheduled to discuss the final version of the dissertation proposal (see responsibility of Committee below) with the student and with one another and to decide whether to accept the proposal. The members should each be given a copy of the final version of the dissertation proposal at least 30 days before the date of the meeting. If the members cannot accept the proposal, they shall indicate what further action need to be taken. The dissertation supervisor shall inform the Executive Officer and the Assistant Program Officer if the student's proposal has been accepted.

The Dissertation Committee and Dissertation Supervision

It is the responsibility of the members of the Dissertation Committee to provide guidance and input regarding the conduct of the dissertation research and writing. The Committee also must approve the suitability of the student's dissertation for the Third or Final Examination (the oral defense) and ordinarily acts as the Examining Committee therein.

A minimum of three members of the faculty of the CUNY Graduate Center, including the supervisor, will constitute the (Examining) Dissertation Committee, of which at least two, including the Supervisor/Chair, are members of the Linguistics Program. The Chair is the Committee member most actively involved in guiding the student’s research, in reading drafts of the student’s dissertation chapters, and in general mentoring the student on a regular basis.  It is permissible to informally include additional scholars on the Committee, if the dissertation topic requires wider input. This external committee member may be from another CUNY college, or outside the university, with Committee, and the Executive Officer approval.

The student is responsible for maintaining contact with all members of the Committee, keeping them informed of the progress of the dissertation at all times, and for convening meetings of the Committee. The student will complete a first draft of the entire dissertation and give it to all Committee members no later than the beginning of the semester in which (s) he is to defend the dissertation. The Committee will respond with suggestions for revisions within five weeks. A first‑draft meeting will be at the discretion of the Committee. After receiving suggestions from the entire Committee, the student will prepare a final draft of the dissertation within five weeks. The Committee will, within three weeks, evaluate the final draft to ensure that all suggestions were carried out. If all members of the Committee agree, the defense is then scheduled. The names of the examiners and the date of the examination shall be submitted to the Executive Officer and the Assistant Program Officer at least three weeks before the scheduled date. This information will be forwarded to the Provost, who will issue formal invitations to the Committee.

The Third Examination (Oral Defense)

The examination is conducted by the members of the Dissertation Committee but may be opened to others who wish to attend. The Final Examination may be arranged such that the student gives a colloquium, followed by a private meeting with the Dissertation Committee. The Dissertation Committee will not ask questions in the colloquium. This arrangement is encouraged (but not required), because it provides the student with good experience for conference presentations and job talks.

The Chair of the Dissertation Committee will record the Committee's evaluation of the student's examination in a Report of Final Examination to the Provost. If a dissertation is "Pass requiring only minor revisions", the approval of the Chair is needed to certify that all revisions have been made in the final version. If major revisions are required, the dissertation must be resubmitted to the Chair and two members of the Dissertation Committee for approval before passing of the Final Examination can be recorded. If the Committee does not pass the dissertation, it shall recommend to the Executive Officer what further action should be taken.

Once the dissertation has been defended, revisions made, and received final revision approval from the Chair (and two committee member, if applicable) the next step is to deposit.  Consult the GC Library  and click the link for Ph.D. deposit procedures.

In Addition

En-Route Masters Diploma:
A doctoral student is eligible for a en-route (to the Ph.D. degree) Master’s degree after having completed 45 credits, the First Exam, and fulfill one foreign language requirement.  Applications are available in the Program Office.

M.Phil Degree:
A doctoral student who has a.b.d. (all but degree), completing the 60 credits requirement, passing the First and Second Exams, and fulfilling the 2 foreign language proficiency, may apply for a Master of Philosophy degree through the Registrar’s Office.

Curricular Practical Training:
The Program supports Curricular Practical Training (CPT) activities directly benefitting the student’s academic career.  CPT activities include, but are not limited to: teaching, internship, independent research, independent study course, required course of study, thesis supervision course, etc.  Note that the Program does not require registration for some academic activities.