The Ph.D. in Linguistics aims to train students for careers in research and teaching in theoretical or applied linguistics. Ph.D. candidates master the discipline of linguistics in its broadest sense, acquire knowledge of a specialized area, and carry out independent research.

The Ph.D. in Linguistics aims to train students for careers in research and teaching in theoretical or applied linguistics. Ph.D. candidates master the discipline of linguistics in its broadest sense, acquire knowledge of a specialized area, and carry out independent research.

Learning Goals of the Linguistics Ph.D.

The goal of the Ph.D. Program in Linguistics is to train students for careers in research and teaching in theoretical or applied linguistics. 

Upon successful completion of the program, students must demonstrate:

  • In-depth knowledge of at least one core area of linguistics centered in phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax or semantics
  • The ability to perform advanced linguistic analyses, based in current theoretical models in one of these areas
  • Ability to conduct theory-based empirical studies of any human language and/or ability to apply core area knowledge in an ancillary subfield such as language acquisition, language processing, computational linguistics, and sociolinguistics. 
  • Ability to conceptualize, design and carry out research projects and, in the case of experimental and large-scale data analysis studies, demonstrate mastery of a range of methods and analytical procedures
  • Ability to construct linguistic arguments in line with scientific principles of hypothesis testing, present original research to an audience at professional conferences and write research papers for submission to peer-reviewed journals.
Ph.D. Examination and Dissertation requirements  En-Route Degree Options for Doctoral Students 

Path to Degree

The timeline below is a suggested path for completing the degree in five years.  Please note that the GC’s time limits for the Ph.D. degree must be completed no later than eight years after matriculation.


Fall 1 - 11 Credits


  • Syntax I + Practicum (4 credits)
  • Phonology I + Practicum (4 credits)
  • Linguistics content course (3 credits)
Spring 1 - 11 Credits


  • Semantics I + Practicum (4 credits)
  • Foundational Issues in Linguistics (3 credits)
  • Professional Development Workshop: Teaching Linguistics Across CUNY Campuses (1 credit)
  • Linguistics content courses (3 credits)

Professional Development: Attend colloquia, Program speaker series, local conferences, SYNC, SQUID, Reading Groups, join labs etc.

Fall 2 - 12 Credits


  • 1 Linguistics content course (3 credits)
  • Any 3 courses (9 credits)

First Examination/Qualifying Paper 1 (QP1):

  • October 15 - Statement of Research Question, core area, and advisors due to EO
Spring 2 - 12 Credits


  • QP1 Workshop (3 credits)
  • Any 3 courses (9 credits)


  • January 27 - Abstract due
  • July 1 - Final paper due
  • Pass QP1 before registering for the 46th credit

Transfer MA credits, if any.

Level changes following the first examination (QP1) happen only at the end of the third week of each semester. For more information, see the Linguistics Ph.D. Assessment section below.

If not yet passed QP1, you must register for WIUs until passing the QP1

Fall 3 - 9 credits


  • Any 3 courses (9 credits)

Second Examination/Qualifying Paper 2 (QP2)

  • Identify QP2 topic
  • Select primary advisor (with primary advisor selecting other advisory committee members)
  • Develop and get committee approval on Statement of Objectives; submit to EO five weeks after last day of classes
Spring 3 - 3 credit


  • QP2 Independent Study (3 credits)

Professional Development: Conference presentations (QP1 or QP2, joint lab work)

QP2: Written during summer

Level changes following the second examination (QP2) happen only at the end of the third week of each semester. For more information, see the Linguistics Ph.D. Assessment section below.

Fall 4 - no credits

QP2: Oral defense


  • Select dissertation committee   
  • Schedule dissertation proposal defense  

Professional Development: Conference presentations; grant-writing skills workshop; prepare publications

Spring 4 - no credits


  • Defend proposal
  • Dissertation supervision

Professional Development: Prepare job search; look for post-doctoral opportunities

Fall 5 - no credits

Dissertation: Dissertation supervision

Spring 5 - no credits 

Dissertation: Oral defense   

Professional Development: Job search; conference presentations; interviews

Curriculum Requirements

The Ph.D. in Linguistics requires sixty (60) credits of approved graduate course work. In addition to the required core curriculum, this includes 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 additional content courses)

Core Curriculum

All students in the Ph.D. Program in Linguistics are required to complete the four-course core sequence in foundational issues in linguistics, phonology, syntax and semantics. These courses award 15 of the required 60 credits for graduation. 

  • Ling 71300 Phonology I + practicum
  • Ling 72100 Syntax I + practicum
  • Ling 72300 Semantics I + practicum
  • Ling 87000 Foundational Issues in Linguistics

Content Course

All Ph.D. students will select a minimum of 4 courses from the content course offerings, which include the following topics:

  • Advanced Phonology
  • Bilingualism
  • Corpus Analysis
  • First Language Acquisition
  • Historical Linguistics
  • Introduction to Learnability
  • Introduction to Psycholinguistics
  • Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics
  • Language Technology
  • 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 Psycholinguistics
  • Seminars in Second Language Acquisition
  • Sentence processing
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Spanish in the US
  • Structure of an Individual Language
  • Syntax II

Linguistics Ph.D. Assessments

These assessments are designed to evaluate the Linguistics Ph.D. learning goals.

The program’s First Examination consists of a written Qualifying Paper (QP1) and is designed to evaluate students’ proficiency in a core area and/or the application of a core area in an ancillary subfield (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 1. Eligible advisors are to be chosen from list of linguistics faculty members.

Contact the Assistant Program Officer to see examples of successful QP1 papers.

QP1 Process and Requirements


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 will form an advisory committee prior to researching/writing their QP1 and must secure the participation of two faculty advisors, one of whom shall be the main advisor. The second committee member need not be a specialist in the focus area. It is strongly recommended that, at the outset of preparing for the QP1, the student meet with each advisor to establish a reasonable working plan. Students will submit their QP1 (approved by main advisor) to the committee no later than July 1, get feedback from the other member(s) of the committee, and defend it prior to the end of the second week of the fall semester.

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 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 advisor-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.

Procedures and Evaluation of the QP1
The QP1 will be evaluated within three to four weeks of the submission deadline, July 1st.  

Students who anticipate not being able to meet the deadline must consult with their advisors and notify the EO at least 1 month prior to the submission date.

Submission Guidelines: 

The final supervisor-approved First Exam/QP1 paper is due no later than 5pm on the due date. Students who anticipate not being able to meet the deadline must consult with their Committee and the EO at least 1 month prior to the submission date.

  1. Save the QP1 paper and abstract as a PDF document, using the title of the QP1 for the file name.
  2. Email the PDF document to the Executive Officer, copying your Committee and the Assistant Program Officer.
  3. Submit a 2-sided stapled hardcopy to the Assistant Program Officer.


The QP1 evaluation will take the form of a private defense with committee members. Students will prepare a short (30-minute) presentation of the QP1 and critically discuss the research with committee members after the presentation. Committee members will confer and offer a verbal evaluation of the work and discuss next steps and revisions if needed.

Any required revisions will be discussed at the defense so that students are clear on what needs to be done, why the revisions are necessary, and ask questions about the revisions and the revision process. The main advisor will work out a plan with the student to complete the revisions. If revisions are needed, they will not prevent students from advancing to Level 2 so long as they pass the defense and have completed 45 credits.

Level Changes

Level 1 to Level 2:

In order to advance from Level 1 to Level 2, students must have completed 45 credits and passed the First Exam (QP1) defense. Level 1 to Level 2 changes happen ONLY at the end of the third week of the semester in mid-September and mid-February. Thus, if the student completes the First Exam AFTER the mid-September deadline, then they will not advance to Level 2 until the end of the third week of the spring semester in mid-February. If the student completes the First Exam AFTER the mid-February deadline, then they will not advance to Level 2 until the end of the third week of the fall semester in mid-September.

The program’s Second Examination consists of a written Qualifying Paper (QP2) and critically includes an oral defense. It is designed to evaluate students’ ability to conceptualize and conduct original research and empirical studies in theoretical or applied linguistics and to present and defend their research to an audience including non-specialists in the area of research chosen by the student.

The QP2 is an opportunity for the student to acquire the knowledge and skills that will prepare him or her for the larger project of the dissertation.

Student must pass the QP2 before completion of the tenth semester.

QP2 Process and Requirements


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.


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 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. The subject matter of the QP2 may also 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).

Advisor and Committee

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 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.


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.

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.

Oral Defense and Evaluation

Students must submit a final draft of the QP2 to all members at least three weeks prior to the date of the defense.

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.

  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.
Level Changes

Level 2 to Level 3 (Advancing to Candidacy):

In order to advance from Level 2 to Level 3, students must have completed 60 credits, and passed the First (QP1) Exam and Second Exam (QP2). Level 2 to Level 3 changes happen ONLY at the end of the third week of the semester in mid-September and mid-February. Thus, if the student passes the Second Exam AFTER the mid-September deadline, then they will not advance to Level 3 until the end of the third week of the spring semester in mid-February. If the student passes the Second Exam AFTER the mid-February deadline, then they will not advance to Level 3 until the end of the third week of the fall semester in mid-September. Students who have exhausted their funding or are self-funded should be mindful of the fact that Level 2 students pay significantly higher tuition than Level 3 students, so it is in their interest to plan their Second Exam defense at least one week before the mid-September or mid-February level change deadline to ensure that the paperwork is completed on time.

The Dissertation Defense demonstrates the ability to conduct research and write original scholarly work in an area of linguistics selected by the student. This may include theoretical, experimental or descriptive work.

Dissertation Proposal

Upon fulfillment of requirements for advancement to candidacy (completion of 60 credit requirement, and passing the First and Second Examinations) 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.

Dissertation Committee and 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.

The student must now submit the Declaration of Dissertation Committee Form to the EO and APO. 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.

Third Examination (Oral Defense)

The Third Examination (Oral Defense) is conducted by the members of the Dissertation Committee but may be opened to others who wish to attend. The 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. Ph.D. deposit procedures are available from the Mina Rees Library.

Master of Arts (M.A.)
A doctoral student is eligible for an en-route Master’s degree after having completed 45 credits and passing the First Examination. Applications are available from the Program Office - please contact Assistant Program Officer Nishi Bissoondial for more information.

Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.)
A doctoral student who has a.b.d. (all but degree) is a student who has completed the 60 credits requirement and passing the First and Second Examinations will automatically be sent an application for the Master of Philosophy degree from the Registrar’s Office.

Computational Linguistics (CL) Certificate for Doctoral Students
A certificate for doctoral students allows them to pursue a specialization in the field of computational linguistics following the CL M.A. core course requirements (with exception of the CL M.A. thesis).  Participation in the certificate program can prepare doctoral students for research within the sub-field of computational linguistics or for using computer programming and statistical techniques for analyzing language data while pursuing research in some other sub-field of linguistics. This certificate is awarded at the completion of the Ph.D. degree.