Students in the Linguistics Ph.D. and M.A. have the option to pursue specialized study in one of the following areas, completing a recommended course curriculum as part of the required curriculum for their degree.
Students pursuing the Ph.D. in Linguistics can opt to focus their studies in the field of Computational Linguistics by following a recommended course curriculum and choosing a related topic for original research.
The field of Computational Linguistics focuses on how computers and algorithms can be used to model the sounds, grammar, and meaning of human language. Professionals and researchers in computational linguistics apply computational and statistical techniques to linguistic data, in order to answer challenging questions in linguistics research and to build useful computer software and websites that intelligently process information in the form of human language.
With the growth of the internet and electronic creation and storage of information, there is now a wealth of information available electronically in the form of texts, videos, and audio recordings of human language. However, the way in which humans represent and communicate information in the form of language is non-trivial for computers to process. Because of the overload of information, the key challenge is finding ways to harness this resource for research in linguistics or for the creation of useful computer/web applications.
Additional Degree Options in Computational Linguistics
The Linguistics department also offers the following options for students interested in studying Computational Linguistics.
M.A. in Linguistics with a Concentration in Computational Linguistics
The M.A. in Computational Linguistics prepares linguistics students for challenging careers in industrial and research settings. The program is designed for students with only basic familiarity with computers or programming, and the curriculum is designed to provide students with a core set of programming skills, solid foundation in major sub‐fields of linguistics, and an understanding of modern developments in the field of computational linguistics.
Certificate For Doctoral Students
The Certificate Program for doctoral students allows them to pursue a specialization in the field of computational linguistics – following a curriculum similar to that of M.A. program. 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.
Students pursuing the Ph.D. in Linguistics can opt to focus their studies in the field of Endangered Languages by taking Field Methods, engaging in fieldwork, and/or choosing a related topic for original research.
According to UNESCO, "It is estimated that, if nothing is done, half of the 6000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century. With the disappearance of unwritten and undocumented languages, humanity would lose not only a cultural wealth but also important ancestral knowledge embedded, in particular, in indigenous languages."
As a destination for immigrants from all over the world, New York City is home to speakers of many endangered languages, presenting local linguists with an opportunity for important fieldwork and offering a rich environment for learning for students interested in this field.
Related projects, initiatives and labs:
Students concentrating their studies in the field of endangered languages have the opportunity to conduct original research, including field work and community-based language projects, with support from the Endangered Language Initiative at the Graduate Center, and, in collaboration with the Endangered Language Alliance, a non-profit organization based in New York City.
Students pursuing the Ph.D. in Linguistics can opt to focus their studies in the field of Language Acquisition by following a recommended course curriculum and choosing a related topic for original research.
Our expert faculty and a variety of related research labs and projects provide rich opportunities for research and fieldwork.
First Language Acquisition
The Linguistics Program has been very active in multidisciplinary research on language acquisition. Our empirical research is informed by learnability theory and computational modeling, psycholinguistics, and cognitive psychology. Faculty and students study how young children learn their native language (L1 acquisition) and conduct cross-linguistic investigations on the acquisition of syntax (e.g., syntactic categories, word order, tense and aspect, null subjects, and wh-questions) and the development of meaning in the lexicon. Dissertations in L1 include a study on English proficiency in bilingual French/English schoolchildren (Quirk 2019); a computational modeling study on how children learn prepositions (Stewart 2015) and a study on the acquisition of questions in English (Pozzan 2011 and Bulgarian (Tornyova 2011). We report our research at conferences around the world and encourage students to develop research and presentation skills early in their career.
Second Language Acquisition and Bilingualism
The multilingual environment of New York City, the varied language backgrounds of our students, and the collaborations among faculty and students, make second language acquisition (L2 acquisition) and bilingualism a particularly rich field of study at The Graduate Center. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, we study language learning in adulthood, simultaneous and sequential bilingualism, and language development in first and second-generation bilinguals. Both behavioural and psychophysiological methods are used, such as elicited imitation, elicited production, comprehension, grammaticality judgment, Event Related Potential (ERP), eye-tracking and pupillometry. Recent dissertations include studies of Chinese-English bilingual preschoolers (Chard 2018); pragmatic strategies in L2 Japanese by L1 Hebrew speakers (Barkan 2018); heritage speaker language processing (Madsen 2018) and cross-linguistic structural priming in heritage Spanish speakers and late bilinguals.
Related projects, initiatives and labs:
Students concentrating their studies in the field of language acquisition have the opportunity to conduct original research and critical field work in labs and projects like the Research Institute for the Study of Language in Urban Society (RISLUS) and the CUNY Second Language Acquisition Lab, both overseen by Linguistics professor Gita Martohardjono.
Phonology is a central area of research and study in the Linguistics program. Students are encouraged to describe understudied sound patterns, explore theoretical implications of common and uncommon sound patterns, understand sound patterns in terms of their phonetic bases and historical developments, and design experiments to better understand the nature of phonological knowledge and its relationship to morphology, syntax and semantics.
The Linguistics program regularly hosts symposium speakers engaged in phonological research and visiting international scholars engaged in the study of sound patterns. The program also offers seasonal workshops and reading groups on special topics in phonetics and phonology.
Present, past, and future phonological research includes documentation & description, analysis, and theoretical studies of sound inventories, phonotactics, prosodic domains, alternations, and the relationship between sound patterns and sound change.
Related projects, initiatives and labs:
Students concentrating their studies in the field of Phonology have the opportunity to conduct original research and critical field work in labs and projects like the CUNY Prosody Lab, directed by Linguistics professor Jason Bishop.
Semantics is an active and growing area of the Graduate Center's Linguistics Program. Recent dissertations have investigated Chinese wh-indeterminates (Chen), Korean Negative Polarity Items (Lee-Sikka), English amount superlatives (Wilson), Korean topic and case markers (Chung), de se/de re interpretations of Icelandic pronouns (Reeves), Japanese quantifiers (Kobuchi-Philip), English indexicals (Bevington). On-going research by students is on topics as varied as implicature acquisition, subjunctive conditionals, semantic T(ense)-A(spect)-M(odality) interactions, the semantics of imperatives, and the syntax/semantics of predication.
In addition to the two semester introduction to formal semantics, advanced seminars are regularly offered. Recent seminar topics, reflecting the research interests of the faculty, have included experimental semantics, the syntax/semantics of parasitic gaps, reference and anaphora, aspect, questions, unaccusativity, and events. A student-initiated reading group studies foundational papers in all areas of semantics.
Sociolinguists investigate the connections that hold between language and social categories such as class, gender, and ethnicity, as well as the connections between variable features and their conditioning contexts within the language. The Linguistics program provides students with the opportunity to pursue the study of sociolinguistics from a variety of perspectives, including areas often referred to as ‘the sociolinguistics of society’ and ‘the sociolinguistics of language.’
Students and faculty have used sociolinguistic techniques to investigate such topics as creolization, urban language varieties, dialect contact in urban settings, and bilingual contact phenomena. Research projects are conducted in a variety of languages, using both qualitative and quantitative research methods.
Related projects, initiatives and labs:
Students concentrating their studies in the field of sociolinguistics have the opportunity to conduct original research and critical field work in labs and projects like the Research Institute for the Study of Language in Urban Society (RISLUS), Audio-Aligned and Parsed Corpus of Appalachian English (AAPCAppE), and Corpus of New York City English (CUNY-CoNYCE), which are led by members of Linguistics program faculty and based at The Graduate Center and other CUNY campuses.
Syntactic research at The Graduate Center covers a broad range of languages and topics. The program produces empirically rich and theoretically significant research across a wide variety of empirical and analytical domains, preparing students for careers in both academia and industry.
Our faculty’s research interests and specializations are notably diverse. In addition to researching some of the major languages of the world, a number of faculty members actively research the syntax of endangered, under-documented, and marginalized languages. Faculty language specializations include, but are not limited to:
- African languages (Kandybowicz)
- Austronesian languages (Kaufman)
- Basque (Haddican)
- English and its varieties (Nissenbaum, Tortora, and Haddican)
- Italian and its varieties (Tortora)
- Languages of immigrant communities in New York City (Kaufman)
- Romance languages (Tortora)
Faculty research interests and specializations include:
- Formal syntactic theory (all faculty)
- Syntax-Semantics interface (Nissenbaum, Al Khatib)
- Syntax-Phonology interface (Kandybowicz)
- Morphology-Syntax interface (Kaufman)
- Syntactic variation (Tortora, Haddican)
Our students come from all over the world and contribute to the vibrant research culture of the program. Recent syntax dissertations and qualifying paper projects include:
- Wh- indeterminates and split wh- NPIs in Korean
- The syntax and semantics of Korean nominal particles
- Completive todo as a modifier of silent PPs in Rioplatense Spanish
- Non-argumental datives in Spanish
- Lower copy retention in Belizean Creole How-Phrases
- The syntax of non-restrictive relative clauses in Tunisian Arabic
- A prosodic analysis of Egyptian Arabic in-situ interrogative distribution
- The status of islands in Shupamem
- Serial verb constructions in Shupamem
- Short A-bar movement in Georgian
- The syntax of Latin presentatives
- Partial control in Brazilian Portuguese
- Bare and partitive-marked NPs in Romance languages
- Intervention effects in L2 English raising
Syntax at the Graduate Center is highly interdisciplinary and collaborative. Syntax faculty and students are closely involved with research conducted in a number of related areas within the Linguistics Program: semantics, first and second language acquisition, sentence processing, sociolinguistics, field linguistics, and language documentation, to name a few.