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Through the completion of advanced coursework and strong methodological and analytical training, the Ph.D. program prepares students to make original contributions to knowledge in linguistics, to articulate the results of their work, and to demonstrate its significance to linguistics and related fields. At every stage in the program, students are encouraged to present and publish their research and to develop active professional profiles.
Students devote the first year to coursework in core areas of linguistics. The specific set of courses is chosen by each student in consultation with faculty advisors, allowing students to build the foundation that best suits their interests and goals. Students may also take courses in other departments where appropriate. During their first quarter, all students also attend a seminar introducing the research of faculty in the department. In their second quarter, all students participate in small research groups or in one-on-one apprenticeships, allowing them to work individually and cooperatively with faculty of their own choosing. In their third quarter, students begin work on the first of two qualifying research papers.
During the second and third years, the balance shifts from coursework to the further development of research skills. Students complete two qualifying research papers during this time.
Once these papers are complete, each student picks a principal advisor and committee for the dissertation. The fourth and fifth years of graduate study are devoted to the student’s dissertation work and advanced research.
As they move through the Ph.D. program, students also gain teaching experience by serving as teaching assistants in their second, third, and fourth year of graduate study. They also have access to the many programs provided by Stanford's Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, including the varied resources of the Teaching Commons.
Coursework: Ph.D. students must satisfy a basic course requirement that ensures they achieve breadth across the different areas of linguistics, while setting a foundation for their future research. There is considerable flexibility in how a student meets this requirement, so that it can be tailored to the student's background and interests. The department also delineates a small set of other required courses. Beyond these courses, students are free to choose coursework in Linguistics or related departments and are also encouraged to take directed reading or research courses with individual faculty members, where appropriate.
Qualifying papers: Each student must complete two substantial qualifying research papers in different subfields of linguistics, one in the second year and one in the third year. These papers are intended to provide students with experience in carrying out independent, original research projects before embarking on the dissertation.
Language: Each student must demonstrate explicit, in-depth knowledge of the structure of at least one language (normally neither the candidate's native language nor English) by writing a research paper on that language. The language used to satisfy this requirement must be chosen in consultation with the Graduate Studies Advisor, and the paper must be completed by the end of the third year of graduate study. The candidacy proposal must include a realistic plan for completing the requirement.
Dissertation: Each student must complete a doctoral dissertation that demonstrates the ability to complete a substantial piece of original research work, to articulate the results of this work in a manner appropriate for the linguistics community, and to demonstrate the significance of the work in the context of the general field of linguistics. The student works with a reading committee whose members provide feedback and guidance as the student carries out the dissertation research; as the dissertation progresses, the committee members read and critique drafts of the work.
Each student serves as a teaching assistant for three courses, spread over the second, third, and fourth years of study. These courses generally include at least one course in the student’s main area of expertise. Occasionally, more advanced students may be given the opportunity to teach their own course, if this accords with the department’s curricular needs.
1. Application Form
The application form is completed online through the University Graduate Admissions website.
2. Application Fee
There is an application fee of $125. Fee waivers are available for eligible students.
3. Statement of Purpose
Submitted as part of the online application, the statement of purpose should be designed as a narrative presentation of yourself. Your statement should thoughtfully and clearly convey (1) what you have accomplished thus far in linguistics or in related fields, (2) why you are applying for a Ph.D. program in Linguistics (i.e. why you want to study linguistics and why you need a Ph.D. to achieve your goals), (3) why Stanford is the place you want to carry out your studies, and (4) what your research interests in linguistics are, or if they are not yet defined, what the possibilities might be. Don’t use your statement to repeat information that we will learn from other parts of your application, such as your transcript, but do highlight things you think are particularly important, and do feel free to explain any things in your other materials that you are less proud of. Caution: avoid telling us too much about your childhood and your fascination with language.
4. Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test is required of all applicants. Official scores from a test taken within the last 5 years must be sent from ETS to Stanford using the Institution Code 4704. No minimum GRE score is required to apply.
5. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required of all applicants whose first language is not English. Official scores from a test taken within the last 18 months must be sent from ETS to Stanford using the Institution Code 4704. The University sets the minimum TOEFL score requirements which can be found on the University Graduate Admissions website.
The Department of Linguistics does not require the Test of Spoken English (TSE).
6. Official Transcripts
Transcripts are required from all prior college level schools attended for at least one year. A scanned copy of the official transcript is submitted as part of the online application. Please do not mail hard copy transcripts to the department at the time of application. We will contact you at a later date if we need an official transcript; if you are contacted, you will be asked to provide two hard copies of your official transcript or to have an electronic transcript sent directly to email@example.com by your degree granting institution.
7. Letters of Recommendation
Three letters of recommendation are required. Recommenders submit their letters through the online system. In deciding whom to ask for letters of recommendation, give preference to people who have taught you and/or directed your research activities, people who know you and your work well, and/or people who know what linguistics is and who understand what you’re getting into.
8. Writing Sample
A writing sample is required, preferably on a linguistics topic, but in any case something that displays your research abilities and writing skills. The writing sample is also submitted with the online application. The purpose of the writing sample is to give a sense of your ability to do research, how you might approach a problem and work through it; that is, it should convey not only the way you write but the way you work and think. Send a paper that you are proud of. If possible, this should be a paper in Linguistics or in a related discipline (such as logic or anthropology). The paper does not need to be lengthy; approximately 10 to 15 pages is standard. If you have a B.A. or M.A. thesis, this also would be appropriate, but please designate no more than 25 pages that the Admissions Committee should focus on.