Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics

Students pursuing the Ph.D. in Linguistics are required to complete a minimum of 60 units of course work beyond the baccalaureate. Students are also required to take three 600-level seminars in Linguistics and a minimum of 4 units of 794 Doctoral Dissertation.

Course Requirements

Semester one
LING 530 – Generative Syntax (3 units)
LING 531a – Phonology (3 units)

Students should also enroll in two or three additional courses selected in consultation with the Graduate Studies Committee or the faculty advisor.


Semesters two through six

The following three courses must be completed by the end of a student’s sixth semester of graduate study.

LING 534 – Logic and the Theory of Meaning (3 units)
LING 576 – Psycholinguistics (3 units)
LING 580 – General Phonetics (3 units)


Screening Procedure

Before a doctoral guidance committee can be established for applicants to the Ph.D. program, a student must pass a screening procedure. This procedure consists of a review of the student’s graduate work at USC by the Linguistics department faculty.

The review will be based on the following criteria: course work completed, including grades and papers; faculty recommendations; and evaluation of both the M.A. research paper and a Ph.D. screening paper.

The M.A. research and Ph.D. screening papers must be in two different sub areas of linguistics, for example: syntax and psycholinguistics; or phonology and semantics; or sociolinguistics and typology.

The M.A. research paper must be completed and defended prior to the end of the fourth semester of graduate study, and the Ph.D. screening paper must be completed and defended prior to the end of the sixth semester. The set of courses leading to the M.A. research paper and the Ph.D. screening paper are determined through recommendation of the screening committee and approval of the Graduate Studies Committee.

Qualifying Examination

The examination qualifying a student for candidacy for the Ph.D. degree is comprehensive in nature, partly written and partly oral. The successful completion of the qualifying procedure is represented by the approval by the guidance committee of the student’s dissertation prospectus and oral defense. The oral defense has to take place by the end of the 8th semester.


The final stage of the program is the submission and defense of a dissertation that makes an original and substantial contribution to its field of study. Refer to the Graduate School for the policies and procedures governing the submission of a dissertation.

Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics (Specialization in East Asian Linguistics)

Students interested in East Asian linguistics take the Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics with a specialization in East Asian linguistics. In addition to all requirements for the PhD in linguistics, students are required to write research papers on topics relating to East Asian languages for four courses or 15 units during their PhD studies.  One of the two screening papers, the prospectus associated with the qualifying examination and the doctoral dissertation must also deal with at least one East Asian language. Students must additionally take LING 794a Doctoral Dissertation, LING 794b Doctoral Dissertation.