The Graduate Program trains suitable candidates in the theoretical and empirical methods of linguistic research. The Department offers the MA degree with a focus on phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, historical linguistics, first-language acquisition, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, and computational linguistics. Please contact Elliott Moreton for more information.

Master of Arts – Degree Requirements
Doctor of Philosophy – The department regrets that it can no longer admit students for the degree of Doctor of PhilosophyNo exceptions can be made.



Equal Opportunity
Waiver and Transfer of Courses
Financial Aid and Funding
Advising and Registration
Other Items of Interest
Questions and Application Material Requests



The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is committed to the principle of equal opportunity. It is the policy of this University not to discriminate on the basis of age, sex, race, color, national origin, religion, disability, or sexual orientation with regard to its students, employees, or applicants for admission or employment. Any complaints alleging failure of this institution to follow this policy should be brought to the attention of the department chair or Ms. Leslie Strohm, General Counsel, Telephone (919) 962-1219.

The following information is intended for both prospective and enrolled students, to familiarize them with requirements and practices of the Department and the Graduate School. This guide should be used along with the Graduate School Record and the Graduate School Handbook.



Applying to the Program
Information on our program is contained in the present guide. Application forms and materials may be obtained directly from the Graduate School. Applicants should note the requirement of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Aptitude Test (Verbal, Quantitative, Analytical), all college transcripts, and at least two (preferably three) letters of recommendation. The Graduate School also requires the TOEFL examination of all international applicants except those from countries where English is the official language of instruction (see the instructions for international applicants on the Graduate School homepage for details). Since admission decisions are based on all of these factors, it is important that applicants arrange for taking the GRE exam and for sending the transcripts and recommendations promptly. The deadline for applications for a given Fall term is the preceding December 11th. While the Department will consider applicants for admission until May 12th, those who wish to be considered for any kind of financial aid must have their application complete by the deadline.

Spring Admission
Because of the scheduling of required courses, the Department does not normally admit students in the Spring semester. Exceptions are made only for those with considerable prior training in linguistics, who should write to the Department in advance of application regarding their specific case.

Statement of Purpose
The Department asks applicants also to submit a brief (1-2 page) statement of purpose/career goals. There is no special form for this statement. A short sample of written work (such as a course term paper on any topic) is also welcome, particularly from foreign applicants. Submission of longer works is not recommended.



Waiver of Required Courses
Students who have done equivalent work elsewhere may request waiver of one or more required courses. During the first semester here, students should present a written request for such a waiver to the Director of Graduate Studies. The decision on a waiver request rests with the faculty member teaching the relevant course, who will expect students to present evidence that they have covered equivalent materials.

NOTE: approval of a waiver merely relieves students of taking a particular required course (for which an elective course may then be substituted); it does not confer transfer credit, on which see immediately below.

Transfer of course credit
Approval of transfer of course credit for work done at other graduate institutions is made by the Graduate School upon the recommendation of the Department. A maximum of 6 credits may be transferred for the M.A. degree. There is no set limit for the Ph.D. During their first semester here, students seeking transfer credit should submit a written request to the Director of Graduate Studies, who will forward the request to the appropriate faculty members. Students will be expected to provide enough information on the content of courses taken to give a basis for a decision. Students will receive written notification of the decision, which will also be placed in their file. Official approval of transfer credit takes place only after the (final) oral examination.

While the procedures for requesting waiver of a required course and transfer of course credit are similar (and they may be made at the same time), they are different matters, and students should talk with the Director of Graduate Studies to be sure that they understand what they wish to request.



Incoming Students
Funding for first-year students is somewhat limited, and comes from a variety of sources. 22 students entered the graduate program in 2006-2010. Of these, 11 were supported in their first year: 2 by a competitive University-wide fellowship or assistantship, 1 by an extramural fellowship, 1 full-time and 1 half-time as teaching assistants in linguistics, and 6 as full-time teaching assistants in other departments.

Students approved for admission are eligible to be nominated for various University-wide fellowships and assistantships. While competition is keen, the Department has been successful in recent years in obtaining awards for its top admittees. The application for admission itself constitutes a request to be considered for these: no separate application is necessary. Minority students may also qualify for support under the Minority Presence Grant Program.

Students with competence in a foreign language may be qualified to receive a teaching assistantship in that language. Such students are urged to write directly to the chair of the relevant department (Romance, Germanic, Slavic, East Asian), indicating that they have applied to the graduate program in linguistics and describing their language competence. While several linguistics majors have received such TAships, it is important that applicants realize that they are necessarily competing with the language departments’ own students. They should therefore submit their request as early as possible and present as much evidence for their language competence as possible (taking the relevant GRE language exam is recommended).

Note: Linguistics students holding a foreign language TAship may be required to take a certain number of courses in that language department. It is helpful for students requesting TAships in other departments to inform the Department of this fact.

Continuing Students
After the first year, students are normally able to find support as teaching assistants in Linguistics or in a language department.

Students who have completed the required coursework for the M.A. are eligible to request a TAship in linguistics. The awarding of these TAships is competitive, not automatic. Students seeking a TAship should submit a brief written request by the announced deadline (usually in March). A limited number of University research assistantships is also available to continuing students. Under normal circumstances, financial aid in the form of assistantships is limited to two years for M.A. candidates to three years (beyond the M.A.) for Ph.D. candidates. Financial support beyond these limits is given only if funds are available after other students’ needs have been met.

Note: assistantships awarded by the University include tuition ‘remission’ for out-of-state students (i.e., one pays in-state rates). Remission money for linguistic TAships is quite limited, and students are urged to seek residence status if there is any possible justification for it.

Loans and Work-Study
Assistance is available to both entering and continuing students. To apply for these, a student must complete the Financial Aid Form (FAF) and submit it to the College Scholarship Service, with the instruction that a copy of the statement be sent to the UNC-CH Student Aid Office (#5816). A request for financial aid from the Graduate School or the Department will not serve as an application for assistance from the Student Aid Office: the FAF is required of all applicants. The FAF may be obtained from college financial aid offices or from the UNC Student Aid Office. All sections of the form must be completed. The preference deadline for receiving the FAF from new and returning students is March 1. A student should not wait for admission before applying for aid. Students who apply after March 1 will receive assistance only if resources permit. For more information on applying for aid, visit Scholarships & Student Aid.

Fellowships and Assistantships
Financial support for graduate students is available in the form of language laboratory assistantships, research assistantships, University Fellowships, and teaching assistantships in Linguistics, German, French, Spanish and other languages. Teaching assistantships provide a stipend of at least $7,350 per year.



The Director of Graduate Studies serves as advisor to first-year students. Incoming students should contact the Department office at once to arrange for an appointment to register for courses. At the beginning of their second year students will choose a faculty member as advisor. All students will continue to receive their PIN number for registration from the Director of Graduate Studies and are expected to inform the Director of GS briefly of the courses for which they register. The student’s personal advisor may, but need not, be the same as the thesis director. In some circumstances it may be appropriate for a student to have a faculty member from outside the Department as advisor or director. In such cases students must consult with the Director of GS before asking outside faculty to serve in this role.

Registration is now accomplished on the internet. Students should receive a Registration Notice by mail which gives their call-in date. In order to register, students must obtain a PIN (personal identification number) from the Director of Graduate Studies during their advising session.

Enrolled students are required to pre-register for a following term (announcement of the exact time will be posted). Pre-registration comes uncomfortably early, and students may feel that they cannot yet make intelligent decisions about the following semester. Nevertheless, pre-registration is very helpful in planning course schedules, and students are urged to comply with the pre-registration schedule. They are reminded that they are free to change any of their choices at regular registration.



Resources and Enrichment
The University Library is well supplied with linguistics publications and allied material and nearby Duke University Library has a supplementary collection of publications. Computer time is available for qualified projects. Visiting lecturers provide perspectives and insight into current work as augmentation of regular course offerings.

Summer School
UNC has two sessions of about five weeks each. Due to the small size of the linguistics program, it is not possible to offer regular graduate courses during the summer. Occasionally, a student may be able to persuade a faculty member present in Chapel Hill to do a reading course. Students may also find it possible to fulfill the foreign language requirement by taking a summer course.

The Linguistics Circle
The Linguistics Circle is the linguistic graduate student organization, which sponsors the annual Spring Colloquium at which both professors and students present papers, as well as other events through the year. It also elects a non-voting student representative who attends meetings of the linguistics faculty. See here for recent programs of the Spring Colloquium.

Problems and Grievances
Faculty members are vitally interested in the academic progress and general welfare of our graduate students. However, the faculty has neither the responsibility, nor indeed the right, to oversee the lives of the students, who are independent adults. Students must also bear in mind that, in addition to them, faculty members have many other legitimate professional concerns, as well as their own private lives. It is therefore the students’ responsibility to bring any problems or difficulties to the attention of the faculty (in particular the Chair/Director of Graduate Studies), not to wait for the latter somehow to deduce or divine them. One final matter: both fairness and common sense dictate that problems involving a particular course or faculty member be taken up first with that individual. Only if a student feels that the response is unsatisfactory should the matter then be brought to the Chair. Obviously, the same principle applies to an appeal to still higher authority.

Employment Outlook
Since the employment outlook in higher education in general and linguistics in particular is known to be less than bright, students are justifiably concerned about their prospects for successfully completing their studies and finding employment. The following figures may therefore be of interest. As of 2010, our 9 PhD graduates in 2004-2009 were employed as: full-time language or linguistics faculty members (2), part-time linguistics faculty member (1), linguistics postdoc (1), university administrator (1), linguist in government service (1). Of our 14 MA graduates in this period, 1 is full-time language faculty, 4 are PhD students, and 1 is an MA student in a related field. Surveyed anonymously in 2009, the same cohort of MA and PhD graduates reported employment in: a linguistics-related job in higher education (5), further graduate study in linguistics or a related field (2), further graduate study in a non-related field (1), a non-linguistics-related job in secondary education (1), or a non-academic job in linguistics or a related field (2). For a list of currently available positions in Linguistics see The picture for M.A. recipients is predictably mixed. While several hold positions using their linguistic training (language analysis at NSA, foreign language instruction, TESL), others are in occupations with no direct linguistic applications (computer programming, ministry, editing).



The preferred manner of requesting application materials (and submitting them electronically) is by visiting the homepage of the Graduate School of UNC. However, you may also contact the Department of Linguistics. If you have specific questions about the programs in Linguistics, then please contact Dr. Elliott Moreton.