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Program structure, requirements, and timeline
Role of the DGS
The Director of Graduate Studies is specifically charged with the responsibility of ensuring a professional and constructive work environment in the department. You should always feel free to reach out to the DGS if you have any questions or concerns regarding the structure of the program or any other aspect of department life that affects you. The DGS also checks degree requirements and represents the department in the Graduate School.
The Ph.D. program in Linguistics is designed as a five-year program, with the possibility of an additional sixth year. Students admitted to the program are guaranteed funding for the full duration of their graduate studies, provided they make satisfactory progress. Students receive feedback letters at the end of each academic year and meet with the DGS at regular intervals to ensure that any potential issues are identified early enough to give students and faculty the opportunity to address them.
During their course of studies, students serve as Teaching Fellows for two or three years, typically in their third, fourth, and sixth years of study. As teaching fellows, they work under the guidance of instructional faculty. Their preparation and training in pedagogy is also supported by the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning at Yale.
The conception of linguistics embraced by the Yale Ph.D. program requires that students receive training that is both deep in its coverage of areas of linguistic inquiry and broad in the range of methodological approaches. The course work requirements are designed to accomplish these complementary goals.
their first five terms, students must complete a minimum of eleven additional term courses at the graduate level. During the initial two years of course work, students must receive at least three grades of H (= Honors). Two or more grades below HP (= High Pass) during the initial two year period constitute potential grounds for academic probation or dismissal from the Ph.D. program (see section on Resolving Issues). As per Graduate School general regulations, grades of F cannot be counted toward degree requirements.
Students must take six foundational courses from at least four distinct subfields, three methodology courses by the end of their second year, at least one of which must be taken in the first year, and three advanced seminar courses. They must also fulfill a language requirement. Particular courses that fulfill these requirements are listed on our website. The list of courses is not exhaustive, and students should feel free to discuss with the DGS and their adviser if they find a course from outside the given list that seems relevant. Courses cannot simultaneously satisfy the foundational and the methodology requirements. The language requirement can be fulfilled in a number of ways, as mentioned on the web page.
The primary focus of a Ph.D. program is independent research. In the course of our Ph.D. program, students carry out cutting-edge linguistic research, culminating in the completion of a dissertation. To help students in the transition from “consuming” to also “producing” linguistic research, there are a number of structures and requirements in place that supplement the training provided through course-work.
At the conclusion of the first year of the program, students submit to the faculty a portfolio of two research papers, in two distinct areas (as listed above). These papers should demonstrate a student’s mastery of the material in these fields to the level covered in the courses, as well as the ability to identify a significant research question and argue for a possible solution. In short, such papers should be at the level of an excellent term paper, representative of a student’s best work during the first year of course work. The faculty do not expect students to write papers expressly for the portfolio. Rather, the portfolio will typically consist of term papers from courses taken during the first year in the program. The deadline for the submission of these papers is May 10.
Students in the program write two qualifying papers (QPs). The goal of the QPs is to develop a student’s ability to conduct independent research in linguistics at the level of current scholarship in two different areas of linguistics. The faculty expect a QP to report on the results of a substantial project, which are written up in a manner consistent with the standards of the field, and to be eventually published in an academic journal or working papers. Students are strongly encouraged to consult their adviser for help in identifying a target journal early in the project.
It is particularly important that students make satisfactory progress toward the first QP and complete all work by the relevant deadlines. Failure to do so may result in being asked to leave the program. The process of writing the first QP is broken into a number of smaller steps with specific deadlines for each (most of it during the second year of the program). We mention the first step here (see the Graduate Program Requirements on Research page and the timeline further down this page for further steps in the process of writing a QP).
First-year students prepare an annotated bibliography and research plan (ABRP) to be submitted by September 10 of their second year. The research plan constitutes the basis for their first qualifying paper. The ABRP, which should be approximately twenty pages in length, should lay out the question that the student wants to explore, demonstrating its importance through a presentation and synthesis of relevant past literature on the topic. Students should meet with their adviser and/or potential QP supervisors during the spring semester of their first year to discuss potential topics for their QP1.
Toward the end of the spring term of the second year, after the first QP has been submitted and approved, students should begin to explore possible areas and advisers for the second QP, and must have identified an area and adviser by September 1 of the third year. The second QP should be in a different area of linguistics, with a different adviser, from the first QP. Students follow the same steps and deadlines for QP2 as for QP1 (see the Graduate Program Requirements on Research page and the timeline further down this page), this time during the third year.
By the beginning of Fall semester of their fourth year, students advance to candidacy by defending a prospectus. The prospectus should lay out clearly the student’s proposed dissertation topic. It should demonstrate the importance of the topic, present the core idea of the proposed work together with its promise and viability, and demonstrate how this work fits into past research in the area. The prospectus should also identify a dissertation committee. The committee must include at least three faculty members (including the adviser), two of whom must be ladder faculty in the Linguistics department. The committee often includes faculty from outside the department and/or Yale as external members, The prospectus document should be about fifteen pages in length. The prospectus should be submitted by September 1 and defended orally in front of the faculty by September 15 of the student’s seventh term.
Upon successful completion of the prospectus, the student advances to candidacy and proceeds to write a dissertation. By the end of the eighth term, students must complete a chapter of the dissertation, together with a detailed outline of the dissertation and comprehensive bibliography. When the dissertation committee approves the chapter and dissertation outline, students are eligible for a University Dissertation Fellowship, which will support them in their fifth year of graduate study. Once advanced to candidacy, the student will meet with the entire dissertation committee minimally once each term (but with frequency decided by the committee), to evaluate progress toward the dissertation. During this meeting, the committee will complete the committee meeting form, will provide a copy to the student, and will retain one for the department’s records.
Students are expected to complete their dissertations by the end of the sixth year. At least one month prior to the dissertation filing date, the completed dissertation must be orally defended. This defense will typically involve a public presentation of the main results of the dissertation and oral examination by the members of the dissertation committee. Committee members must be given the completed dissertation no less than two weeks prior to the date of the defense.
That may all seem rather overwhelming to you at this point, but it is less so in practice. Each step builds on knowledge and skills obtained in an earlier step and incrementally helps you take ownership of your research and scholarship. We hope that the year-by-year timeline given below may also put it in perspective.
Timeline: 5 years in the life of the linguist as a young scholar
- Course-work and Language requirements.
- Two portfolio papers to be submitted by May 10th.
- Decide on a research topic for the first Qualifying Paper in late Spring (no later than May 15th) in consultation with a faculty member or members who will serve as Chair(s) of the QP Committee.
- Work on ABRP over the summer, under the guidance of the supervising faculty member(s).
- Course-work and Language requirements.
- Form full committee for QP1, with two faculty members by the beginning of Fall semester.
- Submit ABRP by September 10. Continue research on QP1.
- Submit first draft to committee by the end of February, present QP1 to the department at a QPFest in early March (before Spring break) and submit final version to the committee for approval by March 31.
- Decide on a research topic for the second Qualifying Paper in late Spring (no later than May 15th) in consultation with a faculty member or members who will serve as Chair(s) of the QP Committee.
- Attend orientation for new Teaching Fellows at the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, organized by the Graduate School. Work with the instructor(s) of record for the relevant courses on teaching duties.
- Complete course-work and Language requirements.
- Form full committee for QP2, with two faculty members by the beginning of Fall semester.
- Work on QP2 under the guidance of the supervising faculty member(s).
- Submit first draft to committee by the end of February, present QP2 to the department at a QPFest in early March (before Spring break) and submit final version to the committee for approval by March 31.
- Decide on dissertation topic in late Spring (no later than May 15th) in consultation with a faculty member or members who will serve as Chair(s) of the dissertation Committee and begin work on the dissertation prospectus.
- Attend orientation for Teaching Fellows at the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, organized by the Graduate School. Work with the instructor(s) of record for the relevant courses on teaching duties.
- Form a thesis committee before September 1 (Chair and at least one other faculty member from the department) and complete the dissertation prospectus under their guidance.
- Defend the prospectus before the full department by the September 15.
- Upon successful completion of the prospectus defense, advance to Ph.D. candidacy.
- During years 5/6, work on the dissertation topic, decide on the full thesis committee (including any external members) and defend it in front of the department by the end of the 6th year.
- During year 6, attend orientation for Teaching Fellows. Work with the instructor(s) of record for the relevant courses on teaching duties.
Graduate students are active participants in department reading groups, seminars, colloquia and lunch hour talks. Active participation involves organization, presentation and attendance. Second year students typically organize the Friday Lunch Talks, for example. Time spent in making the Yale linguistics department an intellectually vibrant place not only fosters your intellectual development while you are in this department, it also prepares you for your role as a citizen in your future workplace. See Resources in the department and at Yale for the full list of Labs and Reading Groups.
There are other opportunities on campus that you are encouraged to take advantage of. The Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning provides guidance and support for not only on pedagogical issues but also on other aspects of academic life that students and faculty can benefit from. We particularly recommend that students look into the Certificate of College Teaching Preparation (CCTP), a comprehensive training program in effective college teaching before they go on the job market. See section on Resources at Yale.
Cognitive Science at Yale University is an interdisciplinary field devoted to exploring the nature of cognitive processes such as perception, reasoning, memory, attention, language, imagery, motor control, and problem-solving. Several faculty members in Linguistics are affiliated with the program.
The Haskins Laboratories is an independent institution with formal affiliation with Yale University. Haskins research scientists conduct basic research on spoken and written language. Several, such as Dave Braze, Ken Pugh, Mark Tiede, Julie Van Dyke, and Doug Whalen, serve as (external) advisers on Linguistics qualifying paper and dissertation committees, and teach occasional courses in our department. See section on Resources at Yale.
Linguistics faculty also engage in collaborations with faculty in other departments. Depending on your areas of interest, there are also faculty in the departments of Philosophy, Psychology, Anthropology, and Computer Science with congruent research interests. See the list of Associated Faculty in Linguistics. Linguistics graduate students have also participated in the Medieval Studies and Archaia workshops.