The CU Department of Linguistics has a strong commitment to excellence in research, teaching, and advising at the graduate level. The Department offers a Master of Arts (MA) degree and a Doctorate (PhD) degree in linguistics. 

The educational mission of the Linguistics department is to provide students with insight into the fundamental design features of language—its sound patterns, its word- and sentence-formation devices, its semantic structure—and to create awareness of language varieties: the diversity of human languages, the use of language to index aspects of social identity, and the ontogenetic and historical development of language. The small scale of the Department’s graduate programs ensures close peer relationships and extensive interaction with faculty members, many of whom actively engage students in their research programs.

Purpose of the Master's Program

The goal of our Master's programs is to provide students with sufficient knowledge of linguistics to enable them to work in industry and organizations where knowledge of linguistics helps in problem solving. The program also helps students determine in a relatively short time whether they want to make research in linguistics a lifelong career and prepares students who decide to do so to apply to the PhD program at CU or at other institutions.

The main component of the MA program is 30 semester hours of courses (at least 24 of them in linguistics). Students may also choose to write an MA thesis. Students on both the thesis plan and non-thesis plan must take and pass the comprehensive exam in the third or fourth semester of study in order to receive the MA degree. By meeting additional requirements, MA students may also obtain the MA with a certificate in Cognitive Science, Human Language Technology or Culture, Language and Social Practice.

Students enrolled in the MA Program for TESOL Professionals (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) have a course of study divided between general linguistics and TESOL, including a practicum. Students enrolled in the MS in Computational Linguistics, Analytics, Search and Informatics (CLASIC) take courses in the Department of Linguistics and Department of Computer Science.

Purpose of the PhD Program

The goal of the Linguistics doctoral program is to prepare graduates to design and conduct original, empirically based research within a theoretical framework. Doctoral students prepare for careers in academic research and teaching or applied work in industry or other organizations. We encourage doctoral students to begin engaging in research projects early, as these will contribute to developing the research program that will lead to the thesis project. Early projects not only lead to preliminary exam topics and/or publishable papers but also enable students to pilot methods that will be usable for the dissertation project. Early projects may be extensions of coursework and may involve a faculty advisor other than the thesis advisor. 

Doctoral students complete a core of required courses that provide a firm foundation in linguistic theory and methods. These courses are supplemented by advanced courses and individual work related to an area of specialization in a field where this Department offers research strengths, e.g., description of Native American and Chadic (Central African) languages, sociolinguistics, interaction and grammar, computational semantics, psycholinguistics, first-language acquisition, phonetics, phonology, functionally-oriented syntax. Doctoral students may complete the CLASP or Human Language Technology certificates. Additionally, students may apply to pursue a joint PhD in Linguistics and Cognitive Science.