PhD in Linguistics

Alumnus Dr. Dawei Jin.

Dawei Jin, presenting a conference paper (now a Lecturer at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China)


The mission of the department’s PhD program is to train students to do research in linguistics and produce research that reflects the values and the mission of the department as a whole, to prepare them for academic jobs at teaching universities, liberal arts colleges, or major research universities and for jobs outside of academia. Our goal is to ensure that all of our students have at the end of their study an academic or industry position that requires a PhD in Linguistics. Our doctoral degree track focuses on breadth and empirical/experimental methodologies. Students receive training in traditional disciplines such as syntax, semantics, pragmatics, phonetics and phonology, and they may also receive substantial training in other areas, such as language typology, psycholinguistics, computational linguistics, and historical and contact linguistics. All of our students are required to take at least two semesters of Methods classes, which include courses in Field Methods, Quantitative Methods and Statistics, Corpus Linguistics and Computational Linguistics. Our students are also encouraged to explore interdisciplinary research within the UB Center for Cognitive Science, and many of our students receive extensive training in Cognitive Science through collaborations with the Psychology or Computer Science departments. 

Apply today!

Join a community of scholars and researchers working together to solve pressing global problems. We are accepting applications for the 2020-2021 academic year.

We are committed to recruiting the very best PhD students and preparing doctoral students for career success. UB features:

  • World-class faculty experts mentor PhD students in a dynamic research and learning environment. Students can focus on their research and scholarship alongside renowned faculty while preparing for the careers and professions that await them after graduation.
  • A city on the rise. Buffalo, N.Y. offers affordable housing, arts, culture and community. Learn more about Buffalo.

PhD Funding Opportunities

  • Academic year stipends of $20,000 for all full-time, funded PhD students on 10-month academic teaching assistant, research assistant or graduate assistant appointments.
  • UB’s stipend levels are among the top five of public Association of American Universities (AAU) member institutions.
  • Additional Fellowship Opportunities:
    • Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship Program: To be eligible for a Schomburg Fellowship, candidates must contribute to the diversity of the student body, and can demonstrate that they have overcome a disadvantage or other impediment to success in higher education. Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to receive Schomburg Fellowships.
    • Presidential Fellowships: To be eligible for Presidential Fellowships, candidates must meet the criteria listed on the Presidential Fellowship page. Both domestic and international students are eligible, if they meet these criteria. For any questions regarding funding for academic year 2021–2022, contact the director of graduate studies or department chair.

Application Deadlines

December 15: All PhD applicants wishing to be considered for financial support

March 1: All other international PhD applicants

April 1: All other domestic PhD applicants

Application reviews begin January 15 of each year, and continue throughout the spring semester. 

Online Application

Degree Requirements

Credit Hours: 72                                           
Core Courses
  • Syntax I (LIN 515)
  • Phonology I (LIN 532)
  • Phonetics (LIN 531)
  • Semantics I (LIN 538)
  • One advanced Syntax course:
    1. Typology and Universals
    2. Role and Reference Grammar
    3. Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar
  • Semantics II (LIN 543)
MA Supervision Course
  • LIN 600
Specialization Course
  • Four additional courses/seminars in the student area of specialization
  • Three other 500-level courses
Methods Courses*
  • Two Methods Courses:
    1. Two semesters of Field Methods
    2. Two semesters of Quantitative Methods
    3. Two semesters of Computational Methods
  • Four other 500- or 600-level courses

The remaining 12 credits are “free.” Students may decide to do an Independent Study with a particular faculty member (assuming the faculty member agrees to direct the Independent Study), or may wish to take courses in other departments. (Students in the Cognitive Science track will be able to take up to five courses in other departments.)

*Students should consult the Director of Graduate Studies to determine which Methods courses are more appropriate given their intended specializations.

Areas of Specialization

PhD students are required to take four courses in their main specialty (aside from the relevant core courses), and are expected to choose their two methods courses in accordance with their specialization. Students need not choose their area of specialization early in their graduate career; faculty only expect that a student takes these four additional courses by the time (s)he finishes his/her course work (i.e., completes his/her 72 credit hours).

Any student admitted to the PhD track who decides, during the first or second year, that (s)he no longer wishes to pursue a PhD, may instead complete the course requirements for the MA specialization and take the MA exam.

Specializations and Applicable Courses

This list of courses is intended only as a guideline, and additional classes may be added to these lists upon approval by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Please also note that some courses are more frequently taught than others. Students should contact the DGS to inquire about future course scheduling. 

Phonetics and Phonology                                    

Phonology practicum (LIN 502)

Phonetics (LIN 531)

Phonology I (LIN 532)

Phonology II (LIN 533)

Historical Linguistics (LIN 539)

Acquisition of Phonology (LIN 556)

Prosodic analysis of natural discourse (LIN 558)

Advanced seminar in Phonology (LIN 612)

Advanced Phonetics (LIN 670)


Morphology (LIN 510)

Syntax I (LIN 515)

Typology and Universals (LIN 525)

Syntax II (LIN 535)

The Syntax of Romance (LIN 537)

Discourse and Syntax (LIN 604)

Approaches to the Lexicon (LIN 608)

Current syntactic theory (LIN 614)

Advanced Morphology (LIN 616)

Role and Reference grammar (LIN 625)

Functional morphosyntax (LIN 626)

Structure of a non-Indo-European language (LIN 630)

Linguistic description of an American language (LIN 631-633)

Semantics and Pragmatics

Discourse pragmatics (LIN 504)

Meaning and communicative behaviors (LIN 506)

Conversational analysis (LIN 507)

Linguistic Anthropology (LIN 521)

Semantics I (LIN 538)

Semantics II (LIN 543)

Formal semantics (LIN 548)

Introduction to cognitive linguistics (LIN 580)

Cognitive foundations of language (LIN 581)

Language and cognition (LIN 582)

Empirical semantics (LIN 606)

Semantics of space, time, and force (LIN 636)

Cognitive structure of language (LIN 637)

Advanced discourse analysis (LIN 723)


Corpus linguistics (LIN 514)

Psycholinguistics (LIN 517)

Language acquisition (LIN 555)

Neurolinguistics (LIN 592)

Cross-linguistic study of language development (LIN 603)

Topics in psycholinguistics (LIN 641)

*Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics are highly interdisciplinary and may involve substantial work in other departments.

Qualifying Paper

The qualifying paper (QP) is required of students who have been admitted to the Doctoral program in the Department of Linguistics. It must be completed before the student can pass on to Phase 2 of the program (i.e., the phase during which students conduct their PhD thesis research).

The QP is intended to give the student experience in carrying out a research project that goes beyond what is normally required of a course paper; however the project certainly can evolve out of a course paper. The paper should have the format of a journal submission, and be between 9,000 and 12,000 words in length.

Early in their second year of graduate study, the student should choose a faculty member who will advise the student while he or she is working on the QP. (The faculty member may be, but does not have to be, the same faculty who will direct the student’s dissertation.) The role of the advisor is to guide the student as he or she is carrying out the research and the writing. The student, together with the advisor, select a second committee member (or “reader”), who will read and comment on the QP.

Once the QP has been approved by the advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies will assign a third committee member (or “reader”), and the other members of the QP committee will then read the QP and provide feedback or simply approve the paper if no additional revisions are necessary. When the committee has approved the QP, the three faculty sign the approval form. Students return the form to the Director of Graduate Study after all three faculty have signed the form, and (s)he will also sign it. Finally, the form is sent to the graduate secretary, so that (s)he can enter the information into our student database and file the form in the student’s file.

Students are required to make an oral presentation of their QP research at the end of their fifth semester (at the latest), and to finish their QP by the end of the sixth semester (at the latest). Upon completion of a student’s QP, the faculty as a whole will either determine whether (s)he should passed onto Phase 2 of the PhD program. In the event a student is not passed onto the P.D phase of the program, (s)he will earn a terminal MA and will leave the program.

Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal is not intended to be a paper in the same sense as the QP. Rather, the dissertation proposal should be viewed as a very long abstract. It should include a statement of the topic (or hypothesis/claim); the context for the research (Why should other linguists be interested in the research? How does it fit into previous research?); the methodology and nature of the data or evidence that the student hopes to collect or find; and, perhaps, a preview of the conclusions the student hopes to present or the contribution the dissertation will make. Generally, the proposal should not be any longer than 20 pages; however the dissertation advisor ultimately determines the form of the proposal.

Dissertation Proposal Defense

The proposal defense is simply a meeting of the committee members and the student to ensure that everyone is clear about the nature of the topic, the scope of the research, and the methodology. Typically, no one “fails” a proposal defense, since the primary goal is to clarify and comment on the research before the research begins. The student should be aware, however, that the proposal defense may result in significant changes in the research plan.

Once the proposal defense has taken place, the committee members sign the form, the form is returned to the Director of Graduate Studies to sign, and finally the form is sent to the Assistant to the Chair.

Contact Us

Jeff Good.

613 Baldy Hall

Phone: (716) 645-0126

Department of Linguistics
College of Arts and Sciences
Jurgen Bohnemeyer.

642 Baldy Hall

Phone: (716) 645-0127

Director of Graduate Studies
Department of Linguistics
College of Arts and Sciences