Ph.D. in Linguistics


Dr. Risa Shaw, Graduate Program Coordinator
Sorenson Language and Communication Center, Room 3222 

Gallaudet's Ph.D. program in linguistics, with a focus on ASL and other signed languages, gives students the opportunity to specialize in a range of theoretical and applied areas related to signed languages, including phonology, syntax, morphology, cognitive linguistics, sociolinguistics, first and second language acquisition, applied and engaged linguistics, language documentation, linguistic anthropology, and semiotics.

Students who have completed an MA degree from another program or university may apply to the LIN Ph.D. program.  Students who enter the LIN Ph.D. program with a Gallaudet LIN MA are required to have a minimum of 33 credits to complete the LIN Ph.D., followed by dissertation proposal development and dissertation research.  Students who enter the LIN Ph.D. program without a Gallaudet LIN MA are required to have a minimum of 59 credits to complete the LIN Ph.D., followed by dissertation proposal development and dissertation research.

Admissions Procedures

Ph.D. application requirements for GU MA Linguistics students/graduates:

  1. Letter of interest
  2. CV
  3. Graduate-level paper, in either ASL or English
  4. LIN Ph.D. entrance exam
  5. Successful completion of the GU MA Linguistics program
  6. Official transcripts of all graduate study

Ph.D. application requirements for applicants not in or graduated from the GU MA Linguistics program:

  1. Letter of interest
  2. CV
  3. Successful completion of an MA degree
  4. Graduate-level paper in English
  5. Official transcripts of all graduate study
  6. 3 letters of recommendation
  7. Goal Statements in ASL (
  8. Graduate-level paper in ASL, or ASL sample (

First Date for Best Consideration of Application: January 15
Last Date for Completed Application: April 15 if final deadline or until all positions are filled

Program Specific Requirements

Successful completion of the Gallaudet M.A. in Linguistics
Ph.D. Application Portfolio

Program of Study

The doctoral curriculum consists of a total of 78 credits of coursework plus dissertation research. This means that those who have taken the 41 credits required by the M.A. curriculum must complete another 37 credits of advanced linguistics courses. All students must complete the following advanced courses, totaling 22 credit hours: Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities (LIN 741), Guided Research Project (LIN 880, taken twice), Phonology III (LIN 801), Generative Linguistics III (LIN 802), Cognitive Linguistics III (LIN 827), Concept Paper (LIN 883) and Dissertation Proposal Development (LIN 890) An additional 15 credits of elective courses must also be completed, to be chosen by the student in consultation with the student's advisor. These courses should focus on aspects of linguistic theory, application, or research related to the student's professional or academic goals. Some electives may also be taken through the Consortium of Colleges and Universities.

Qualifying Paper

During the first year of the PhD program, students will prepare a qualifying paper, the product of a substantial data-based research project on a topic of relevance to sign languages, that is distinct from the student's anticipated dissertation research topic. The paper should be of publishable quality, as determined by two faculty readers (to be selected by the student). Successful completion of the Qualifying Paper (in addition to passing the Field Exam and completing all core LIN PhD courses) is a prerequisite for enrollment in LIN 890 Dissertation Proposal Development. Students who do not obtain approval of their Qualifying Paper in the first year of the PhD program may enroll in elective courses the subsequent semester, but will not be able to advance to the next stage towards the dissertation process (the Concept Paper). 

Concept Paper and Presentation

After completion of the GRP and qualifying paper, students will prepare a Concept Paper on their proposed dissertation topic, guided by a faculty member with expertise in the student's area of interest.  Although this paper will include a statement of the research question and a review of relevant literature, it will focus primarily on (a) defining the key concepts relevant to the student's anticipated research plans and (b) making explicit any underlying theoretical assumptions. Ideally, students should complete their Concept Paper after a single semester of LIN 803, but they may register for a second semester of LIN 803 at the discretion of the Linguistics faculty (e.g. in cases where the student has selected a particularly complex topic and is making steady progress, or scores an Unsatisfactory on their Field Exam and is required to revisit and strengthen their Concept Paper). Once the guiding faculty member has approved the Concept Paper, the student will present it formally to department faculty for feedback (Concept Paper Presentation). The Concept Paper Presentation can occur in the first few weeks of the subsequent semester and is therefore not included in the grade for LIN 803; however, Concept Paper Presentation is a program-level requirement of the LIN PhD curriculum. Students must successfully complete the Concept Paper and Field Exam before enrolling in LIN 890 Dissertation Proposal Development.  

Field Exam as Candidacy Examination

The Field Exam will replace the Comprehensive Exam as the candidacy examination for the LIN PhD program. This examination will be administered in the fall semester of the second year (i.e. the third semester) of the Ph.D. program. Content will be determined by the student's Concept Paper. Three examiners (the LIN faculty member who led the student's Concept Paper, a second LIN faculty member with expertise in some area relevant to the student's Concept Paper, and a third LIN faculty member who does not work in the area of the student's Concept Paper) will conduct in-depth questioning in areas pertinent to the student's Concept Paper topic. Student responses will be evaluated by all three examiners together as a Pass with Distinction, Pass, Unsatisfactory or Fail. Students who receive an Unsatisfactory score on the Field Exam will be required to retake the exam; students who Fail the Field Exam will be terminated from the program. Students who retake the Field Exam and receive either a score of Unsatisfactory or Fail will be terminated from the program.

Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation

Each student seeking a Ph.D. will be required to complete a research-based dissertation on a topic acceptable to his or her doctoral committee. Students are expected to complete their dissertation proposal in one semester (LIN 890 Dissertation Proposal Development). However, those who fail to do so will be permitted to register for additional semesters of LIN 890 Dissertation Proposal Development, provided they maintain a passing grade each semester. Once students have successfully completed and defended their dissertation proposal, they advance to LIN 900 Dissertation Research. LIN 900 may be taken multiple times, provided students earn a passing grade each semester and successfully defend their completed dissertation within five years from entering the LIN MA program.