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M.A. in Linguistics

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

Students may seek an M.A. in Linguistics either as their terminal degree or as a prerequisite for the Ph.D program in Linguistics. However, students should note that successful completion of the M.A. program does not guarantee entry into the Ph.D. program; students must also submit a Ph.D. application portfolio which must be reviewed and unanimously approved by the Linguistics faculty.

The M.A. program is appropriate for students seeking linguistic knowledge as a foundation for work in such allied professional fields as language teaching, interpreter education, language planning, bilingual education, and language assessment. Graduates of this program are sought for positions in interpreter training programs, faculty teaching posts at the college level, or, given the appropriate educational background, for positions as teachers of Deaf children.  

Students pursuing the M.A. in Linguistics at Gallaudet receive solid grounding in linguistic theory, methods, and research with a special emphasis on sign language linguistics. The program begins with foundational courses in linguistic theory, centered on phonology, cognitive linguistics and generative linguistics, focusing on both spoken and signed languages. Additionally, students receive training in working with new sign languages (Field Methods) and in various professional skills related to being a linguist (e.g. linguistic technical writing, use of video and software resources for analyzing sign data, applying for doctoral programs and jobs, etc.). In their second year, students select elective courses according to their interests; topics vary from year to year. The M.A. program requires 41 credit hours of coursework. Full-time graduate students normally complete the program in four semesters. The program is designed to be completed during the fall and spring semesters, without weekend or summer classes.

*NOTE: Students with prior coursework in linguistics from another institution may request course transfers and/or waivers for one or more courses, but these requests are approved on a case by case basis by the linguistics faculty.

Admissions Procedures

Applicants for the M.A. in Linguistics must complete the application procedures and meet the requirements for graduate study at Gallaudet University. Visit the Graduate Admissions web site for more information and a checklist of application requirements. Detailed program information and course descriptions are also available under the 'Courses' and 'Requirements' tab. 

We accept applications on a rolling basis; for best consideration submit application by January 15. Final deadline is April 15 or until all positions are filled.

First Date for Best Consideration of Application: January 15
Last Date for Completed Application: April 15 or until all possible slots are filled. Students are accepted on a rolling basis.

Program Specific Requirements

a. GRE
b. Three letters of reference (at least two of these letters should be academic references)
c. Written English sample - Submit a PDF version of a final course paper that is at least 10 pages long. A paper from a linguistics course or related field is preferred.
d. ASL sample. - Students will be given a short (3 1⁄2 minute) video of an academic presentation given in ASL and asked to record themselves summarizing the presentation. The summary will be 90 seconds or less. Here is the link to the ASL Signing Sample Prompt.

Program Requirements

Elective Courses in Linguistics

Students must complete at least 15 credit hours of elective graduate courses in linguistics. Elective courses may be taken through the consortium and should focus on aspects of linguistic theory or research related to the student's professional goals.  

Sign Language Fluency

All applicants to the program must have sufficient fluency in American Sign Language (ASL) to participate fully in classroom discussions conducted in ASL. Applicants are requested to provide an ASL sample. See explanation above under 'ASL Sample'.

Qualifying Examinations

All students must take a qualification exam after the first semester of course work. Students who do not achieve a passing score will be dismissed from the program.

MA Exit Compendium

All students will produce a compendium that will be used to evaluate MA students' progress through the Linguistics Masters program and a student's achievement of the MA programs Student Learning Outcomes. Student who do not receive a passing evaluation on their compendium will be dismissed from the program


Program of Study

Core Courses

LIN 701 Phonology I 4
LIN 731 Phonology II 3
LIN 702 Generative Linguistics I 4
LIN 733 Generative Linguistics II 3
LIN 721 Cognitive Linguistics I 4
LIN 732 Cognitive Linguistics II 3
LIN 703 Proseminar 1
LIN 771 Field Methods 4

Semester I - Fall

LIN 701Phonology I4
LIN 702Generative Linguistics I4
LIN 721Cognitive Linguistics I4

Semester II - Spring

LIN 703Proseminar1
LIN 731Phonology II3
LIN 732Cognitive Linguistics II3
LIN 733Generative Linguistics II3

Semester III - Fall

LIN 571Field Methods4
Elective #13
Elective #23

Semester IV - Spring

Elective #33
Elective #43
Elective #53

Additional courses offered:

LIN 510Introduction to First and Second Language Acquisition3
LIN 537Iconicity and Depiction3
LIN 543Bilingualism3
LIN 585Prosody in Sign and Spoken Languages3
LIN 741Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities3
LIN 745Languages and Cultures in Deaf Communities3
LIN 801Phonology III3
LIN 802Generative Linguistics III3
LIN 811First Language Acquisition3
LIN 812Second Language Acquisition3
LIN 827Cognitive Linguistics III3
LIN 841Discourse Analysis3
LIN 842Discourse Analysis: Conversation3
LIN 843Discourse Analysis: Narrative3
LIN 860Language Variation3

LIN 510 - Introduction to First and Second Language Acquisition (3)

This course introduces students to the acquisition of a native language by young children (L1 acquisition) and acquisition of a second language after childhood (L2 acquisition), with a focus on sign languages. The first part of the course covers the important milestones of normal L1 development in phonology, morphology, syntax and pragmatics for both spoken and signed languages. The course also explores how delays in exposure affect the acquisition process, related to the main topics of the second part of the course: critical period effects and L2 acquisition. Readings and discussion throughout the course will reflect the perspective that acquisition studies on a broad variety of languages, both signed and spoken, are crucial for developing accurate theories of language structure and use. Application of concepts from lectures and discussion is developed through student analysis of L1 and L2 data.

  • Prerequisites: For UG students: LIN 301, 302; for MASLED GRAD students: B or above in ASL 724 or permission of the instructor and MASLED program coordinator; for other GRAD students, permission of the instructor.

LIN 537 - Iconicity and Depiction (3)

In this course, students are introduced to a descriptive framework with which to identify and analyze iconicity and depiction in ASL and other signed languages. The first part of the course focuses on depiction typology, covering role-shifting, constructed action and dialogue, classifier constructions/depicting verbs, aspectual constructions, metaphorical depictions, and other imagistic uses of space. In the second part of the course, we examine depiction in artistic and academic settings as well as in everyday conversations and narratives.

  • Prerequisites: LIN 101, graduate student status, or permission of the instructor.

LIN 543 - Bilingualism (3)

This course explores bilingualism, with a special emphasis on bilingualism in the Gallaudet community. We will examine the place of bilingualism and multilingualism in the world, both historically and currently; the linguistic structure and features of bilingualism; social constructions of bilingualism; the acquisition of bilinguality, from the perspectives of both first- and second language acquisition; and we will explore the functions and meanings of bilingualism in communities. For each topic, we will examine the current state of the field, first from the perspective of spoken language bilingualism and then from the perspective of signed language (mixed modality) bilingualism, with special emphasis on the situation at Gallaudet University.

  • Prerequisites: For UG students: LIN 101, 263, 301, 302; for Grad students: Permission of Instructor

LIN 571 - Field Methods (4)

This course will provide students with experience in gathering and analyzing data from a sign language other than ASL. The particular language selected will vary from year to year, with preference given to under-investigated sign languages. Students will study the lexicon, phonology, morphology, and syntax of this language; each student will focus on one topic for an in-depth research project.

  • Prerequisite or Co-requisites: For UG students - LIN 301, 302; or permission of instructor; for GRAD students - permission of instructor.

LIN 585 - Prosody in Sign and Spoken Languages (3)

This course introduces students to the theories and methods of analyzing prosody in signed and spoken languages. These prosodic features play a critical role in human communication and have a wide range of functions, including expression at linguistic, attitudinal, affective and personal levels.

  • Prerequisites: For UG students: LIN 101, 263, 301, 302; for Grad students: Permission of Instructor

LIN 701 - Phonology I (4)

An introduction to the principles of linguistic study, with a concentrated focus on phonology and phonological theory as applied to English and ASL. Topics will include: phonetics, phonemics, phonological processes, syllables and syllabification, distinctive features, phonological rules, and an overview of current phonological theory.

  • Co-requisites: First year Linguistics MA courses (LIN 702 and LIN 721), or permission of instructor.

LIN 702 - Generative Linguistics I (4)

This course provides an introduction to generative linguistics and principles of syntactic argumentation within the generative tradition. Topics include Parts of Speech, Phrase Structure rules, X-bar rules, the role of the Lexicon, and various types of syntactic movement related to verbal morphology, questions and passive constructions. The course focuses initially on English and other spoken languages, but also includes application to ASL towards the end of the course.

  • Co-requisites: first semester Linguistics MA courses or permission of instructor.

LIN 703 - Proseminar (1)

This course will introduce students to the profession of linguistics, its history and subfields, as well as the research specializations of department faculty. Students will also receive general training in a variety of skills relevant to graduate studies in linguistics, such as technical writing, using library resources to locate literature, using computer and editing techniques needed for carrying out sign linguistics projects, and applying for research grants and IRB approval for student research projects.

  • Co-requisites: first semester Linguistics MA courses or permission of instructor.

LIN 721 - Cognitive Linguistics I (4)

This is the first of a three-course sequence focusing on a cognitive linguistics approach to ASL. The course begins with a discussion of cognitive linguistic tenets, including (a) the view that meaning is grounded in bodily experience and (b) the view that lexicon and grammar consist of form-meaning pairing with varying degrees of abstraction and complexity. This discussion provides a theoretical background with which to investigate iconic and metaphorical expressions in ASL using previously developed cognitive linguistic models as well as standard linguistic concerns, including grammatical classes (e.g. noun and verb categories) and complex expressions (e.g. certain words and phrases) in ASL. While much of the course content will involve data from English and other languages, the primary focus will be on ASL.

  • Co-requisites: LIN 701, 702 or permission of instructor.

LIN 731 - Phonology II (3)

This course builds on foundational material presented in Phonology I. Students will investigate the phonological structure of signs in American Sign Language. Part one (I) presents a comparison of notation systems for signs and provides extensive training in sign notation. Part two (II) deals with phonological contrast. Part three (III) is concerned with the phonotactic properties of lexical signs. Part four (IV) deals with phonological processes and historical change.

  • Prerequisites: LIN 701 or permission of instructor.

LIN 732 - Cognitive Linguistics II (3)

This course is a continuation of LIN 721. Examination of morphology, syntax, and discourse in ASL from the perspective of cognitive grammar, based in part on related insights on spoken language structure. The course is an in-depth examination of the cognitive linguistic approach to the structure of words and larger constructions, with primary focus on ASL. Topics include compounding, affixation, numeral incorporation, reduplication, depicting verbs, aspectual constructions, grammatical relations, topic marking, and complex sentences.

  • Prerequisites: LIN 721 or permission of instructor

LIN 733 - Generative Linguistics II (3)

This course builds on foundational material presented in Generative Linguistics I and extends them to the study of ASL and other sign languages. Lectures include continued opportunity for hands-on practice in deriving various syntactic structures, and also develop students' abilities to independently read and understand articles in generative linguistics.

  • Prerequisites: LIN 702 or permission of instructor

LIN 741 - Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities (3)

An examination of the theories and principles of sociolinguistics with specific reference to sign languages and Deaf communities around the world. Topics include multilingualism, bilingualism, and language contact, variation, discourse analysis, language policy and planning and language attitudes.

  • Prerequisites: All first year Linguistics MA courses or by permission of instructor.

LIN 745 - Languages and Cultures in Deaf Communities (3)

This course explores the relationships between language and culture from an anthropological and sociolinguistic point of view. Students are introduced to various approaches to qualitative analysis as research tools for understanding the interplay between language and culture in the Deaf community in which they participate.

  • Prerequisites: All first year Linguistics MA courses or by permission of instructor.

LIN 801 - Phonology III (3)

This course is an advanced seminar focusing on phonological theory, building on foundational material presented in Phonology I and Phonology II. Topics will vary depending upon current developments in phonological theory, focusing on both spoken and signed languages.

  • Prerequisite: LIN 731

LIN 802 - Generative Linguistics III (3)

This course is an advanced seminar focusing on generative approaches to syntactic theory, building on foundational material presented in Generative Syntax I and Generative Syntax II. Topics will vary depending upon current developments in syntactic theory, focusing on both spoken and signed languages.

  • Prerequisite: LIN 733

LIN 811 - First Language Acquisition (3)

This course examines general issues in first language acquisition, focusing on the period from birth to five years. It includes critical review of literature on phonological, lexical, morphological and syntactic development for both signed and spoken first languages, from both nativist and usage-based theoretical perspectives.

  • Prerequisites: all first year Linguistics MA courses plus LIN 741, or permission of instructor.

LIN 812 - Second Language Acquisition (3)

This course will review current theory and research in second language acquisition (SLA) from linguistic and psychological perspectives, focusing on the influences of various theoretical models. Students will be introduced to the principal areas of SLA research and the major methodologies available for their study. Course material will focus on acquisition of a spoken second language, but also discuss recent studies and analyze data related to second language acquisition of a sign language.

  • Prerequisites: All first year Linguistics MA courses plus LIN 741, or permission of instructor.

LIN 827 - Cognitive Linguistics III (3)

This seminar is the third course in the Cognitive Linguistic sequence of courses in the graduate linguistics program (the first two being LIN 721 and LIN 732). Possible major topics include cognitive grammar, cognitive semantics, conceptual blending, constructional grammar, embodiment, depiction, mental spaces, metaphor, metonymy, and the usage-based approach to language.

  • Prerequisite: LIN 732

LIN 841 - Discourse Analysis (3)

The focus of this course is a comparison among six dominant approaches to the analysis of discourse: pragmatics, speech act theory, conversational analysis, interactional sociolinguistics, ethnography of communication, and variation analysis, with close examination of different kinds of sign language discourse.

  • Prerequisites: all first year Linguistics MA courses, or permission of instructor

LIN 842 - Discourse Analysis: Conversation (3)

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to theories and methods of discourse analysis. This is a companion course, not a sequel, to Discourse Analysis: Narrative. Whereas Discourse Analysis: Narrative is concerned with discourse produced primarily by one speaker. Discourse Analysis: Conversation is concerned with dialogic or multi-party discourse.

  • Prerequisites: all first year Linguistics MA courses, or permission of instructor

LIN 843 - Discourse Analysis: Narrative (3)

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to theories and methods of discourse analysis. Narrative is chosen for study because it is primarily monologic (at least in U.S. culture) as distinct from dialogic or multi-party discourse which is covered in Discourse Analysis: Conversation. This course will focus on the analysis of ASL narratives.

  • Prerequisites: All first year Linguistics MA courses plus LIN 741, or permission of the instructor

LIN 860 - Language Variation (3)

An examination of analytical methods used in the study of variation and change in language structure and use, with a focus on sign language variation. Practice in the exploratory analysis and interpretation of sociolinguistics and discourse data, and introduction to quantitative tools, including the Varbrul program.

  • Prerequisites: All first year Linguistics MA courses plus LIN 741, or permission of instructor.
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