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Ph.D. in Linguistics

Dr. Kristin Mulrooney, Program Coordinator
Sorenson Language and Communication Center, Room 3215 

Gallaudet's Ph.D. program in linguistics, with a focus on sign language, gives students the opportunity to specialize in a range of theoretical and applied areas related to sign language, including phonology, syntax, morphology, cognitive linguistics, sociolinguistics, first language acquisition, and second language acquisition, completing 33 credits of coursework beyond those required for the M.A. degree in linguistics, followed by dissertation proposal development and dissertation research. Ph.D. level coursework includes the following required courses, plus at least 12 credits of elective coursework: Phonology III (LIN 801), Generative Linguistics III (LIN 802), Cognitive Linguistics III (LIN 821), Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities (LIN 741), Guided Research Project I (LIN 880-taken twice), Concept Paper (LIN 893), Dissertation Proposal Development (LIN 890), and Dissertation Research (LIN 900).

Admissions Procedures

Any student in the final semester of the Linguistics M.A. curriculum and in good academic standing may apply to the Ph.D. program. Admission to the Ph.D. program following the M.A. program is not automatic or guaranteed. All students wishing to enter the Ph.D. program must submit an application. Admission is determined by faculty assessment of the student's performance and application portfolio. The application portfolio consists of the following items:

  • A letter of interest, in which the student describes his/her topic of interest for dissertation research and identifies a faculty member who would potentially serve as dissertation advisor.

  • A curriculum vitae (CV) listing academic background, relevant extracurricular activities such as participation in linguistics conferences, involvement in student or faculty research projects, linguistics teaching, receipt of any awards or research grants.

  • A 10-20 page sample of the student's written work. This should be a paper from a previous linguistics course, including references. The paper should be the final version submitted in class for a grade; no revisions are necessary.

If the faculty determines that the student has exhibited excellent academic and research performance appropriate for doctoral work, the student will be admitted into the Linguistics Ph.D. program for the subsequent academic year.

First Date for Best Consideration of Application: January 15
Last Date for Completed Application: April 15

Program Specific Requirements

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

Recommended Undergraduate Major


Recommended Prior Coursework

Gallaudet M.A. in Linguistics (Required)
Foreign Language

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 803) 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.

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.

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

In the fall semester of the second year of the PhD program, 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 a Provisional Pass 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, Presentation and Field Exam before enrolling in LIN 890 Dissertation Proposal Development. 

Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation

Each student seeking a Ph.D. will be required to complete a research-based dissertation in an area 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 seven years from entering the LIN MA program. 


Core Courses (Ph.D.)

(assuming prior completion of the Gallaudet MA in Linguistics)

LIN 741Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities3
LIN 801Phonology III3
LIN 802Generative Linguistics III3
LIN 803Dissertation Concept Paper3
LIN 827Cognitive Linguistics III3
LIN 880Guided Research Project3

Elective Courses in Linguistics (selected sample)

EDU 801Principles of Statistics I3
EDU 802Principles of Statistics II3
LIN 510Introduction to First and Second Language Acquisition3
LIN 537Iconicity and Depiction3
LIN 543Bilingualism3
LIN 585Prosody in Sign and Spoken Languages3
LIN 745Languages and Cultures in Deaf Communities3
LIN 811First Language Acquisition3
LIN 812Second Language Acquisition3
LIN 841Discourse Analysis3
LIN 860Language Variation3
*Core Courses in Statistics (Ph.D.)
  • *  Note: These courses are required for students whose Ph.D. specialization requires statistical work. If taken, they replace two elective courses.

Typical Program of Study (Ph.D.)

(assuming prior completion of Linguistics M.A. curriculum)

Year III - Fall

LIN 741Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities3
LIN 801Phonology III3
LIN 880Guided Research Project3

Year III - Spring

LIN 802Generative Linguistics III3
LIN 827Cognitive Linguistics III3
LIN 880Guided Research Project3
Complete Qualifying Paper

Year IV - Fall

Elective #13
Elective #23
LIN 803Dissertation Concept Paper3
Present Qualifying Paper
Field Exam (early February)

Year IV - Spring

Concept Paper Presentation (January)
LIN 890Dissertation Proposal Development3
Elective #33
Elective #43

Year V - Fall

LIN 900Dissertation Research1-9

Year V - Spring (and onward)

LIN 900Dissertation Research1-9
  • 21 required credits + 12 elective credits = 33 PhD credits + Dissertation Proposal Development (LIN 890) and Dissertation Research (LIN 900)

EDU 801 - Principles of Statistics I (3)

This introductory course sequence develops the primary statistical concepts and techniques needed to conduct research. This course presumes no previous statistical background other than college-level algebra or its equivalent. The course goal is to develop many of the basic conceptual theories underlying statistical applications. Students will develop skills in descriptive statistical analysis, simple correlation procedures, and hypothesis testing. Computer-assisted analysis (such as SPSS) will complement course work.

  • Prerequisite: College-level algebra.

EDU 802 - Principles of Statistics II (3)

The purpose of this second course in statistics is to develop specific concepts and techniques to conduct basic inferential statistical analysis. The course emphasizes application skills, i.e., the ability to fit the appropriate analysis to a particular data set. Students will learn to conduct and interpret the most often used inferential tests for research and evaluation projects. Computer-assisted analysis (such as SPSS) will complement course work.

  • Prerequisites: EDU 720 or equivalent and EDU 801 or equivalent

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). 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 then explores how delays in exposure affect the acquisition process, leading 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 encouraged through student collection and analysis of L1 and L2 data.

  • Prerequisites: For UG students: LIN 101, 263, 301, 302; for Grad students: Permission of 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 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 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 803 - Dissertation Concept Paper (3)

This course serves as a transition from students' preparatory coursework to their dissertation proposal. Students will complete a concept paper that identifies research questions for their dissertation and the key concepts that underlie those research questions. The concept paper also identifies the theoretical framework(s) to be adopted for research and discusses previous literature assumed as background information.

  • Prerequisites: Successful completion of both semesters of LIN 880 Guided Research Project, including production of the Guided Research Paper.

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 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.

LIN 880 - Guided Research Project (3)

This course is required to be taken twice, beginning in the fall semester of students' first year in the Ph.D. program and continuing into the following spring semester. Students will design and conduct an independent research project under the guidance of a faculty member. Course requirements include a final paper and the following components, as applicable: development of an appropriate research plan, completion of the IRB human subjects review, and collection and analysis of data.

  • Prerequisite: Acceptance to Ph.D. program

LIN 890 - Dissertation Proposal Development (3)

In this course, students will develop their dissertation proposal, producing a research plan for answering the research questions posed in their Concept Paper. Emphasis will be on defining a project of appropriate scope, extending the literature review and selecting an appropriate research design and methodology. Students will meet regularly with their dissertation advisor for guidance and discussion, but are expected to pursue the bulk of the work independently.

  • Prerequisites: Successful completion of LIN 741, LIN 801, LIN 802, LIN 803, LIN 827, completion of Qualifying Paper, and passing score on Field Exam.

LIN 900 - Dissertation Research (1-9)

This course is for ABD students conducting any aspect of their dissertation research and writing.

  • Prerequisites: Doctoral students in linguistics who have advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.
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