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UC San Diego Linguistics Graduate Handbook

This webpage contains useful information for graduate students.


Welcome to the Linguistics Department!

The purpose of this UC San Diego Linguistics Department Graduate Student Handbook is to provide graduate students with all the information needed to successfully complete the PhD at UCSD, to present relevant policies of this Department and University, and to offer some personal guidelines to make student life more rewarding. It is intended to be used along with the Graduate Division Handbook, which gives important information about grading policy, financial support, and many other topics.

Other important resources:

General Information

Department Hours of Operation

Linguistics Advising Office, AP&M 3216

Monday – Friday 8:00am - 12:00pm, 1:00pm - 4:30pm

Language Lab, AP&M 3432A

Monday – Friday9:00am - 5:00pm; Saturday, Sunday — Closed

(Lab hours subject to change without notice)  

Language Lab/Library
The Department’s collection of dissertations, basic linguistics texts and working papers are housed in the Language Lab/Library (AP&M 3432A), along with its language-teaching books and recordings. Although many items are  estricted to lab-use only due to their nature, use, or rarity, browsing is encouraged in person or online. Inquiries and requests to borrow specific items should be directed to the Librarian or attendant at the Language Lab in person, by phone (x42418), or by e-mail to the Librarian, ( A current UCSD Student Campus Card is required to borrow any item from the Language Lab, including class reserves. (See “Student Campus Cards” below.)

Graduate Student Lounge
The Department provides AP&M 3161 as a lounge, mailroom, and meeting place for Linguistics graduate students. The room has a refrigerator, microwave and a TV. It is your responsibility to keep the room clean and neat — especially to clean out the refrigerator regularly.

Graduate students may be issued office, graduate lounge, and other building keys as appropriate. For assistance, contact the main office in the Linguistics Department (AP&M 3101).

Mail for graduate students is placed in the mailbox marked “Graduate Student Mail” in the faculty mailroom (AP&M 4132). Graduate students are responsible for collecting that mail and sorting it into the appropriate mailboxes in the Graduate Student Lounge. If you are a teaching assistant in the Linguistics Language Program (LLP), you will have another mailbox in AP&M 3132. It is very important that you check it regularly.

Student Campus Cards
Most graduate students will go to the Campus Card office to have their photo taken as part of their orientation. If you missed the orientation, you can get your card by having your photo taken at Student Business Services. Have a picture ID available to verify your identity when you have your photo taken and when you pick up your card. You can use your driver’s license, passport, state ID card, or other photo ID. For more information, see

Thefts on campus are always a problem. Do not leave your belongings unattended, even for a short time. When you leave your office for any reason, LOCK YOUR DOOR. The building is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you work at night please be sure to always be aware of your surroundings and of who else is on the floor. Escort service on campus is available by calling the Campus Police at extension 49255 (4WALK).

Bulletin Boards
The Department has public bulletin boards on the 3rd and 4th floors of AP&M, across from the elevators. There you will find information we’ve received about course offerings, colloquia, lectures, calls for papers, summer programs, research grant possibilities, and jobs. Linguistics departments and language programs from other universities around the world send us literature which is also posted on these bulletin boards. This is also where you will find information about cancelled classes or changed classrooms. Please do not remove items from these bulletin boards. If you would like something to be posted, please give it to the Chair’s Assistant (AP&M 4016). If you need a copy of something that is posted, we will be glad to make a photocopy for you.

Smoke Free UCSD
UC San Diego, along with all of the UC campuses, are Smoke and Tobacco-Free. This will contribute to a healthy campus environment for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors. (See

Permitted Copy Sites                                                                                                                                                    The preferred sites for our copying are:

  • The copy machine installed in the faculty mailroom (AP&M 4132).
  • The Imprints copy centers located at the Price Center or in Geisel Library.

The copy machine in AP&M 3018 is reserved for LLP TAs. We do not have permission to use other departments’ copy machines. Our cards do work in other departments’ machines, but you must get permission from the appropriate department administrators before using their machines.


Each incoming graduate student is assigned an academic advisor based on the student’s stated research interests upon being admitted. Your advisor is your personal contact with the Department; he/she will advise you regarding departmental requirements and your academic program. Each quarter you must see your advisor in conjunction with course enrollment (see “Registration Procedures” below). Please have your advisor sign the orange Course Registration Approval Form and return it to the Graduate Coordinator.

Before the beginning of your second year, you should arrange a meeting with your advisor to agree upon an overall course and research plan. This includes a plan for the comprehensive research paper (see “Research Paper Procedures” below), due toward the end of the second year, for which a committee of three faculty members (not necessarily including the advisor) must be formed at the earliest possible opportunity.

After successful completion of the comprehensive research paper (usually before the beginning of your third year), you should arrange another meeting with your advisor to agree upon a plan for the qualifying examination, due toward the end of the third year, for which a doctoral committee must be formed at the earliest possible opportunity (see “Doctoral Committee” below). The chair of the doctoral committee will be your advisor from this point forward. After consultation with all parties involved, you may change advisors at any time by obtaining the new advisor’s signature on an advisor form, which you can obtain from the Graduate Coordinator. Return the completed form to the Graduate Coordinator.

Registration Procedures

First-year students typically take the same sequence of required courses (see “Courses” further below). Nevertheless, both first-year and continuing students must meet with their academic advisors to discuss which courses to take the following quarter. The advisor must approve the proposed course schedule and sign the orange Course Registration Approval Form. This form must then be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator before you enroll in classes. You may then use MyTritonLink and WebReg to enroll in classes during the specified enrollment period.

Student Evaluations

Linguistics graduate students are evaluated at the end of each course by the instructor and at the end of each academic year by the entire faculty. Course evaluations are intended to give the students more information than a final course grade does. At the end of each quarter, professors are asked to complete a Course Evaluation Form for each graduate student. The form includes the course title, grade and a brief comment about the student’s performance in the course. Year-end evaluations are used by GRADUATE DIVISION to determine support eligibility for the subsequent year, as well as to report the progress of students. Both types of evaluations are kept in the graduate student file (see below); students are encouraged to read and discuss them with their advisors.

Graduate Student File

The graduate student file contains the following information

  1. Advisor Form. This form is signed by the student’s permanent advisor and any temporary advisors. If the student wishes to change the permanent advisor, a new form must be completed (signed by the new advisor) and added to the file. When the permanent advisor goes on leave, the student must pick a temporary advisor. All students must be represented by a faculty member who is present at faculty meetings.
  2. Application for admission and supporting documents. Letters of recommendation are included in a student’s file only if the student did not sign waivers. If right of access waivers were signed, the letters of recommendation are kept in a separate confidential file.
  3. UCSD transcripts, course evaluations, and year-end evaluations (see “Student Evaluations” above).
  4. Copies of petitions (general petitions, leave requests, etc.) and incomplete forms.
  5. Copies of all correspondence and forms pertaining to financial aid, grants, and awards.
  6. Copies of all correspondence and forms pertaining to the degree requirements and time limits.
  7. The Blue Card, on which course work and other degree requirements are posted.
You may review your graduate student file, which is kept by the Graduate Coordinator, at any time.

Student Organization

Students meet at the beginning of each academic year to elect representatives for the Graduate Council and departmental committees such as Curriculum, Colloquium, and External Relations. View current assignments.


The Department offers a series of colloquia throughout the year. The purpose of the colloquium series is to give students and faculty a chance to hear presentations on current linguistic research at UCSD and elsewhere. The Colloquium Committee consists of 3 or 4 graduate student representatives and 1 faculty representative. The Committee as a group is responsible for determining the list of speakers that will be invited for the following academic year. The faculty representative contacts prospective speakers, confirms dates for their talks, and identifies a faculty host for each speaker. The graduate student representatives are responsible for advertising the colloquia, identifying a student host for each speaker, and purchasing food for the talks. A small amount of money is available for payment of colloquium expenses. As the amount varies from year to year, the Committee should direct questions about the amount and use of the money to the Department CAO.

Requirements Leading to the PhD Degree in Linguistics

Candidates for the PhD must pass twelve courses prior to taking the qualifying examination. These courses should normally be completed early in the graduate student’s program of study, ideally within the first two years. Of these twelve courses, seven specific courses are required:

  • One course in Phonetics: LIGN 210
  • One course in Phonology: LIGN 211
  • One course in Morphology: LIGN 220
  • One course in Syntax: LIGN 221
  • One course in Semantics: LIGN 230
  • One course in Field Methods: LIGN 240
  • One course in Research Paper Writing: LIGN 293

Replacements for the seven required courses are rarely granted, through discussion with the student’s advisor and other relevant faculty. Three of the remaining five elective courses must be taken in the Department; all 200-level courses count toward this requirement except LIGN 200, LIGN 296, and LIGN 299. Replacements for elective courses may be allowed by petition. All courses must be taken for a letter grade except LIGN 293.

A vibrant research department requires active participation by students in elective graduate courses and seminars. Therefore, students are expected to enroll in such courses when they are offered, especially (but not necessarily only) when offered on topics that are related to the student’s area(s) of interest. Students should expect the faculty to enforce this expectation.

Students who wish to pursue directed research with a faculty advisor prior to candidacy should enroll in LIGN 296. Whether this course is taken for a letter grade or S/U is determined by the nature of the directed research. If taken for a grade, LIGN 296 is to be treated as an independent study course; in this case the course should follow a syllabus prepared by the student and faculty member, and have a term paper or project submitted at the conclusion of the course. Both the syllabus and the paper/project are to be included in the student’s file at course completion. If taken S/U, LIGN 296 is to be treated as a pre-qualification analog of LIGN 299, in which the faculty member is to monitor and ultimately assess progress toward a mutually agreed upon research goal, such as the production of a research article, comps paper, or qualifying paper. After admission to candidacy, students should enroll in LIGN 299 for directed research, which is always to be taken S/U.

Language Requirements
Reading Requirement
Each student must demonstrate a reading knowledge of a language other than his or her native language, subject to faculty approval. Faculty approval is automatic for any one of the following languages: Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Italian, and Russian. For speakers who have native competence in a language other than English, English may satisfy the requirement. For any other languages, the student should submit a petition for faculty approval.

The purpose of the requirement is to provide the student with access to literature in languages other than English, as well as to encourage general linguistic sophistication. Because of the diversity of research materials within the field of linguistics, a general reading knowledge of the language will be more useful than a strictly scientific reading preparation. Those with no previous background in a given language can prepare for the reading examination in French and German by taking one quarter of Ling/French 11 and Ling/German 11 respectively, and by doing a moderate amount of outside reading in contemporary literature. Students are strongly advised to satisfy this requirement early, if possible by the end of the first year. See more information on preparing for the exam.

There are two ways to satisfy the reading requirement:

  1. By passing the appropriate MLA Cooperative Foreign Language Test with a raw score of 30 or better. This test is available for French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian; it is offered by the Language Program for Linguistics graduate students every quarter. A student who can provide proof of having scored 30 or higher on the MLA (MA or MB) reading exam in a given language 5 years or less prior to the date of entry into the graduate program will have satisfied the reading proficiency requirement for that language.
  2. By passing a written translation exam. This is conducted by the Linguistics faculty for the languages with which they have sufficient knowledge. It consists of translating a 500-word passage from the language into English, using a dictionary. The time limit will be two hours.

Students who wish to be tested for the reading requirement in a language for which we do not have a qualified tester will be responsible for finding someone approved by the faculty to administer the test according to departmental guidelines. A sheet of guidelines for the tester will be prepared by the faculty.

Oral Proficiency Requirement
A student must demonstrate conversational ability in one language other than English. The reason for this requirement is one of practical utility (e.g., for purposes of scholarly travel or attendance at international conferences), as well as the belief that a linguistic scholar—to appreciate the subject matter of the discipline— should minimally have strong working proficiency in at least one language other than the native one. Native-like proficiency is by no means expected; rather, the student must demonstrate the ability to converse comfortably in the language. If a student does not have such ability, s/he should consult with the Director of the Language Program who can advise the student about the language courses available on campus and/or materials in the Language Laboratory that can assist in the preparation for the exam. Useful courses include Language 15 for those languages in which it is offered, and LISL 1E for American Sign Language (ASL). If the language to be tested is French, German, Spanish, or Italian, the requirement is normally satisfied by passing the oral portion of the regular undergraduate language proficiency examination administered by the Language Program. For all other languages, the student is expected to provide the Department with some valid means of assessing oral proficiency. For native speakers of languages other than English, English automatically satisfies the requirement. A graduate student who teaches in the Language Program may be deemed proficient in speaking the language that s/he teaches by the Director of the Language Program. In such cases, the Director will evaluate the student either through a personal interview in the language or else from having observed the student using the language in his/her teaching. A graduate student who has passed an oral proficiency exam administered in cooperation with the Linguistics Department at UCSD 5 years or less prior to the date of entry into the graduate program will have satisfied the oral proficiency requirement for that language. Students are advised to satisfy this requirement as early as possible.

Comprehensive Research Paper
Before taking the qualifying examination and beginning dissertation research, students must submit a comprehensive paper embodying original research for evaluation by the faculty. The paper may be submitted at any time after the student’s first quarter of graduate study (with the approval of a faculty committee), but no later than the seventh week of the sixth quarter. Papers to be evaluated in a given quarter must be submitted by noon on Friday of the seventh week of that quarter. (See “Research Paper Procedures” further below).

A graduate student is evaluated by the entire faculty at particular stages during the first two years of graduate study. The first evaluation, at the end of the third quarter of graduate study, pertains chiefly to performance in courses; students having difficulties at this stage are given appropriate advice.

The second (or comprehensive) evaluation, at the end of the sixth quarter, determines the student’s fitness to continue in the PhD program. It takes into account performance in coursework and ability to engage in original research in one area of linguistics as demonstrated in the comprehensive research paper. On the basis of this comprehensive evaluation, the faculty is to arrive at one of four decisions:

  1. The student has passed and will be encouraged to continue in the PhD program.
  2. The first comprehensive research paper is not entirely acceptable. The student may rework the paper and resubmit it by the seventh week of the subsequent quarter, at which time the student will be reevaluated.
  3. The student has passed and will be awarded the MA degree (when all other requirements toward that degree are satisfied), but will not be permitted to continue towards the PhD
  4. The student has failed and will be dropped from the program.

Students in years three and beyond will be evaluated each Spring quarter. The qualifying examination typically serves as the student’s evaluation upon qualification, usually by the end of the ninth quarter.

Qualifying Examination
The qualifying examination is an oral examination in the student’s area of specialization, as well as a discussion of the nature and feasibility of the proposed dissertation. It is conducted by the prospective dissertation committee (see “Doctoral Committee” below), which is selected by the advisor in consultation with the student. Prior to the examination, the student must submit a substantial dissertation proposal to the committee, the form and content of which is agreed upon by the advisor and the committee in consultation with the student. To be eligible to take the qualifying examination, a student must have completed all requirements except the colloquium (see “Colloquium Presentation” below).

Research Paper Procedures

By the end of the first two years of graduate study, students must submit a comprehensive paper embodying original research for evaluation by the faculty. This research paper should demonstrate that the student is: (1) developing the analytical ability, skills in argumentation, and scholarship needed for research in an area of linguistics; (2) learning to organize material efficiently and clearly; and (3) acquiring a knowledge of the standard style and formatting required in linguistics journals and in journals in other, related disciplines.

Topic Approval
The student should consult his/her advisor in selecting a paper topic. The student and advisor should discuss the suitability of that topic from the standpoint of the individual student’s goals. Having selected a paper topic, the student should consider which faculty member would be the most appropriate main reader for this paper and should consult with the main reader about its feasibility at least 12 academic weeks before the student intends to submit the final version of the paper. (An ‘academic week’ is a week during the regular teaching quarter, not including breaks or final exam weeks.) In consultation with the main reader, the student should select an additional two faculty readers (to be known as ancillary readers) and, if the student desires, a student reader as well. The student should inquire as to whether these additional readers are willing to serve in this capacity no later than 6 academic weeks before the student intends to submit the final version of the paper. If the main and ancillary readers have any question about the suitability of a topic, they will bring the matter to the attention of the faculty as a whole for discussion and resolution.

The final version of the comprehensive research paper must be submitted no later than the seventh week of the sixth quarter. Students are encouraged to discuss their research periodically with the main and ancillary readers, and must submit a preliminary draft of their paper to the readers at least 3 academic weeks before the submission of the final version of the paper. Early submission of a preliminary draft enables faculty to recommend substantive revisions and permits the student to make such revisions if these are deemed necessary. More than one preliminary draft may be encouraged by the main reader, but ancillary readers are not expected to read more than one preliminary draft. All readers will provide written comments on the pre-final preliminary draft within 2 weeks of submission.

Paper Guidelines
The comprehenstive research paper should contain the following as a bare minimum:

  1. An abstract;
  2. An introduction to the problem to be addressed;
  3. An overview of previous/alternative analyses, highlighting their advantages/deficiencies/etc.;
  4. Proposed solution(s);
  5. References.

Copies of the research paper (60-page limit; double-spaced, 12 point font) and of the one-page abstract, one for each of the readers, are submitted to the Graduate Coordinator by 12:00 noon on Friday of the seventh week of the sixth quarter. Research papers may, of course, be submitted prior to this deadline. In addition, a one-page abstract is sent via e-mail to the Graduate Coordinator for circulation to the faculty. One copy of this abstract is retained in the student’s file. The abstract should contain the following information:

  1. Comprehensive Research Paper
  2. Student name
  3. Title of paper
  4. Main reader’s name
  5. Ancillary readers’ names
  6. Student reader’s name (if any)
  7. Abstract of the paper

Faculty Evaluation Criteria
The faculty evaluate the research papers in terms of whether they satisfy the goals stated previously. Although three faculty members are specifically charged with reading the papers, they are available for any faculty member to read, and are evaluated by the faculty as a whole. There are essentially four judgments conferrable on papers: high pass; pass; rewrite; no pass. Note that evaluation of the paper is just one component of an overall assessment of the student’s performance in the program. Depending on this overall evaluation, the student will be advised to begin preparing for the next departmental requirement; to revise the paper according to the recommendations of the readers, to apply for a terminal master’s degree, or to leave the program.

Feedback on Research Papers
In consultation with the ancillary readers, the main reader should provide the student with an evaluation judgment of the paper within 3 weeks of submission of the final paper. If the student submits the paper in the seventh week of the quarter, discussion of research papers and evaluation judgments will normally take place in a subsequent faculty meeting in the same quarter. Along with the judgment, the main reader will provide the student with a brief written evaluation of the research paper pertaining to such matters as: presentation, writing, and argumentation; the viability of the analysis (including possible alternatives); possibilities for expansion and elaboration; and so on. Students who  receive a ‘rewrite’ judgment will use these comments to guide their rewrite, which must be submitted by the seventh week of the following quarter.