Ph.D. Requirements

The UC Davis Ph.D. program in linguistics is administered by an interdisciplinary graduate group that includes a diverse array of faculty and encompasses numerous research areas, including language acquisition and development, sociolingistic inquiry, auditory neuroscience, and language structure and theory.


In focusing on the application of linguistic concepts and analytical skills to areas of research and teaching that connect directly with real-world educational and social issues, the program is responsive to the increasing linguistic and cultural diversity of both California and the nation.
The program requires students to be rigorously grounded in the core areas of general linguistics (phonology, syntax, semantics, historical linguistics) as they concentrate their dissertation research on an area of emphasis related to second language acquisition and development (SLAD). Students may pursue research related to such topics or specialize in one of the traditional core areas of general linguistics.


  • Curriculum
  • Ph.D. students must complete 49–50 units of coursework (exclusive of LIN 299, LIN 396, and prerequisite units): 14 units in core courses, 19–20 units in one of four subject-matter areas, and 16 units in elective graduate-level or upper-division courses, to be approved by the graduate advisor. Students must be enrolled in at least 12 units per quarter. 
    The abbreviation "LIN" designates courses in the Department of Linguistics.
  • Preparation for the Program
  • The Ph.D. program course load is designed for students who have a background in linguistics or an allied field. Students entering without sufficient undergraduate work in linguistics must take the prerequisites required for students in the M.A. program, concurrently with other courses. Each entering student will work with the graduate advisor to determine the adequacy of the student's background in linguistics and to assist in designing a course of study.
  • Language Requirements
  • All students must have basic proficiency in a language other than English, as demonstrated by one of the following:
    • -- being a native speaker of a language other than English
    • -- attending a school, for at least two years, in which English is not the language of instruction
    • -- satisfying (prior to enrollment in the program) the equivalent of the foreign language requirement of the undergraduate major in linguistics at UC Davis
    • -- passing either a reading exam or a speaking exam administered by a member of the Graduate Group in Linguistics or a proxy designated by the graduate advisor.
    Applicants also must demonstrate basic functional proficiency in a third language. This proficiency will be accessed by means of a brief (5- to 10-minute) conversation in the tested language with a member of the Graduate Group or a designated proxy. Possible topics of conversation might be how the applicant came to learn the language, what the student did in a recent visit to a country in which the tested language was spoken, or what the student thinks about some literary work or recent news item.
  • Admissions
  • Applicants for admission must meet the University of California minimum requirements for admission. Other requirements for admission include:
    • -- a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a discipline relevant to linguistics
    • -- scores from the Graduate Record Examination (general test)
    • -- three letters of recommendation
    • -- submission of a Statement of Purpose and Personal History Statement (part of the Graduate Studies online application)
    • -- a writing sample (such as a term paper or an academic essay)
    In addition, international applicants who have not studied at an English-speaking University must take an English proficiency examination, with a minimum score of 100 on the TOEFL iBT, or 7 on the IELTS (overall band score).
    Download and study the Degree Requirements in detail.
  • Prerequisites
  • The equivalent of at least one course from each of the following subject areas:
    Syntax (e.g., LIN 103B, LIN 131)
    Phonology (e.g., LIN 103A, LIN 111) and the equivalent of at least two other language structure courses in one or more other areas, such as Phonetics (e.g., LIN 112), Morphology (e.g., LIN 121), Semantics (e.g., LIN 141) or Comparative/Historical Linguistics (e.g., LIN 150, LIN 151, LIN 152).