The PhD in Linguistics trains students in the science of language. Students become specialists in the core areas of linguistics-- phonology, syntax, and semantics --and learn to integrate this core with the study of second language acquisition. The program prepares students for positions in academia, industry, government, and a host of organizations concerned with language and second language acquisition. Graduates may become research and teaching professors, administrators of language-learning programs, and consultants in computational linguistic research.


Applicants to all graduate programs at George Mason University must meet the admission standards and application requirements for graduate study as specified in Graduate Admissions.

For specific information, see Application Requirements and Deadlines.


For policies governing all graduate degrees, see Graduate Policies.

Reduction of Credit

For students entering the doctoral program with a master’s degree, the number of required credits may be reduced by a maximum of 30 credits, subject to approval of the program faculty and the dean. Requests for reduction of credit are reviewed only after acceptance to the doctoral program.

Banner Code: LA-PHD-LING

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 72

Students should be aware of the specific policies associated with this program, located on the Admissions & Policies tab.

Core Courses

LING 690Phonology I3
LING 692Phonology II3
LING 890Advanced Phonology Seminar3
LING 786Syntax I3
LING 787Syntax II3
LING 886Advanced Syntax Seminar3
LING 785Semantics and Pragmatics3
LING 788Semantics and Pragmatics II3
Language Acquisition
Select two courses from the following:6
Second Language Acquisition
Second Language Acquisition II
Seminar in Language Acquisition
Research Methodology
LING 770Research Methods3
Qualifying Papers6
Advanced Qualifying Seminar (Students register for this course twice)
Total Credits39

Two Seminars

Select 6 credits from the following: 16
Seminar in Language Acquisition
Advanced Syntax Seminar
Advanced Phonology Seminar
Total Credits6

Students take two seminar courses in two chosen fields. Seminar topics change every time they are offered. They may be repeated for credit.


Select five electives from the following:15
Field Work in Applied Linguistics
Applied Linguistics: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
English Grammar and Pedagogy
English Pronunciation and Pedagogy
Practicum in ESL
Historical Studies of the English Language
First Language Acquisition
Introduction to Sociolinguistics
Directed Reading and Research
Grammatical Analysis
Theory of Translation
Statistical Reasoning
History of the Spanish Language
Applied Spanish Grammar
Hispanic Sociolinguistics
Language Development
Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
Quantitative Foundations for Computational Sciences
Introduction to Computational Social Science
Ethics in Scientific Research
Bilingualism and Language Acquisition Research
EDCI 569
Total Credits15

Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy, students must complete all coursework required on their approved program of study. Students must also successfully pass a written qualifying exam and an oral qualifying exam. In addition, students must have a dissertation committee appointed by the Dean’s Office as well as an approved proposal. Evidence of the approved proposal must be on file in the Dean’s Office before a student can advance to candidacy.


Once enrolled in LING 999 Doctoral Dissertation, students must follow the university's continuous registration policy as specified in AP.6.10.6 Dissertation ResearchStudents who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of LING 999 Doctoral Dissertation.

Students apply to this degree a minimum of 12 dissertation credits (LING 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and LING 999 Doctoral Dissertation combined) with at least 3 credits of LING 999 Doctoral Dissertation. Because of the continuous registration policy, students may be required to register for additional credits of these courses.

Dissertation Research12
Doctoral Dissertation Proposal
Doctoral Dissertation
Total Credits12

Program Outcomes

  • Understand the core concepts of phonology, syntax, and semantics, which are the fundamental theoretical areas of linguistics. 
  • Develop a thorough knowledge in a subfield of linguistics. This can be in the theoretical areas, such as phonology, syntax, semantics, or can be in an area such as areal linguistics, speech pathology, or computational linguistics. Because our program concentrates upon the acquisition of language, many students focus on some issue within the domain of first or second language acquisition. 
  • Show proficiency in research methodology. Performance in the program demonstrates the ability to adequately formulate a suitable and original research topic and show a continued trajectory toward elaboration and solution. 
  • Write and verbally present in an organized academic style, appropriate for the field of linguistics. Data is to be presented in a clear and conventional manner, and the argument should be built in a logical fashion.  
  • Effectively analyze linguistic data and information to arrive at informed conclusions.