2014-15 General Catalog

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Faculty | Course Descriptions

Program Description

Linguistics is an exact and structured discipline that examines human language. It has connections to many other fields in the humanities (philosophy, literature), the social sciences (anthropology, psychology, sociology), the natural sciences (biology, neuroscience, acoustics), computer science, computer engineering, and artificial intelligence.

The central areas of linguistics investigate the knowledge that speakers of a language acquire about its structure. Syntax is concerned with the rules that combine words into larger units of phrases and sentences. Semantics is the study of the meanings of linguistic units and how they are combined to form the meanings of sentences. Phonetics deals with the physical properties of language sounds. Phonology investigates the sound systems of particular languages. Morphology investigates the ways in which words are formed from prefixes, roots, and suffixes. Pragmatics is the study of language use. Psycholinguistics is concerned with the cognitive mechanisms by which language is put to use in producing and perceiving speech.

The faculty in the Linguistics Department have primary research and teaching interests in one or more of these areas. Other perspectives on language study represented include sociolinguistics, the study of poetic language, and the study of language change.

The programs offered by the Linguistics Department are designed to acquaint students with the central aspects of linguistic structure and the methodologies and perspectives of the field. The department offers two undergraduate majors, linguistics and language studies, and a graduate program in theoretical linguistics. The linguistics major leads to a bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree in linguistics; the language studies major leads to a B.A. degree in language studies (see Language Studies). The graduate program leads to the master of arts (M.A.) and doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees in linguistics.

The department also offers a combined B.A./M.A. program which makes it possible for certain well-qualified, highly motivated students to complete the requirements for both degrees in five years rather than the usual six.

Qualification Policy for the Linguistics Major

The Linguistics Department has adopted a major qualification policy for linguistics and language studies majors that is intended to encourage students to take their performance in the gateway courses seriously and to help them lay a solid foundation for further course work in the major.

In order to declare the linguistics or language studies major, a student must pass each of the gateway courses, Linguistics 50, Introduction to Linguistics, and Linguistics 53, Semantics 1, with a grade of C+ or better.

Students who are informed that they are not eligible to declare the major may appeal the decision within 15 days from the date the notification was mailed. They should do this by submitting a formal letter, addressed to the department undergraduate program director, to the Linguistics Department office (Stevenson 241 and 243). This letter should explain any extenuating circumstances that influenced their performance in the gateway courses. Within 15 days of receipt of the appeal, the department will notify the student, a college, and the Office of the Registrar of the decision.

Requirements of the Linguistics Major

Students in the linguistics major are required to complete 12 courses in linguistics and related disciplines. Seven of these are named courses in linguistics:

  • 50, Introduction to Linguistics

  • 53, Semantics I

  • 101, Phonology I

  • 102, Phonology II

  • 112, Syntax I

  • 113, Syntax II

  • 116, Semantics II

Five upper-division elective courses in linguistics.

Students may petition the department to have elective courses offered through other institutions or other UC programs applied toward the major requirements. At most three such courses can be applied toward the major. These courses must be upper-division and clearly fit into a coherent program of study in linguistics.

Foreign language/mathematics competency requirement: Linguistics majors are required to demonstrate either foreign-language or mathematics competency as follows:

  • Foreign-language competency: students must successfully complete five quarters of language study at UCSC or demonstrate an equivalent level of competence through a recognized language test or evidence of credit from another institution. In cases where five quarters of instruction for a language are not being offered at UCSC, students may opt to complete (or demonstrate equivalent level of competence for) three quarters of one language and three quarters of a second language. For Latin and Greek, two quarters will be considered equivalent to three quarters.

  • Mathematics competency: alternatively, students with a strong formal background can choose to satisfy the mathematics competency requirement by demonstrating sufficient preparation in mathematics for advanced formal work in linguistics. This requirement is satisfied by passing two courses chosen from the following list: Applied Mathematics and Statistics 7 or 131; Computer Engineering 16; Computer Science 5C, 5J, 5P, 10, 11, 12A, 12B, 140, or 148; Mathematics 30, 100, 115, 160, or 161; Philosophy 9; or any course which has one of these courses as a prerequisite.

Senior exit requirement: In their senior year, linguistics majors must satisfy the senior exit requirement in one of two ways:

  • Option 1: Successful completion of a capstone course (an appropriate upper-division linguistics course). Students must have senior standing and must have completed Linguistics 53, Semantics I; 101, Phonology I; and 112, Syntax I.

  • Option 2: Successful completion of a senior thesis supervised by a linguistics faculty member.

The proposal for a senior thesis must be submitted for approval by the department faculty at least three quarters prior to the quarter of graduation. Students enroll in Linguistics 195, Senior Thesis.

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy that major’s upper-division Disciplinary Communication (DC) requirement. The DC requirement in linguistics is satisfied by completing courses 101 and 112.

Requirements of the Minor

To graduate with a minor in linguistics, students must complete eight linguistics courses:

  • 50, Introduction to Linguistics

  • 53, Semantics I

  • 101, Phonology I

  • 112, Syntax I

  • Four upper-division elective courses in linguistics

There is no senior exit requirement and no foreign language/mathematics competency requirement for the minor.


The 80-level courses have no prerequisites. They are intended to introduce the concepts of linguistics through their relation to other areas of general interest.

Course 50, Introduction to Linguistics, introduces the subfields of the discipline. Courses 53, Semantics I; 101, Phonology I; and 112, Syntax I, serve as entry courses to the specialized upper-division sequences. Upper-division courses generally have at least one of these courses as a prerequisite.

Several upper-division elective courses are offered each quarter. For a list of these courses, visit the department’s web site at

To enroll in the graduate (200-level) courses, undergraduates need special permission from the instructor. Permission is usually granted only to especially motivated undergraduates who have completed all the named requirements for the major with excellent performance.


Students who wish to be considered for honors should meet the deadline posted by the Office of the Registrar for declaring the intent to graduate. Determination of honors is based on the student’s grades and narrative evaluations for all courses relevant to the major and other factors relevant to an assessment of academic excellence, such as research papers of professional quality. Generally, honors in the major are awarded only to the top 10 percent of those graduating in the major. Only those students whose performance in coursework is excellent will qualify. Highest honors are rarely awarded, and then only to students whose performance in coursework is outstanding and who have completed an outstanding senior thesis.

Preparation for the UCSC Master’s Degree

Every year, UCSC students who have the B.A. in linguistics or language studies can apply to be admitted into the graduate program to pursue the M.A. in theoretical linguistics. Interested students should discuss the possibility with one or more faculty members and formally apply online to the graduate program during the fall quarter of the senior year. For up-to-date information about the application process, consult our web site (; and see the Linguistics Department manager. The combined B.A./M.A. program (see below) provides another pathway to the M.A. program.

The B.A./M.A. Program

The B.A./M.A. program in linguistics is a demanding, selective option that allows students who are well prepared and well motivated to complete the requirements for both degrees in five years rather than the usual six.

Admission to the program has two stages. In the first stage, interested students first consult with the undergraduate program director and one or more faculty members, and then apply to be admitted to the program by the sixth week of the first quarter of their junior year. Transfer students should consult with the undergraduate program director if they are contemplating this program. In order to be accepted at this first stage, students must have demonstrated excellence in the undergraduate major in at least three courses that are named requirements for the linguistics major.

Students accepted at this initial stage are assigned a faculty mentor who monitors their progress closely.

At the second stage of the admission procedure, students apply in their senior year to be admitted to the M.A. program through UCSC’s normal graduate admissions process. If accepted, ideally they complete the course requirements for the M.A. and complete and defend the M.A. thesis by the end of the fifth year.

Students in the B.A./M.A. program take a number of graduate courses in their senior year, which are selected in close consultation with the faculty mentor. Performance in these courses forms a central part of the ongoing evaluation process. If a student’s performance does not meet the standards set for the program, he or she completes the B.A. at the end of the senior year in the normal way and does not proceed to the M.A.

Graduate courses required for the M.A. are taken partly in the senior year and partly in the fifth year. The M.A. thesis is written in the fifth year. Thus, by the end of their fifth year, the students in the program will have fulfilled the requirements for both the B.A. and the M.A. degrees. Students who need additional time may remain in the program until the M.A. thesis is completed and defended.

Graduate Program

The graduate program in linguistics at UCSC is a small, focused program in linguistic theory leading to doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) or master of arts (M.A.) degrees. The research interests of faculty and students draw mostly on the framework of generative grammar, with a primary focus on theoretical and experimental approaches to phonetics, phonology, psycholinguistics, semantics, and syntax. Research strengths also include the study of various languages, theoretical and computational morphology, mathematical foundations, and the philosophy of linguistics.

Each year the department admits approximately five new students to the doctoral program and a smaller number of new students to the M.A. program. The master’s degree can be completed in one or two years, depending on the student’s previous background in linguistics.

While committed to training in theoretical depth, the program makes possible an unusual breadth of theoretical and experimental understanding. Research in syntax focuses on ways in which generative theory and language-particular analysis inform one another. Faculty expertise covers principles and parameters theory, minimalism, and experimental syntax. Research in phonetics and phonology is pursued in various current frameworks, including optimality theory and dispersion theory. The issues covered range from phonetics and the phonetics-phonology interface to prosodic theory, prosodic morphology and the syntax-phonology interface. Research in semantics applies formal, model-theoretic techniques to illuminate the interface between syntactic structure and interpretation and the role of semantic competence in the pragmatics of utterance interpretation. Experimental research in these areas reaches out to a broad range of issues in psycholinguistics and cognitive science.

The faculty have expertise in a diverse range of languages, including Chamorro, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Irish, Japanese, Latin, Nez Perce, Northern Paiute, Persian, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.

From the beginning of their studies, students are engaged in original research and critical evaluation since the aim of the program is to provide sophisticated training as a foundation for a career in academic research and teaching. The program begins with a sequence of foundation courses in phonetics, phonology, syntax, semantics, and psycholinguistics, addressing both formal and experimental approaches. Subsequent coursework emphasizes depth; it is increasingly centered around the doctoral student’s independent research, culminating in the completion of a dissertation.

Undergraduate Preparation

Applications are invited from students who have completed an undergraduate linguistics major or who have demonstrated excellence in some related discipline (psychology, mathematics, computer science, anthropology) and have the equivalent of a minor in linguistics. A student applying for admission to this program should, at a minimum, have a good foundation in at least one of the following: phonetics, phonology, psycholinguistics, morphology, semantics, or syntax. Students entering the program with a deficiency in one or more areas may need to take appropriate undergraduate courses at UCSC during the first year of graduate study.

Requirements for the M.A.

Courses. A minimum of 45 credits of graduate-level work. This must include foundation courses in phonetics, phonology, psycholinguistics, semantics, and syntax. Electives are typically chosen from upper-division or graduate courses offered by linguistics and related disciplines, and independent study with linguistics faculty.

Languages. Reading competence in one foreign language, to be demonstrated by examination.

Master’s thesis. Submission of a master’s thesis in a core area of theoretical linguistics approved by a committee of three faculty members.

Requirements for the Ph.D.

Courses. A minimum of 65 credits of graduate-level work. This includes foundation sequences in phonetics, phonology, psycholinguistics, semantics, syntax, and experimental or field methods.

Languages. Reading competence in one foreign language, to be demonstrated by examination.

Qualifying papers and examination. By the end of the third year, two research papers, each in a distinct area, are to be presented as part of the requirements for admission to candidacy. At this time, the prospective candidate is examined by the faculty on topics related to the student’s major area of research, as part of the qualifying examination. The student is expected to defend a dissertation prospectus in the fourth year.

Dissertation. The final requirement for the Ph.D. degree is the completion of a dissertation representing a significant contribution in some central area of linguistic research.

Application and Admission

To apply, please consult the Department of Linguistics web site (

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Revised: 09/01/13