MA in Linguistics

The MA in Linguistics is designed to provide students with a solid foundational knowledge of the traditional core areas of linguistic analysis, as well as a deeper specialization in a chosen subfield or interface area. Our goal is to help students reach a level of preparation suitable for the pursuit of more advanced work in linguistics, or in allied fields with a commitment to the study of language. Many students who complete the MA degree will go on to PhD programs in these areas, while others will instead pursue careers in fields such as speech and language technologies or education, among others. Our program has particular strength in the areas of theoretical syntax and semantics, experimental phonetics and phonology, and language acquisition. Additional areas of focus include language documentation and field linguistics, language change and variation, pragmatics and information status, prosody, Romance linguistics, and sign language linguistics.

The MA program is designed to be completed in one year, though students wishing to complete a major independent research project, akin to a thesis or capstone project, may wish to consider spending three or four semesters in the program instead. The program is appropriate for students with some background in linguistics, although an undergraduate degree in the field is not required. Entering students must have completed an introductory class in linguistics (e.g., CAS LX 250 at BU) and should also have taken introductory-level courses covering phonetics/phonology, syntax, and semantics. Students who lack this background may wish to apply first to our Graduate Certificate Program in Linguistics. MA students who have a gap in their prior academic coursework in any of the areas just mentioned must pass an examination or make up the deficiency through coursework prior to entry or during the first semester. Such coursework will not be counted toward the master’s degree requirements.

Learning Outcomes

  • The ability to think critically about fundamental issues in the study of language structure, universals, variation, change, acquisition, and social dimensions of language use, and a sophisticated command of several core areas of linguistic analysis.
  • The ability to analyze the empirical patterns found in sets of language data, and to construct well-reasoned linguistic analyses by formulating, testing, and refining hypotheses.
  • The ability to formulate a testable research question, grounded in the prior literature, to carry out the relevant research, analyze the findings, and construct argumentation to support the conclusions.

Course Requirements

The MA in Linguistics requires 32 credits. Students entering the program without the necessary background to take these courses may be required to take prerequisite courses. Prerequisite courses (GRS LX 601 Phonetics, LX 621 Syntax, and LX 631 Semantics) will not be counted as credit toward the degree. Course requirements are as follows:

  • Required core courses:
    • GRS LX 703 Phonological Analysis
    • GRS LX 722 Intermediate Syntax: Modeling Syntactic Knowledge
    • GRS LX 732 Intermediate Semantics: The Grammatical Construction of Meaning
  • Three additional graduate courses in Linguistics, excluding GRS LX 601, 621, and 631.
  • Two other graduate courses selected in consultation with an advisor, one of which may be directed research.

Language Requirement

All students pursuing an MA in Linguistics are required to demonstrate graduate-level reading proficiency in a foreign language prior to completion of the degree. Language proficiency can be demonstrated through a language examination, successful completion of a noncredit graduate-level foreign language reading course offered by Boston University, or the equivalent of two years of undergraduate study of the language at Boston University.