The M.A. is a degree that all students must earn en route to the Ph.D. It can under certain circumstances be a terminal degree. The M.A. requires two years of coursework, a qualifying paper, and an oral examination, normally taken at the end of the second year. Even students who already have an M.A. when they enroll in the graduate program are required to earn the Berkeley Linguistics M.A.
The M.A. in Linguistics may be obtained under "Plan I" or "Plan II". Plan I requires 25 semester units plus a thesis. Plan II requires 30 semester units. The vast majority of students follow Plan II. All candidates for the M.A., whether following Plan I or Plan II (including those students who will be granted a second M.A.), must pass a 2-hour comprehensive oral examination, to be administered by their M.A. Committee.
M.A. Course Requirements
The required courses for the M.A., designed to provide the broad foundation necessary for advanced work in Linguistics, are as follows:
- Proseminars: Ling 200 (1st yr students) and Ling 202 (2nd yr students)
- Fundamentals: Each of Ling 110, Ling 211A, Ling 220A, Ling 230
- Structures: One of these: Linguistics 211B, 215, 220B
- Ecologies: One of these: Ling C105, Ling 123, Ling 255, Ling 181, Ling 205, Ling 210, Ling 250A-E
- Advanced Analysis*: One additional course, which can be selected from Structures, Ecologies, or this set: Linguistics: 231, 234, 245, 270, 275, 290A-R.
- *Note: Although Field Methods (Ling 240A-B) is required only for the Ph.D., not for the M.A. degree, students sometimes wish to take Field Methods in their first or second year, prior to receiving the M.A. degree. This can create a busy schedule. Therefore, students who choose to take, and who pass, Field Methods in years 1 or 2 have the option of postponing satisfaction of the Advanced Analysis requirement until their third year. Students who pass the M.A. exam and are recommended to continue into the Ph.D. program are required to satisfy both of these requirements by the end of Year 3.
In the two years that it generally takes to complete the M.A. program in Linguistics, it will be possible to take several other courses beyond those required for the degree. In addition to the required courses listed above, students are expected to fill out their program with other courses in Linguistics or related areas, as approved by their advisor.
The M.A. Committee
The Graduate Advisor acts as advisor to new students. By the beginning of the second year, students should choose a personal advisor, with whose help the M.A. Committee can be constituted when completion of the degree is imminent. This committee will have three members. One member, the chair, is the student's advisor. Normally, the other two members are also faculty in the Linguistics Department. However, as appropriate and with the permission of the Graduate Advisor, students may select one of the other two members from a department other than Linguistics. The M.A. Committee administers the oral M.A. examination.
The M.A.-level Qualifying Paper
Among the requirements for the M.A. degree is an M.A.-level Qualifying Paper. This normally consists of a term paper written for an M.A. course, or a conference paper growing out of research conducted in Years 1 or 2. The paper must address an original research question and make appropriate reference to the relevant literature. The M.A.-level Qualifying Paper must be approved by the Graduate Advisor and one other faculty member, who will in most cases be the students' advisor or the instructor of the course for which the paper was originally written. The paper will normally be approved at least a week in advance of the M.A. examination and distributed to the members of the M.A. committee.
The Oral M.A. Examination
To receive the M.A., all students must take a two-hour oral examination. In order for the student to progress through the graduate program in a timely fashion, this examination is taken near the end of the second year. It covers three broad areas of linguistics as follows (with about 30 minutes assigned to each area):
- Phonetics and Phonology
- Semantics and Syntax
- One of the following (chosen by the student):
- Historical Linguistics
- Language and Cognition
The purpose of the M.A. oral examination is twofold: first, to assess the student's general knowledge of the field of linguistics, and second, to assess the student's ability to analyze data on an impromptu basis and to argue for and against different viewpoints in front of an audience.
Each member of a student's M.A. Committee is responsible for one of the three areas selected by the student. The three areas to be covered must be apportioned among committee members prior to the scheduling of the exam.
Passing the M.A. examination, and fulfilling the coursework requirements, qualifies a student to receive the M.A. degree. This requires a formal application to the Graduate Division. After all requirements have been satisfactorily completed, the Department will recommend the degree of Master of Arts in Linguistics. (Under Plan I, there are some special requirements on preparing and filing the thesis; see the Graduate Division's 'Guidelines for Preparing a Doctoral Dissertation or Master's Thesis' on their policies & procedures page.)
Terminal M.A. degree
Not all students continue on to pursue a Ph.D. When the M.A. degree is awarded, the Department will separately recommend for or against the student's continuation into the Ph.D. program. If the Department recommends against, the student will have a terminal M.A.
It sometimes happens that a student fails the initial oral M.A. exam. In this case, an ad hoc committee of department faculty is appointed to decide whether the student can retake the exam. Only one re-take will be permitted; it is normally scheduled for the following semester. If a retake is not recommended, the student can, with departmental permission, elect to take a written M.A. exam. If this exam is passed, the student can be awarded a terminal M.A. degree. A failed second M.A. exam means that the student must leave the program without a degree.