All students wishing a Ph.D. in Linguistics must first earn an M.A. in the Berkeley Linguistics program in order to continue into the Ph.D. program as described on the M.A. program page.
Soon after recommendation to continue in the Ph.D. program has been made, students should seek out a faculty member who will agree to serve as the doctoral advisor. This is the faculty member who will guide the student's work through the doctoral program, including the dissertation. In many cases, the Ph.D. Advisor will be the same person as the M.A. Advisor. It is possible to change advisors.
The requirements for the Ph.D. can be divided into two sets: those which a student must satisfy before advancing to candidacy, and those which they must satisfy afterwards. Advancing to candidacy is a very important milestone, since students who advance within 'normative time' (6 semesters since beginning the graduate program) are entitled to a year of funding from the university, which they can use to support either their 4th or 5th years in the program.
To advance to candidacy, students must complete three requirements (a foreign language requirement, some specific coursework, a qualifying paper) and then pass a qualifying exam. To receive the Ph.D., students must complete a dissertation prospectus and associated review, and must complete a Ph.D. dissertation.
A. Requirements for advancing to candidacy
1. The Foreign Language Requirement (Year 3 or Before)
In accordance with the rules of the Graduate Division, the Department has a Foreign Language Requirement. Students should satisfy the requirement as early as possible in their graduate careers; it must be satisfied before they are eligible to take the Ph.D. qualifying examination. This requirement can be satisfied by either of two options, both laid out in much fuller detail in the Graduate Division's Guide to Graduate Policy, which students are advised to consult. Simply put, Option 1 requires a reading knowledge of two foreign languages. Knowledge may be demonstrated in various ways, detailed in the Guide: by completing a two-year course of study at UC Berkeley; by petitioning to have a recent two-year course of study at another institution fulfill the requirement; or by taking an examination which involves translating a passage of at least 300 words into English within 90 minutes, with or without a dictionary. Option 2 requires demonstration of an exceptionally thorough reading knowledge and an adequate knowledge of the grammatical structure of a single language, via a translation exercise involving a passage of at least 1,000 words in a subject related to the student's specialization, in a time frame of 3 hours without the aid of a dictionary. Native ability in a foreign language can fulfill the requirements of Option 2 so long as there is linguistic literature published in the language and the student can provide evidence to the Department - which in turn petitions the Graduate Council - of significant prior schooling conducted in that language. Full details are given in the Guide.
2. Courses (Year 3)
In Year 3, students complete their course requirements. If the yearlong 'Field Methods' course (Ling 240A-B) was not taken in Year 2, students must complete it in Year 3. Students must also satisfy the 'Advanced Analysis' requirement, if they did not already do so in Year 2. Normally, students will complete one of the 'Field Methods' and 'Advanced Analysis' requirements in year 2 and will complete the other one in Year 3. Ling 201 ('Proseminar') is required of all students in Year 3. Taken in the first semester of the third year, Ling 201 is the course which launches students into the process of writing the Qualifying Paper.
3. Qualifying Paper (Year 3)
By the end of Year 3, students must complete a Qualifying Paper (QP) of a quality suitable for submission to a linguistics journal. A QP must conform to the style sheet of Language, the journal of the Linguistic Society of America, or to that of another journal appropriate to its contents.
The QP must be approved by a reading committee consisting of two faculty members selected by the student in consultation with the Graduate Advisor. The members of a QP Committee are ordinarily regular faculty in Linguistics, but one member of a committee may be from elsewhere if approved by the Graduate Advisor. The QP Committee is usually chosen at the beginning of the semester in which the student plans to complete the QP, and it should meet with the student to discuss the course of revisions promptly after the completion of a first draft. For a QP to be accepted, the QP Committee must decide unanimously that the QP is of publishable quality and shows a readiness for research at a doctoral level.
4. The Qualifying Examination and Advancement to Candidacy (End of Year 3)
The Qualifying Examination, which is required by the Graduate Council, is a three-hour oral examination. The examination committee consists of four members, one of whom is the student's advisor and one of whom must be a UC Berkeley faculty member from outside the Department of Linguistics. The outside member is a regular member of the examining committee but also represents the Dean of the Graduate Division. The person who chairs the Qualifying Examination committee cannot later be the director of the dissertation.
The Qualifying Examination covers the following: linguistics in general, including three subfields specifically identified by the student in scheduling the examination; the broad area of the intended dissertation; the QP; and possible dissertation plans. As a substantial portion of the examination will be devoted to detailed discussion of the QP, it should be available to the members of the examination committee at least three weeks before the examination. More information on what to expect in the Qualifying Examination can be found here.
Should a student fail the Qualifying Examination, the advisor and student will meet to review the committee's judgments, and the advisor will guide the student in taking a second examination. The second examination may take place no sooner than three months (by Graduate Council ruling) and no later than one year (by department policy) after the first.
Upon satisfactory completion of the Qualifying Examination, a student acquires the status known as 'Advanced to Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.' If this occurs, by June 30, before the beginning of the student's fourth year at Berkeley, the student receives a one-year Doctoral Completion Fellowship; a student who advances later receives no DCF. The Graduate Council considers three years 'normative time' for advancement to candidacy.
B. Dissertation Preparation
1. Bibliography and Dissertation Prospectus (Year 4)
In the first semester in residence after advancing to candidacy for the Ph.D. a student must submit an Annotated Bibliography and a Dissertation Prospectus to the members of the dissertation committee, normally the same as the Qualifying Examination Committee.
The Annotated Bibliography and Dissertation Prospectus are due by the end of the tenth week of the semester. The bibliography and prospectus must be approved by the dissertation committee, which meets with the student for a one-hour Dissertation Prospectus Review, normally scheduled near the end of the same semester.
Both the Bibliography and the Prospectus are on a topic assigned by the student's Dissertation Committee, after discussion with the student about the intended dissertation area. The Annotated Bibliography is a detailed overview of the literature in that area, including bibliographic details as well as summaries and critical comments. The Dissertation Prospectus has two components: a general (5-10 page) overview laying out the material, problems, methods, and anticipated results of the dissertation, together with a tentative outline; and a chapter-length discussion of a specific problem or problems assigned for this purpose by the dissertation committee. Students should receive written instructions from their committees by the beginning of the semester in which the Bibliography and Prospectus are due.
2. The Dissertation (Years 4-6)
Upon successful completion of the Bibliography and Prospectus, students must write a doctoral dissertation. Students are strongly encouraged to work closely with their advisor and committee members throughout this process. The following activities are designed to guide students during this stage of their graduate career:
- Dissertation committee meetings. Students in candidacy meet with their dissertation committee once a semester, starting in the semester after the one in which the Dissertation Prospectus Review takes place. Exceptions may be granted for students who are in the field. Meetings will focus on dissertation progress, publication strategies, and, for more advanced students, job search readiness. The student will bring to each meeting a summary of the work completed since the last meeting (or, in the case of the first meeting, since the Prospectus Review) and an updated dissertation outline. After each meeting, the student's dissertation chair, in consultation with the other committee members, will prepare a brief written summary of the student's progress and the goals for the next semester. These summaries will form the basis of the Annual Report on student progress which the chair of each dissertation committee must file (via department staff) with Graduate Division. Annual reports should be submitted using this form: Report on Progress in Candidacy in the Doctoral Program.
- Presentation of research. Students are encouraged to present their ongoing dissertation research on a regular basis, at conferences as well as in appropriate departmental forums, including but not limited to Phonetics & Phonology Forum (Phorum), Fieldworkers Forum (fForum), Quantitative Methods Forum (Quorum), Syntax Circle, Group on American Indian Languages (GAIL), and Gesture Group.
- Re-enrollment in Ling 201. Students in candidacy are encouraged to re-enroll in Ling 201, a course taken by all third-year students in which participants receive regular, intensive advice on structuring, presenting and obtaining feedback on a complex piece of research. Students taking Ling 201 will also receive advice on presenting dissertation research at professional conferences and in job interviews.
- Job placement advising. The faculty-staffed Job Placement Committee prepares students for the academic job market, holding workshops to advise students on such matters as the solicitation of outside letters, dossier preparation, and practicing for job interviews.
Human subjects research
If dissertation research involves human subjects in any way - field data elicitation, psycholinguistic or phonetic experiments, sociolinguistic surveys, etc. - it is imperative to obtain permission from the Committee for Protection of Human Subjects before beginning the research. Research data obtained without CPHS approval cannot be used in the dissertation or publications. The CPHS website has full details.