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Linguistics - Graduate Program

The graduate program of the UCSB Department of Linguistics focuses on the discovery of general, theoretically significant explanations for the range of linguistic structures that appear in the world's languages. Special attention is given to how language structures are shaped over time by cognition, culture, and use, and how these structures are in turn utilized in communication and social interaction. The department emphasizes a discourse-based and socially grounded approach; we offer graduate students an opportunity to explore the nature and function of language both theoretically and empirically. Students are encouraged to gain breadth and depth in their understanding of language by becoming acquainted with a variety of structures in a wide range of languages. Such a perspective is essential to an appreciation of the deeper characteristics that all languages share and the myriad ways they can differ.

Recognizing the value of complementary methodologies for the analysis of linguistic data, the department offers a number of courses in different types of data collection and analysis. In the intensive, year-long course in field methods, students learn to uncover the structure of a lesser-known language by working directly with speakers. Courses in discourse transcription, ethnographic and video-based methodologies, and quantitative, computational, and corpus-based analysis provide students with a diverse range of skills for the empirical analysis of language.

The graduate student experience at UCSB is special in many ways. The department provides an unusually interactive and supportive atmosphere for students; there is a low student/teacher ratio, and faculty members are deeply committed to the training of graduate students. A well-developed advising system ensures that students receive appropriate guidance at every step in their graduate careers. Various informal research groups, among them the Native American Indigenous Languages Group (NAIL), the Prosody Group, and SocioCult (for research in sociocultural linguistics) provide opportunities for graduate students and faculty to discuss recent research and ongoing work, share research experiences and techniques, and hold data analysis sessions. Students are viewed as colleagues-in-training, and there are opportunities for research collaboration between faculty members and graduate students, as well as among graduate students. Interaction with scholars in related disciplines is also valued. Such connections are institutionalized through the department's participation in a number of optional interdisciplinary Ph.D. emphases.

The department places a high priority on the training of future linguists. Student participation is strongly encouraged in professional activities such as the presentation of papers at scholarly meetings, the publication of original research, and the organization of conferences. A graduate course in professionalism offers training in writing abstracts and grant proposals, publishing papers, and interviewing for jobs. Further individual mentoring and group workshops in these areas are offered on an as-needed basis. Advanced doctoral seminars include an extra quarter devoted to the production of a substantial publishable paper in regular consultation with the professor. Students then submit the paper for publication as part of their degree requirements. Additional professional preparation is gained through teaching and research assistantships.