The Graduate Group in Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania is an interdisciplinary team of faculty from the Department of Linguistics and related departments. Our program has strong concentrations in several areas and a tradition of collaboration among its faculty. Founded by Zellig Harris in 1947, the Penn Linguistics Department is the oldest modern linguistics department in the United States. We have outstanding programs in the core disciplines of syntax and phonology, as well as in semantics, discourse, historical linguistics, phonetics, sociolinguistics, and several other areas of cognitive science; we are rapidly developing a state-of-the-art program in psycholinguistics. An exceptional source of strength is the presence of the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science (IRCS) at Penn. Penn is also the home of the Linguistic Data Consortium (LDC), a compiler and distributor of linguistic materials for language engineering research.
This page provides details about graduate studies in Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania.
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The broad range of its faculty allows the graduate program at Penn to offer students a wide range of opportunities for study. The core of our program is in the generative tradition; our strengths in that and other areas make us particularly attractive to students interested in the cross-fertilization that results from the confrontation of empirical and theoretical perspectives on language structure. By our close collaboration with other programs (especially IRCS, which provides a valuable institutional framework for interdisciplinary research in linguistics, computer science, and psychology) we promote an awareness of the broad view of language that interdisciplinary study induces. Despite the breadth of our program, however, students are offered and expected to master the methods and results of their chosen areas of concentration in linguistics as a prerequisite to fruitful engagement in dialogue with others, both within and outside the program.
Although the interests of our faculty and students cover virtually the entire field of linguistics, the graduate group functions as a unit. A number of our faculty work together on joint projects of shared interest, and students often develop their own research in conjunction with these projects. For example, a student may pursue an interest in the interaction of syntactic and semantic constraints on sentence form or in the discourse functions of a particular syntactic construction; or a student might study quantitatively the impact of sociolinguistic factors on language change or the interplay of grammar and drift in historical syntax. Since intellectual collaboration among us is the norm and the program is small in size, the active participation of a student in research with close attention from the faculty is possible from early on in his or her career.
Special Areas of Concentration
A student in the linguistics program can concentrate in any area of linguistics taught by our faculty, and a number of especially strong areas of research within the graduate group invite specialization. Please see the detailed pages on our research areas.
The Graduate Group in Linguistics consists of all members of the Department of Linguistics together with numerous faculty in other departments with allied interests. Our program also hosts visiting scholars every year, most notably through the Institute Research in Cognitive Science.
See the list of faculty.
The Graduate Students
In any given year there are some 35 graduate students enrolled in the department; a typical entering class contains 6. Our students are selected for admission on the basis of intellectual talent, a strong interest in linguistics, and a potential to become outstanding colleagues dedicated to linguistic study and research. Their academic and geographical backgrounds are very diverse; about one-third are citizens of countries other than the US.
See the titles of dissertations completed by our students in recent years for the range of interests represented in the program.
The Graduate Group in Linguistics offers programs of study leading to the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. Please see the linked pages for specific regulations. In addition, our procedures page gives important details about policies and requirements.
All applicants must take the Graduate Record Examination General Test. Students whose first language is not English must also take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The results should be forwarded to the same address. In order to be considered for fellowship and scholarship awards, applications must be received by December 15th for a student wishing to enter the program the following September. However, decisions for admission are made without regard to the applicant's financial standing or need for support. For more information, see our applications page.
The University of Pennsylvania values diversity and seeks talented students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds. The University of Pennsylvania does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, or status as a Vietnam era veteran or disabled veteran in the administration of educational policies, programs or activities, admissions policies, scholarship and loan awards, athletic or other University-administered programs or employment. Questions or complaints regarding this policy should be directed to the Executive Director, Office of Affirmative Action, 1133 Blockley Hall, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6021; or telephone 215-898-6993 (voice) or 215-898-7803 (TDD).
Last Modified: 26 Sep 2011