Master’s Degree

We regret to announce that the Graduate Group in Linguistics cannot accept applications for the graduate program during the 2020-21 admissions cycle. The School of Arts and Sciences has made the difficult decision to focus resources on supporting current students during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We must therefore pause bringing new students into the program for one year, with the hopes of welcoming a new cohort of graduate students in the fall of 2022. Even for MA students who provide their own funding, disruptions to the curriculum will make it impossible for us to offer the necessary courses in 2021-22.

The Master's degree provides a grounding in the core areas of linguistic theory, supplemented by courses chosen according to the student's specific interests. The Graduate Group in Linguistics does not provide fellowships for pursuit of a master's degree, so students must bring funding from another source. Applications are considered only from applicants who demonstrate the appropriate academic background as well as interests that match the research pursued at Penn, which can be determined by investigating the current work of the faculty and students. Please consult with the graduate chair before submitting an MA application to ensure that you fit these requirements.

The requirements for the M.A. degree are the following; they cannot be completed in less than three semesters of residence.

  1. Satisfactory completion of eleven approved semester courses, including one year each of phonology (Ling 530-531) and syntax (Ling 550-551). All courses must be at the 400 level or above.
  2. A thesis written under the supervision of a faculty committee. The thesis can be based on previous coursework. The committee consists of at least two faculty members, the adviser and a reader, who both must also be members of the graduate group.
  3. An oral examination based on the thesis. This consists of a private meeting with the committee, during which the student answers questions on the content of the thesis.

The written thesis on which the exam is based should be provided to the committee members in time for them to read it carefully before the exam; normally this will be at least a week, but the committee should be consulted for more specific deadlines.

Students who are already in the Ph.D. program at Penn have the option of receiving an M.A. on the way to the final degree, or if leaving the program without receiving a Ph.D. The requirements for this M.A. are the same as those outlined above.


Tuition and Fees

The current tuition rates and fees for students in either the PhD or MA program are available from the graduate division



Undergraduates who submatriculate are subject to the same requirements for the M.A. as are regular graduate students. A student interested in this program should meet with the undergraduate chair and then the graduate chair to discuss the requirements and the curriculum. Students must submit an on-line application no later than the spring semester of the junior year; the December deadline for graduate applications is not relevant in this case. Submatriculants do not need to include GRE or TOEFL scores; contact Amy Forsyth for specific instructions before making the application.

Be aware that, due to University rules, a student cannot earn graduate credit until he or she is actually enrolled in a graduate program. Any graduate-level course taken before that time can be counted toward an undergraduate degree, but not toward a graduate degree. For this reason, students intending to submatriculate should complete an application before the end of the first semester in which they take a graduate course.