Graduate Program

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. 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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Program Overview

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 the formal generative tradition, but we encourage the cross-fertilization that results from the confrontation of empirical and theoretical perspectives on language structure. By our close collaboration with other programs (such as computer science and psychology) we promote an awareness of the broad view of language that interdisciplinary study induces. In addition to broad training, 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 Faculty

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 4 to 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.

Degree Requirements

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.


The academic year begins in the fall semester (usually the end of August). Applications must be received by December 1st the previous year. Decisions for admission are made without regard to the applicant's financial standing or need for support. For detailed information, see our Graduate Program Application page


The University of Pennsylvania values an inclusive and diverse learning community and seeks talented students, faculty, and staff from a variety of backgrounds and with a wide range of experiences. The University of Pennsylvania does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, citizenship status, age, disability, veteran status or any other legally protected class status in the administration of its admissions, financial aid, educational or athletic programs, or other University-administered programs or in its employment practices. Questions or complaints regarding this policy should be directed to the Executive Director of the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs, Franklin Building, 3451 Walnut Street, Suite 421, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6106; or (215) 898-6993.