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Doctoral Program

Flowering branch in front of Stanford arch

The Ph.D. program emphasizes rigorous theoretical work that has at its base a firm empirical foundation in language data.  Students are provided with a broad-based background in linguistics, teaching experience in the classroom and other forums, and opportunities for original and high-quality research.  Our Ph.D. students write dissertations on a wide range of topics spanning and bridging many subareas of the field.  See our Ph.D. Alumni page for dissertation titles and job placement information.

Overview of the Program

Through the completion of advanced coursework and strong methodological and analytical training, the Ph.D. program prepares students to make original contributions to knowledge in linguistics, to articulate the results of their work, and to demonstrate its significance to linguistics and related fields.  At every stage in the program, students are encouraged to present and publish their research and to develop active professional profiles.

Students devote the first year to coursework in core areas of linguistics.  The specific set of courses is chosen by each student in consultation with faculty advisors, allowing students to build the foundation that best suits their interests and goals.  Students may also take courses in other departments where appropriate.  During their first quarter, all students also attend a seminar introducing the research of faculty in the department.  In their second quarter, all students participate in small research groups or in one-on-one apprenticeships, allowing them to work individually and cooperatively with faculty of their own choosing.  In their third quarter, students begin work on the first of two qualifying research papers.

During the second and third years, the balance shifts from coursework to the further development of research skills.  Students complete two qualifying research papers during this time.

Once these papers are complete, each student picks a principal advisor and committee for the dissertation.  The fourth and fifth years of graduate study are devoted to the student’s dissertation work and advanced research.

As they move through the Ph.D. program, students also gain teaching experience by serving as teaching assistants in their second, third, and fourth year of graduate study. They also have access to the many programs provided by Stanford's Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, including the varied resources of the Teaching Commons


Outside the classroom, there are many opportunities, both formal and informal, for the discussion of linguistic issues and ongoing research, including colloquia, workshops, and reading groups.

Partnership Opportunities

Although not part of the formal doctoral program, there are numerous opportunities for research and development work at the Center for the Study of Language and Information and  off-campus at local companies.