M.A. Program Requirements

Program Regulations

For information concerning program regulations, including information about full-time and part-time status, residence requirements, time limits, and so on, students are referred to the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FoGS) website and the UBC Calendar.


Master of Arts: Thesis and non-thesis options

Normally, students enroll for an M.A. with thesis, but exceptionally, the Department can grant an M.A. without thesis. Students interested in linguistic research are strongly encouraged to enroll in the program for an M.A. with thesis.

  • Tentative selection of the thesis or non-thesis option is made at initial enrollment; final selection must be made before April 30 of the first year of enrollment. If a student wishes to select the non-thesis option, a request must be made in writing.
  • The program of M.A. with thesis requires a minimum of thirty (30) credits of course work. Of the thirty, a minimum of eighteen (18) credits must be at the 500 level and six (6) must be for the thesis.
  • The program of M.A. without thesis requires a minimum of thirty (30) credits of course work. Of the thirty, a minimum of twenty-four (24) credits must be at the 500 level. In addition to the 30 credits, a major essay and a comprehensive examination are required. (See Comprehensive examination for M.A. without thesis below.)

Course Requirements

Programs are individually planned at the time of registration; all programs must be approved by the Graduate Advisor. This section outlines the course requirements for both the M.A. with thesis and the M.A. without thesis. ***Note: These are the “old” requirements; as of Fall 2016, there is a new set of course requirements. We’ll be updating this content shortly.***

  • Credit requirement: Both M.A. programs require a minimum of thirty (30) credits of work. Students who have to make up deficiencies (e.g. LING 300, LING 311, LING 316, LING 327) will be required to take additional courses; courses taken to make up deficiencies do not count toward the thirty credits. Within the thesis program, at least eighteen (18) credits of courses must be at the 500 level, and six (6) credits should be taken for the thesis. Within the non-thesis program, twenty-four (24) credits must be in 500 level courses.
  • Core course requirement: Both M.A. programs minimally require the following courses or equivalents:
    • LING 508: Phonetic Theory and Analysis (3 credits)
    • LING 510: Phonological Theory and Analysis (3 credits)
    • LING 518: Advanced Research Seminar (3 credits)
    • LING 520: Syntactic Theory and Analysis (3 credits)
    • LING 525: Semantic Theory and Analysis (3 credits)
    • LING 531: Field Methods in Linguistics I (3 credits) (“LING 431: Field Methods: Phonology” may replace LING 531)
  • Advanced seminar requirement for M.A. with thesis: The Department offers 2-section sequences of the seminar level course, LING 530: Linguistic Problems in a Special Area. The M.A. with thesis minimally requires the completion of one such sequence, that is, two (3-credit) sections of LING 530. In addition, any student who has completed the core course requirements and has not yet had their M.A. thesis prospectus approved must enrol in a section of LING 530.
  • Electives: The required courses for the M.A. with thesis constitute 24 of the 30 credits required for the M.A. In addition, students in a thesis program normally take LING 549 (Master’s Thesis) for 6 credits. The required courses for the M.A. without thesis constitute 15 credits, with 15 credits of electives. Elective credits are subject to the following restrictions: a maximum of 6 credits in related fields outside the department; a maximum of 6 credits of LING 546 (Directed Reading in Topics Related to Linguistics). Any remaining credits must be chosen from Linguistics courses. These restrictions do not apply to any courses taken beyond the minimum 30 required credits. Students who are exempted from some of the core courses are still required to take the full 30 credit minimum; they can choose their additional courses subject to the conditions above.

Language Requirement

  • M.A. students must have a sound knowledge of one language other than English. The language to fulfill this requirement is expected to be chosen on the basis of its relevance for the student’s research program, in consultation with the student’s supervisory committee. Such relevance could be defined by a variety of factors such as the following:
    • The language is the object of the student’s research, or is closely related to the language of research; for example, where a student’s research focusses on Yoruba, knowledge of Yoruba could fulfill the requirement, or where the student’s research is on St’at’imcets, knowledge of Halkomelem could fulfill the requirement.
    • There is a significant and relevant linguistic literature in the language; for example, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Russian could fulfill the requirement.
    • The language serves as a medium for conducting linguistic research relevant to the student’s program of research; for example, Hausa could fulfill the language requirement for a student conducting research on a language of northern Nigeria.
  • Approval of the choice of language is to be made by the student’s supervisory committee.
  • Students may fulfill the language requirement in various ways:
    • Certain departments at UBC, for example French and German, periodically schedule reading knowledge examinations. Evaluation of a student’s language competence is based on the translation of a text (approximately 1000 words) relating to the student’s field of study. Minimally, a second class standing (B- or better) in such an exam must be obtained in order to satisfy the Foreign Language Requirement. For further information on such examinations, contact the appropriate departments.
    • Certain students may speak a language natively and such native proficiency can be accepted by the supervisory committee.
    • A student may have completed a program of post-secondary language study (a minimum of 12 credits or equivalent). For example, such language study may have been as a major or a minor in a language as part of an undergraduate degree, or such language study could be part of a sequence such as FNLG 100 & FNLG 200 First Nations Language. Minimally, a second class standing (B- or better) in such courses must be obtained in order to satisfy the Foreign Language Requirement.
    • For other languages, it may be necessary to establish an ad hoc mechanism for conducting an evaluation of the student’s knowledge. In such cases, the student should make a written request to their supervisory committee, including a proposal for how such an examination can take place, and including a proposal for a qualified examiner. Students considering this option should be aware that the requirements (including the required level of competence in the language and how to demonstrate it) may vary extensively from case to case, depending on the norms of the language community involved.
  • The language requirement must be met by the time of the submission of the thesis prospectus.

Supervision

  • A Temporary Supervisory Committee is established for all incoming M.A. students no later than August 15. The Temporary Supervisory Committee consists of three members: (i) the Graduate Admissions Officer, (ii) the First Year Graduate Advisor, (iii) the Temporary Advisor (appointed by the Department).
  • Prior to registration for the second year, the Temporary Supervisory Committee shall be dissolved and a new Supervisory Committee shall be established. An M.A. Supervisory Committee consists minimally of the Research Supervisor and two additional members. Normally the members of the supervisory committee are from the Department of Linguistics; if the students committee includes members from outside the Department of Linguistics, a majority must be departmental members.
  • Establishing a Research Supervisor is the joint responsibility of the student and the Graduate Advisor.
  • Both new and continuing M.A. students will have a meeting with their Supervisory Committee during the last week of August or in early September. At this meeting students can discuss their course work and other aspects of their program. Incoming students are requested to bring with them copies of the calendars of course offerings from the institutions they previously attended (other than U.B.C.).
  • At the end of April or the beginning of May, all students will meet with their Supervisory Committee to discuss the year’s progress and to plan further work.
  • Any changes in a graduate student’s program must be approved by the Supervisory Committee.
  • Proposal Approval: Generals Papers and PhD Prospectus – see Forms.
  • The Graduate Advisor, in advising students, makes every effort to ensure that they have satisfied all the requirements for the degree — language requirements, course work, etc. However, it is ultimately every student’s responsibility to ensure that at the time he/she applies for the degree he/she has met all the requirements. Separate records of a student’s program and progress are kept by the Faculty of Graduate Studies; these records are obtained from information provided by the Graduate Advisor and are used to determine a student’s ultimate eligibility for graduation.

M.A. Thesis

  • General summary: Most students choose to write a thesis. An acceptable thesis may minimally be a short paper (20-30 pages) presenting some original research, the results presented in a form suitable to be submitted to a journal. Alternatively, the thesis may be a longer but less original essay; this should be 50-80 pages long, with a maximum of 100 pages. The topics and supervisor should be chosen as soon as the student has decided upon his/her area of specialization, no later than registration week of the second year of the program. The student must submit a prospectus no later than October 30 of the second year of the M.A. program. The content of a thesis prospectus should be along the lines of an NSERC Discovery Grant or a SSHRC Standard Research grant; it should have the following components: (i) summary (1⁄2 page maximum), (ii) detailed description (3 pages maximum), (iii) bibliography, (iv) budget (if there will be costs associated with completing the thesis research), (v) budget justification (as appropriate). The prospectus is approved by the supervisory committee. Once approved, the prospectus is filed in the Department Reading Room and circulated electronically to the Department. The completed thesis must be read and approved by the supervisory committee, which will conduct an oral examination on the completed thesis. Students will be encouraged to present a version of their paper at a departmental colloquium or at a regional, national, or international meeting.
  • Supervision: As soon as the student’s supervisory committee is formed, the student and his/her committee will meet to arrange procedures for organizing the thesis and to establish procedures the committee will follow in reading and approving the thesis. Preliminary drafts, either of individual chapters or of the whole thesis, should be submitted as the student proceeds. The thesis committee should assess the thesis at two stages — when the topic is proposed, and before the thesis reaches final typing. With respect to criticism and subsequent revisions, it is up to the student and the supervisor to check the procedures and deadlines of both the department and the university.
  • Thesis preparation: Theses should be prepared in accordance with the thesis formatting regulations available on the Faculty of Graduate Studies website. Typescripts which do not meet the standards specified may be rejected. Documentation should follow the style guide of The Canadian Journal of Linguistics, Language or the American Psychological Association.
  • Number of copies: The candidate should prepare a minimum of five copies of the thesis: one for himself/herself, one for the supervisor, one for delivery to the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and two to be retained by the Linguistics Department (one for filing and one for the Reading Room). Normally a student will also provide a copy to each member of his/her supervisory committee.
  • Oral Examination: A final oral on the thesis may be held at any time of the year except July and August, provided the supervisory committee can be assembled. The final oral examination will not be held until the student has fulfilled all the other requirements for the degree.
  • Distance exemption: A student residing more than 500 miles from the university when he/she submits his/her thesis may request exemption from the oral. Where substantial revisions to the thesis are not required, such a request may be granted at the discretion of both the examining committee and the Graduate Advisor.

Graduating Essay for M.A. without thesis

  • Students who choose the non-thesis option are required to submit a Graduating Essay. A Graduating Essay differs from a thesis both in the scope and in the degree of originality expected. A typical Graduating Essay is a minimum of 30 pages in length. The Essay should go beyond the formal course work of the program but, where appropriate, may originate in formal courses. The Essay is not required to contain original results, but should be a finished product demonstrating reasonable mastery and sophistication in its area.
  • The completed and approved Essay should be deposited in the Departmental office, and the Faculty of Graduate Studies will be so advised.
  • There will be a final oral examination covering the essay and related material, conducted by a committee of two including the student’s supervisor.

Comprehensive Examination for M.A. without thesis

  • All students registered for an M.A. without thesis will take an M.A. Comprehensive Examination at the end of their first year in the program to test their general-theoretical competence in linguistics. Students can only postpone the Comprehensive Examination under exceptional circumstances and with the permission of the Graduate Advisor. In such cases, students need to submit a written petition to the Head. For part-time students, the M.A. Comprehensive Examination will be taken at the normally scheduled time in the year in which they complete the relevant course work. The usual format of the Comprehensive Examination will be a 3-hour written examination and a take-home problem to be completed over a weekend. The written examination will cover Linguistics more broadly than the core courses. The format of the M.A. Comprehensive Examination will be two 2-hour written examinations (taken within a one week period), in phonology and syntax. These will be followed by a take-home problem. The take-home problem is taken from either of the above areas, and may include material from a related field such as sociolinguistics, etc. Students may select the area of the take-home problem but must do so by April 1.
  • This examination will be administered in the second half of May on dates to be announced.
  • The Examinations are set and marked by a committee chosen by the Department, which will not necessarily be the members of the student’s committee.
  • Copies of previous Examinations or sample questions are available in the Departmental Office.
  • Examination results will be announced within 3 weeks of its administration. The M.A. Comprehensive Exam will be marked pass or fail; a student who fails may retake the Exam any time within the following four month period. A student who fails a single component of the exam may rewrite only that component, but a student who fails more than one component must rewrite the entire exam. A student who fails a second time will be required to withdraw from the program.

Sample Programs

Three typical core programs of study are given below. Note that they are intended for guidance only; actual programs could vary according to individual students’ needs, backgrounds, and interests. The first two sample programs would be appropriate for a student admitted with full standing; the third sample would be appropriate for a student who had not taken semantics or phonetics as an undergraduate. Note also that students may take electives from outside linguistics.

Student #1: particular interest in syntax and on the syntactic motivation for phonological phrasing

YEAR ONE

  • First Term
    LING 510: Phonological Theory and Analysis
    LING 520: Syntactic Theory and Analysis
    LING 531: Field Methods in Linguistics I
  • Second Term
    LING 508 Phonetic Theory and Analysis
    LING 525: Semantic Theory and Analysis

YEAR TWO

  • First Term
    LING 502: Formal Foundations of Syntax and Semantics
    LING 507: Formal Foundations of Phonetics and Phonology (beyond minimum requirements)
    LING 518: Advanced Research Seminar
  • Second Term
    LING 522: Topics in Syntax and Semantics
    LING 549: Master’s Thesis

Student #2: particular interest in the phonetics and phonology of St’at’imcets

YEAR ONE

  • First Term
    LING 510: Phonological Theory and Analysis
    LING 520: Syntactic Theory and Analysis
    LING 531: Field Methods in Linguistics I
  • Second Term
    LING 508 Phonetic Theory and Analysis
    LING 525: Semantic Theory and Analysis

YEAR TWO

  • First Term
    LING 507: Formal Foundations of Phonetics and Phonology
    LING 518: Advanced Research Seminar
    One additional course (e.g. a course towards the language requirement)
  • Second Term
    LING 512: Topics in Phonetics and Phonology
    LING 549: Master’s Thesis

Student #3: particular interest in syntax; no undergraduate phonetics or semantics

YEAR ONE

  • First Term
    LING 316: Introduction to Phonetics and Speech Science (not counted towards 30 credit requirement)
    LING 327: Introduction to Semantics (not counted towards 30 credit requirement)
    LING 510: Phonological Theory and Analysis
    LING 520: Syntactic Theory and Analysis
  • Second Term
    LING 508 Phonetic Theory and Analysis
    LING 525: Semantic Theory and Analysis

YEAR TWO

  • First Term
    LING 502: Formal Foundations of Syntax and Semantics
    LING 518: Advanced Research Seminar
    LING 531: Field Methods in Linguistics I
  • Second Term
    LING 522: Topics in Syntax and Semantics
    LING 549: Master’s Thesis