Ph.D. Program Requirements

The following guidelines are active from 2018. If you were admitted before 2018, please refer to the requirements on this page.

Program Regulations

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


Course Requirements – Linguistics Stream

Programs are individually planned at the time of registration; all programs must be approved by the Graduate Advisor. This section outlines the core course requirements for the Ph.D.

Breadth requirement: The Linguistics stream of the Ph.D. program minimally requires the completion of three of the following courses or equivalents:

  • LING 508 (3) Phonetic Theory and Analysis
  • LING 510 (3) Phonological Theory and Analysis
  • LING 520 (3) Syntactic Theory and Analysis
  • LING 525 (3) Semantic Theory and Analysis

Depth requirement: The Linguistics stream of the Ph.D. program minimally requires the completion of five of the following courses or equivalents, including at least 1 section of LING 530. (Not every course may be offered in every academic year, so advance planning is recommended.)

  • LING 503 (3) Topics in Language Acquisition
  • LING 505A (3) Issues in Morphological Theory and Analysis
  • LING 511 (3) Topics in Phonology
  • LING 513 (3) Topics in Phonetics
  • LING 521 (3) Topics in Syntax
  • LING 527 (3) Topics in Semantics
  • LING 530 (3) Linguistic Problems in a Special Area; more than one section of LING 530 can be counted towards this requirement, with each 3-credit section counting as 1 course
  • LING 532 (3) Field Methods in Linguistics II

Methods requirement: The Linguistics stream of the Ph.D. program minimally requires the completion of nine credits of methods courses. These nine credits must include:

  • LING 518 (3) Advanced Research Seminar (this course requirement is currently under revision)
  • LING 531 (3) Field Methods in Linguistics I

The final 3 credits may be satisfied by an additional Field Methods course (LING 532) or by an appropriate course in a different department (statistics, logic, etc.). Selection of courses to satisfy the methods requirement must be explicitly approved by a student’s supervisory committee.

Sample course sequences

Three sample course sequences follow:

Term 1: Breadth: LING 510, LING 520; Depth: LING 503
Term 2: Breadth: LING 508, LING 525; Depth: LING 511
Term 3: Depth: LING 513; Methods: LING 518, LING 531
Term 4: Depth: LING 530; Depth/Methods: LING 532

Term 1: Breadth: LING 510, LING 520; Depth: LING 530
Term 2: Breadth: LING 525; Depth: LING 505A, LING 521
Term 3: Depth LING 527; Methods: LING 518, LING 531
Term 4: Depth/Methods LING 532

Term 1: Breadth: LING 510; Depth: LING 503; Methods: 3 credits in statistics
Term 2: Breadth: LING 508, LING 525; Depth: LING 511
Term 3: Depth LING 513; Methods: LING 518, LING 531
Term 4: Depth LING 530; LING 530

First-year graduate students who do not have sufficient background for the first-year graduate courses would be expected to take appropriate undergraduate courses (e.g. LING 313, LING 410, LING 420, LING 425) prior to registration in the graduate courses.


Course Requirements – Cognitive Systems (COGS) Stream

The Cognitive Systems stream of the Ph.D. program affords students the opportunity to work collaboratively across more than one discipline. Therefore, program planning is carried out in consultation with the Graduate Advisor and the prospective research faculty member(s) who will (co-)supervise the student prior to registration in the Program. This section outlines the core course requirements for the Ph.D.

Breadth requirement: The COGS stream of the Ph.D. program minimally requires the completion of three of the following courses or equivalents:

  • LING 508 (3) Phonetic Theory and Analysis
  • LING 510 (3) Phonological Theory and Analysis
  • LING 520 (3) Syntactic Theory and Analysis
  • LING 525 (3) Semantic Theory and Analysis

Depth requirement: The COGS stream of the Ph.D. program minimally requires the completion of three of the following courses or equivalents, including at least 1 section of LING 530. (Not every course may be offered in every academic year, so advance planning is recommended.)

  • LING 503 (3) Topics in Language Acquisition
  • LING 505A (3) Issues in Morphological Theory and Analysis
  • LING 511 (3) Topics in Phonology
  • LING 513 (3) Topics in Phonetics
  • LING 521 (3) Topics in Syntax
  • LING 527 (3) Topics in Semantics
  • LING 530 (3) Linguistic Problems in a Special Area; more than one section of LING 530 can be counted towards this requirement, with each 3-credit section counting as 1 course
  • LING 532 (3) Field Methods in Linguistics II

Methods requirement: The COGS stream of the Ph.D. program minimally requires the completion of nine credits of methods courses. These nine credits must include:

  • LING 518 (3) Advanced Research Seminar (this course requirement is currently under revision)
  • LING 531 (3) Field Methods in Linguistics I

The final 3 credits may be satisfied by an additional Field Methods course (LING 532) or by an appropriate course in a different department (statistics, logic, etc.). Selection of courses to satisfy the methods requirement must be explicitly approved by a student’s supervisory committee.


Language Requirement

  • Ph.D. students must have a sound knowledge of one language other than English.
  • Procedures for selection of languages and completion of the requirement are as outlined in the M.A. Program Requirements.
  • The language requirement must be completed by the time of the submission of the dissertation prospectus.

Qualifying Papers

  • Each Ph.D. student is required to submit two Qualifying Papers, in areas to be established in consultation with and subject to approval by the supervisory committee. Balancing a student’s research interests with attention to research breadth should be a major goal in choosing topics. Each Qualifying Paper is a written research paper, developed under the guidance of a faculty member or members, presented orally to the Department, and passed before a faculty committee.

  • The paper must make a substantive original contribution to current work in the area and exhibit clarity in form of presentation. The desired scale is that of a paper in a conference proceedings, with content considered to be at the level of a one-term second year graduate seminar paper.

  • As part of the Qualifying Paper process, and before beginning work on the paper, a student must have a short proposal for each paper approved by the supervisory committee. The proposal must establish the specific area and problem(s) to be addressed and cite a few key references from the literature which will be surveyed. The committee will normally respond to the proposal within 2 weeks of its submission. The Qualifying Paper proposal should follow the formatting guidelines of an abstract for the Annual Conference of the Canadian Linguistic Association (see the CLA website for details), with the following addition: Without exceeding the one-page length limit, the proposal should include a short budget (if there will be costs associated with completing the Qualifying Paper), budget justification and funding source (faculty member’s grant, outside grant, private funds, etc.). Also note that the content for a QP proposal will normally be more speculative than a conference abstract. Once approved, the Qualifying Paper proposal is filed in the Department Reading Room and circulated electronically to the Department.

  • NOTE: The specific requirements for Qualifying Papers have recently been revised. We’ll be posting the new guidelines soon. In the meantime, please see the following links for basic information:
  • Timelines: https://blogs.ubc.ca/linggrads/2016/10/12/qp-timelines/

  • Expectations and best practices: https://blogs.ubc.ca/linggrads/2016/10/12/qp-expectations-and-best-practices/


Continuous enrolment

Until being admitted to candidacy, all Ph.D. students must enrol in a graduate course other than thesis credit during both terms of the winter semester.


Supervision

A Research Supervisor is appointed for a student before the beginning of their first year in the program.

The Graduate Advisor and the Research Supervisor, in consultation with the incoming student, will together establish a three-member Temporary Supervisory Committee no later than the end of the first week of the first term.

Prior to registration for the second year, the Temporary Supervisory Committee shall be dissolved and a new Supervisory Committee shall be established to oversee the qualifying paper process. A Ph.D. Qualifying Paper Supervisory Committee consists minimally of three members, one of whom must act as chair. All members are normally drawn from the Department of Linguistics. Establishing a Qualifying Paper committee is the responsibility of the Graduate Advisor, in consultation with both students and faculty members. A student may submit a request for a specific committee membership, but the ultimate decision on committee membership rests with the Department.

Upon completion of the second Qualifying Paper, students should establish a new Supervisory Committee as soon as possible to oversee the prospectus and dissertation. The Supervisory Committee consists minimally of the Research Supervisor and two additional members. Establishing a Research Supervisor is the joint responsibility of the student and the Graduate Advisor. Normally the members of the supervisory committee are from the Department of Linguistics; if the student’s committee includes members from outside the Department of Linguistics, a majority must be departmental members.

Both new and continuing Ph.D. 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 UBC).

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: Qualifying Papers and Ph.D. 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 by the Student Information System and are used to determine a student’s ultimate eligibility for graduation.


Annual Evaluation

The faculty will meet in April or May each year to discuss the progress of each student in the Ph.D. program. The student’s supervisor will inform him/her of the results of the evaluation. If a student is not making satisfactory progress, he/she will either be required to withdraw from the program immediately or will be placed on probation and told what conditions must be fulfilled to obtain a satisfactory standing. If a student on probation has not fulfilled these conditions by the end of the following semester, he/she will then normally be required to withdraw from the program.


Dissertation

  • The dissertation marks the culmination of the Ph.D. program. A dissertation should be an original and independent research project which makes some contribution to knowledge in the special area elected by the student.
  • By the end of a student’s third year, the student must submit to the Graduate Advisor a dissertation prospectus, along with the appropriate approval form signed by the members of the dissertation committee, and circulate the prospectus electronically to the Department. The content of a dissertation prospectus should be along the lines of an NSERC Discovery Grant or a SSHRC Insight Grant; it should have the following components:
    • summary (1 page maximum)
    • detailed description (6 pages maximum)
    • bibliography
    • budget (if there will be costs associated with completing the dissertation research)
    • budget justification (as appropriate)
  • Dissertations should be prepared in accordance with the thesis formatting regulations required by G+PS. Dissertations 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.
  • Students nearing the final stages of thesis writing should familiarize themselves with the timeline to the oral dissertation defense.
  • External Examiner: The completed dissertation will be read by a specialist from outside the University, arranged by the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at least three months before the candidate expects to take the final oral examination. The student’s research supervisor and the Graduate Advisor will forward a list of names of specialists who might serve as External Examiner using this form.
  • During the weeks prior to the oral examination, students are strongly encouraged to give a practice oral presentation, ideally during a departmental research seminar slot. Practice orals should follow the G+PS format, allowing 30 minutes for a presentation, and a longer period for questions. While examining committee members are not prohibited from attending, practice orals should not be viewed as an opportunity to “prep” students for specific questions that students will be asked by committee members at the official defence.
  • When the dissertation has been approved for submission to the External Examiner, the candidate will take the final oral defence. This is a formal, public examination, chaired by an appointee of the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, and attended by the members of the examining committee and other interested persons.
  • The candidate submits an electronic copy of the final dissertation to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. The electronic copy will be deposited in the cIRcle on-line repository, and linked from the department website.
  • The final oral may be held at any time of the year (except from mid-December to mid-January) provided that the examining committee can be assembled.

Transfer between Linguistics and Cognitive Systems streams

A transfer between the Linguistics stream and the Cognitive Systems stream of the Ph.D. in Linguistics will be permitted with an appropriate academic justification. A student wishing to request such a transfer should do the following:

  1. submit an academic justification for the proposed transfer to his/her supervisory committee;
  2. submit the academic justification to the Graduate Advisor, along with a memo of support from the supervisor.

Considerations such as the following will be considered when the Department is assessing a request for transfer: Will the transfer result in more appropriate course requirements? Will the transfer reduce the time to candidacy? Will the transfer help the student pursue dissertation research?

Transfers will be accepted only before a student is admitted to candidacy.

Once processed by the Graduate Advisor, the request for a transfer will be submitted for approval to the Department.