Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics (PhD)

Canadian Immigration Updates

Applicants to master’s and doctoral degrees are not affected by the recently announced cap on study permits. Review more details

Overview

Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguists are interested in questions such as the following:

  • What are the structural properties of languages, at the level of sounds, words, sentences, and meaning?
  • To what extent are the languages of the world similar or different?
  • How is language acquired, by children and in adulthood?
  • How is it processed in the mind/brain?
  • How do people produce and perceive speech?
  • How do languages change over time?

Linguistics is a highly interdisciplinary field which combines research methods from the humanities and the social, natural, and mathematical sciences.

Research in the Department covers a broad range of topics, with substantial coverage of syntax, semantics, morphology, phonetics, phonology, and pragmatics. We approach these topics from several different research traditions and backgrounds, with particular strengths in formal-theoretical linguistics, experimental and field linguistics, acquisition, and computational approaches to the study of communicative behaviour. These research areas intersect and overlap considerably, and faculty and students are often simultaneously involved in more than one area. This is part of the attention paid to interfaces between traditional subfields of linguistics and methodological traditions (e.g., laboratory phonology, gesture and speech and learning), one of the great strengths of the Department.

The Department also has a strong commitment to the study of Languages of the Americas, with particular focus on First Nations Languages of Canada, in the areas of documentation and theoretical research, something for which it is well known. Research is not restricted to Languages of the Americas, however; the department also has a long history of work on African languages and there is ongoing research on languages within the Indo-European, Japonic, Sino-Tibetan, and Uralic families as well as Korean.

What makes the program unique?

Our linguists focus on data in all its forms – not just fieldwork, but also high-quality research in labs with cutting-edge resources and tools, such as those found and developed in the Communication Dynamics Lab, the Interdisciplinary Speech Research Lab, the Language and Learning Lab, the Speech In Context Lab, and the Phonological CorpusTools working group.

Students in the Department of Linguistics are given the opportunity to head out into the field and get their hands dirty. Many of the members of our department, from undergrads and grad students to post-docs and faculty members, work directly with language consultants to describe, analyze and revitalize the languages of the world.

Linguists in the department have active working relationships with scholars from many different disciplines and from across the UBC campus, across the country, and across the world.

Our students are actively engaged in research from the moment they enter the department, and they have an excellent track record of publishing and presenting their work at national and international conferences.

 
 

Program Enquiries

Still have questions after reviewing this page thoroughly?
Contact the program

Admission Information & Requirements

1) Check Eligibility

Minimum Academic Requirements

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:

Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.

English Language Test

Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.

Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based

Overall score requirement: 90

Reading

22

Writing

21

Speaking

21

Listening

22

IELTS: International English Language Testing System

Overall score requirement: 6.5

Reading

6.0

Writing

6.0

Speaking

6.0

Listening

6.0

Other Test Scores

Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:

The GRE is optional.

2) Meet Deadlines

Application open dates and deadlines for an upcoming intake have not yet been configured in the admissions system. Please check back later.

3) Prepare Application

Transcripts

All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.

Letters of Reference

A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.

Statement of Interest

Many programs require a statement of interest, sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.

Supervision

Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their thesis supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding thesis supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics (PhD)
Applicants should browse faculty profiles and indicate in their application who they are interested in working with. No commitment from a supervisor prior to applying is necessary, but contacting faculty members is encouraged.

Citizenship Verification

Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.

4) Apply Online

All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.

Tuition & Financial Support

Tuition

FeesCanadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / DiplomatInternational
Application Fee$114.00$168.25
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,838.57$3,230.06
Tuition per year
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
$5,515.71$9,690.18
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$1,116.60 (approx.)
Costs of livingEstimate your costs of living with our interactive tool in order to start developing a financial plan for your graduate studies.
* Regular, full-time tuition. For on-leave, extension, continuing or part time (if applicable) fees see UBC Calendar.
All fees for the year are subject to adjustment and UBC reserves the right to change any fees without notice at any time, including tuition and student fees. Tuition fees are reviewed annually by the UBC Board of Governors. In recent years, tuition increases have been 2% for continuing domestic students and between 2% and 5% for continuing international students. New students may see higher increases in tuition. Admitted students who defer their admission are subject to the potentially higher tuition fees for incoming students effective at the later program start date. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.

Financial Support

Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.

Program Funding Packages

The Department of Linguistics guarantees funding of $25,500 plus the cost of tuition per annum for the first two years of the MA program and the first five years of the Ph.D. program to all students accepted to our graduate programs. 

Please note that as a condition for receiving this funding you will be expected to apply for any scholarships you are eligible for, either UBC-internally or from your home country.

Funding packages are made up of scholarships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships depending on individual students, year of study, and the financial resources of the department. 

Average Funding
Based on the criteria outlined below, 18 students within this program were included in this study because they received funding through UBC in the form of teaching, research, academic assistantships or internal or external awards averaging $38,078.
  • 15 students received Teaching Assistantships. Average TA funding based on 15 students was $11,724.
  • 10 students received Research Assistantships. Average RA funding based on 10 students was $14,683.
  • 4 students received Academic Assistantships. Average AA funding based on 4 students was $6,612.
  • 18 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 18 students was $14,833.
  • 3 students received external awards. Average external award funding based on 3 students was $20,333.

Study Period: Sep 2022 to Aug 2023 - average funding for full-time PhD students enrolled in three terms per academic year in this program across years 1-4, the period covered by UBC's Minimum Funding Guarantee. Averages might mask variability in sources and amounts of funding received by individual students. Beyond year 4, funding packages become even more individualized.
Review methodology
Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)

All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA)

Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their supervision. The duties constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is considered a form of fellowship for a period of graduate study and is therefore not covered by a collective agreement. Stipends vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA)

Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union.

Graduate Academic Assistantships (GAA)

Academic Assistantships are employment opportunities to perform work that is relevant to the university or to an individual faculty member, but not to support the student’s graduate research and thesis. Wages are considered regular earnings and when paid monthly, include vacation pay.

Financial aid (need-based funding)

Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans.

All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.

Foreign government scholarships

Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.

Working while studying

The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.

International students enrolled as full-time students with a valid study permit can work on campus for unlimited hours and work off-campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

A good starting point to explore student jobs is the UBC Work Learn program or a Co-Op placement.

Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals

Students with taxable income in Canada may be able to claim federal or provincial tax credits.

Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.

Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.

Cost Estimator

Applicants have access to the cost estimator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.

Career Outcomes

31 students graduated between 2005 and 2013: 3 graduates are seeking employment; for 1 we have no data (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016). For the remaining 27 graduates:


RI (Research-Intensive) Faculty: typically tenure-track faculty positions (equivalent of the North American Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor positions) in PhD-granting institutions
TI (Teaching-Intensive) Faculty: typically full-time faculty positions in colleges or in institutions not granting PhDs, and teaching faculty at PhD-granting institutions
Term Faculty: faculty in term appointments (e.g. sessional lecturers, visiting assistant professors, etc.)
Sample Employers in Higher Education
University of British Columbia (3)
University of Victoria (2)
Macquarie University
Srinakharinwirot University
University of Montana
University of Ghana
University of Ottawa
Shizuoka University
Qatar University
City University of Hong Kong
Sample Employers Outside Higher Education
ZAS, Berlin
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher Education
Shiatsu Therapist
Founder, CEO
Researcher
ESL Instructor
PhD Career Outcome Survey
You may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
Disclaimer
These data represent historical employment information and do not guarantee future employment prospects for graduates of this program. They are for informational purposes only. Data were collected through either alumni surveys or internet research.
Career Options

UBC’s Department of Linguistics alumni have a longstanding history of individual achievements and collective success. Since the first Department of Linguistics courses were offered at the University in 1967, our alumni have made a mark for themselves internationally and in a vast diversity of careers.

Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats

These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.

ENROLMENT DATA

 20232022202120202019
Applications5366846192
Offers32263
New Registrations22262
Total Enrolment3234343132

Completion Rates & Times

This program has a graduation rate of 76% based on 17 students admitted between 2011 - 2014. Based on 8 graduations between 2020 - 2023 the minimum time to completion is 5.12 years and the maximum time is 10.93 years with an average of 7.56 years of study. All calculations exclude leave times.
Disclaimer
Admissions data refer to all UBC Vancouver applications, offers, new registrants for each registration year, May to April, e.g. data for 2022 refers to programs starting in 2022 Summer and 2022 Winter session, i.e. May 1, 2022 to April 30, 2023. Data on total enrolment reflects enrolment in Winter Session Term 1 and are based on snapshots taken on November 1 of each registration year. Program completion data are only provided for datasets comprised of more than 4 individuals. Graduation rates exclude students who transfer out of their programs. Rates and times of completion depend on a number of variables (e.g. curriculum requirements, student funding), some of which may have changed in recent years for some programs.

Research Supervisors

Supervision

Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their thesis supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding thesis supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics (PhD)
Applicants should browse faculty profiles and indicate in their application who they are interested in working with. No commitment from a supervisor prior to applying is necessary, but contacting faculty members is encouraged.
 
Advice and insights from UBC Faculty on reaching out to supervisors

These videos contain some general advice from faculty across UBC on finding and reaching out to a supervisor. They are not program specific.

 

This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.

  • Abdul-Mageed, Muhammad (Artificial intelligence (AI); Deep Learning; Natural Language Processing; Machine Learning; Computational Linguistics; Social Media Mining; Arabic)
  • Babel, Molly (Linguistics; Phonetics; Recognition of Speech; Perception and Representation; Acoustics; Dialects; acoustics of speech production; phonetic variation; speech perception; spoken word recognition)
  • Davis, Henry Thomas (First Nations languages)
  • Dechaine, Rose-Marie (Native American languages; Algonquian language family, Cree, Blackfoot, Ojibwe; French / English bilingualism policy; formal linguistics; generative grammar (Chomsky); West African languages (Niger-Congo, Yoruba, Igbo, Edo); Nigerian languages; literacy vs. oralcy; language planning re: French, Indigenous languages, Speech/gesture coordination, syntactic interface relations)
  • Gick, Bryan (phonetics, speech science, speech motor control, speech perception, multimodal perception, tactile perception, ultrasound imaging of speech, sounds of the world’s languages, Physical mechanisms of speech production, speech research)
  • Hall, Kathleen (Linguistics; Phonology; Phonetics; Laboratory Phonology)
  • Hammerly, Christopher (Syntax & Morphology; Psycholinguistics; Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe))
  • Hansson, Gunnar (Linguistic structures (including grammar, phonology, lexicon and semantics); Cognitive sciences; theoretical phonology; morphology-phonology interface; phonological typology; historical linguistics (language change); locality relations; Icelandic)
  • Hudson Kam, Carla (Language development, second language acquisition, critical periods for learning, input and language learning, language learning and language change, Psychology, First and second language acquisition, gesture and language learning, language contact and language change)
  • Matthewson, Lisa (Linguistics; Semantics; Austronesian languages; Cross-linguistic variation and universals; Salish languages; Semantic fieldwork; Tsimshianic languages)
  • Morzycki, Marcin (Linguistics; adverbial modification; degree modifiers; expressive meaning; grammar of modification; knowledge of meaning; measure phrases; modification of quantifiers; nonrestrictive modification; semantic restrictions on modifier order; Semantics, syntax, and their interface)
  • Pulleyblank, Douglas (Linguistics; Phonology; Morphology; African languages; Yoruba)
  • Rullmann, Hotze (Linguistics; Semantics)
  • Soskuthy, Marton (language change; Computational modeling; Statistics; Phonetics; Cognitive systems)
  • Tessier, Anne-Michelle (Linguistic structures (including grammar, phonology, lexicon and semantics); Constraint-based grammars; L2 production and perception in childhood; Language Acquisition; Lexical avoidance; Phonology; Prosodic processing with cochlear implants; Shitgibbons; U-shaped development)
  • Zhu, Jian (Computational Linguistics, Natural Language Processing, Speech Sciences)

Doctoral Citations

A doctoral citation summarizes the nature of the independent research, provides a high-level overview of the study, states the significance of the work and says who will benefit from the findings in clear, non-specialized language, so that members of a lay audience will understand it.
Year Citation
2024 Dr. Shamei demonstrated that humans employ posture within the vocal tract when speaking, and that the control of posture is similar across gross and fine motor skills. These findings help to unify our understanding of human motor control across different domains.
2024 Dr. Adebara's research on Afrocentric Natural Language Processing enables artificial intelligence technologies for 517 African languages and language varieties. This ensures that millions of African people have access to technologies in their Indigenous languages.
2023 Dr. Salles advanced the documentation of Pirahã, a vulnerable language spoken in the Amazon, and contributed to destigmatizing a non-standard dialect of Brazilian Portuguese. Her work also provided a fresh take on a long-standing puzzle in the field of linguistics, by proposing that nouns can be licensed by categories other than articles.
2023 Dr. Soo examined the perception, recognition and encoding of pronunciation variants in an ongoing Cantonese sound change. Borrowing psycholinguistic paradigms from dialect/language variation, her work offers a contemporary perceptual account of the sound change, showing that listeners distinguish and flexibly map multiple pronunciations to a word.
2023 Dr. Huijsmans investigated a set of small words with grammatical functions in ?ay?aj u¸Ym (Comox-Sliammon; Central Salish). These encode information about utterance type, source of evidence, speaker certainty, and broader discourse context. This research contributes to documentation available to future language learners, teachers, and researchers.
2023 Dr. Angsongna's work explored the word structure and the sound system of Dagaare, a language spoken in northwestern Ghana. His research showed how words are formed and how they differ in the expression of grammatical meanings. This research contributes to the documentation of the language and to the development of linguistic theory.
2023 In languages, meaningful words and signs consist of meaningless units, or phonemes. Dr. Tkachman shows how phonemes could emerge from embodied motivations in language evolution. Her research brings together linguistics and cognitive science and demonstrates profound consequences of embodiment in communication and cognition.
2022 Dr. Lo studied how Mandarin-English bilinguals use vowel-initial pitch to distinguish certain speech sounds. He found that these bilinguals use pitch as a cue, but to different degrees, when pronouncing and listening to words in Mandarin versus English. This research informs both the flexibility of and limitations in how bilinguals process speech.
2022 Dr. Anghelescu examined the prosody of words in Nata, an endangered language of Tanzania. They proposed a novel analysis of tone and vowel harmony in the nominal domain. This research contributes to our understanding of prosodic phonology in both Nata and language more generally.
2022 Dr. Johnson developed a new bilingual speech data set and demonstrated a high degree of similarity in voice and sound categories for Cantonese and English. Her research offers insight into the nature of bilingual speech and furthers our understanding of how language interacts with the mind.

Pages

Further Information

Specialization

Linguistics covers the core areas of phonetics, phonology, semantics, and syntax with the possibility of specializing in First Nations languages, African languages, first language acquisition, and experimental linguistics as well as specialized interaction with other disciplines such as art, computer science, music, philosophy, and psychology in the cognitive systems stream.

Faculty Overview

Program Identifier

VGDPHD-O2

Classification

 
 
 
Supervisor Search
 

Departments/Programs may update graduate degree program details through the Faculty & Staff portal. To update contact details for application inquiries, please use this form.

The city and the sea

Take a break from studying with opportunities at your fingertips. Whether you want to settle down in a café or take your research outdoors, we have a place for you.