Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics (PhD)

Quick Facts

Doctor of Philosophy
Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities
Mode of delivery
On campus
Registration options
Program Components
Faculty of Arts


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.



TOEFL (ibT) Overall Score Requirement


IELTS Overall Score Requirement


GRE required?


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
ESL Instructor
PhD Career Outcome Survey
You may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on
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. You may view a full list of alumni on our website.

Tuition / Program Costs

FeesCanadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / DiplomatInternational
Application Fee$102.00$165.00
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,600.60$2,811.98
Tuition per year$4,801.80$8,435.94
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$899.00 (approx.)
Costs of living (yearly)starting at $16,453.00 (check cost calculator)
* 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. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.

Statistical Data

Enrolment Data

  2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Applications 58 39 35 47 47
Offers 4 6 7 5 8
New registrations 3 3 2 2 4
Total enrolment 31 34 35 34 33

Completion Rates & Times

This program has a graduation rate of 69% based on 13 students admitted between 2003 - 2006. Based on 10 graduations between 2012 - 2015 the minimum time to completion is 5.00 years and the maximum time is 8.33 years with an average of 6.31 years of study. All calculations exclude leave times.


Admissions data refer to all UBC Vancouver applications, offers, new registrants for each year, May to April [data updated: 8 April 2016]. Enrolment data are based on March 1 snapshots. Program completion data are only provided for datasets comprised of more than 4 individuals. 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 [data updated: 8 April 2016].

Research Supervisors

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.

  • Babel, Molly (speech, language change, accommodation, voice, language stereotypes, sound change, sociolinguistics, phonetics, speech styles, dialects of English, language variation, speech intelligibility )
  • 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)
  • Hansson, Gunnar (phonetics (speech sounds), phonology (sound patterns, sound systems), language change, linguistic relationships (language families), reconstruction of proto-languages, language contact, Scandinavian languages (esp. Icelandic, Faroese, Swedish), Athabaskan (Dene) languages, Saami (Lapp) languages, Russian, Phonology)
  • 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 (First Nations languages, Salish languages, linguistics, semantics, syntax, Cross-linguistic variation in the semantics and pragmatics, and what variation (or the lack of it) tells us about Universal Grammar, community language preservation initiatives)
  • Pulleyblank, Douglas (Phonological theroy, phonetics, morphology, syntax, learnability, featural properties, African languages (Nigeria), Yoruba)
  • Rochemont, Michael (Syntax and information structure)
  • Rullmann, Hotze (Dutch and other west germanic languages Semantics and pragmatics )
  • Stemberger, Joseph (linguistics, phonology, morphology, psycholinguistics, slips of the tongue, first language acquisition, child language )
  • Vatikiotis-Bateson, Eric (Cognitive Systems, Linguistics, Auditory-Visual Speech Processing, Physical and computational modeling of speech motor control, Talking heads animation, Language and Gesture, Communicating systems, Phonology)
  • Wiltschko, Martina (Sources and limits of language variation in the realm of grammatical categories)

Recent Doctoral Citations

  • Dr. Masaki Noguchi
    "Dr. Noguchi studied the mechanisms of human language learning. Through a series of laboratory experiments, he demonstrated how humans learn to categorize speech sounds, and how that affects their perception of the speech sounds." (November 2016)
  • Dr. Jennifer Robin Sarah Glougie
    "Dr. Glougie examined how English speakers negotiate information in the context of police interviews. She found that speakers used specific words to propose new information in the dialogue and to mark whether that information should be included in the common understanding. Her research gives insight into how English discourse markers contribute to meaning." (November 2016)
  • Dr. Blake Hawkins Allen
    "Dr. Allen developed a mathematical framework for modeling how humans apply their knowledge of language to new situations. Experimental validations demonstrated that humans exhibit previously unknown capabilities " (November 2016)
  • Dr. Kevin James McMullin
    "Dr. McMullin constructed a set of artificial languages for people to learn in the laboratory, and showed that the way humans learn linguistic sound patterns influences the range of patterns found across the world's languages. His dissertation argues that current linguistic theory cannot account for this, and proposes a mathematically principled definition of what constitutes a possible language." (May 2016)
  • Dr. Patrick William Littell
    "Dr. Littell investigated dialogue patterns in Kwak'wala, a critically endangered aboriginal language of British Columbia, based on field interviews with Kwakwaka'wakw elders. This research helps future learners of conversational Kwak'wala know how to ask and answer questions, draw parallels and contrasts, and express agreement and disagreement." (May 2016)

Further Program Information


September 2017 Intake

Application Open Date
20 October 2016
Canadian/US Applicant Deadline
20 January 2017
International Applicant Deadline
20 January 2017

Program Information

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