Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics (PhD)

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

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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 competitve 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 supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding 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$106.00$168.25
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,698.56$2,984.09
Tuition per year
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
$5,095.68$8,952.27
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$944.51 (approx.)
Costs of living (yearly)starting at $16,954.00 (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. 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. 

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.

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.

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 direction. The duties usually constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is a form of financial support for a period of graduate study and is, therefore, not covered by a collective agreement. Unlike other forms of fellowship support for graduate students, the amount of a GRA is neither fixed nor subject to a university-wide formula. The stipend amounts vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded. Some research projects also require targeted research assistance and thus hire graduate students on an hourly basis.

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 Calculator

Applicants have access to the cost calculator 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. You may view a full list of alumni on our website.

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

 20192018201720162015
Applications9152604458
Offers34834
New registrations24333
Total enrolment3232283031

Completion Rates & Times

This program has a graduation rate of 87.5% based on 16 students admitted between 2006 - 2009. Based on 12 graduations between 2015 - 2018 the minimum time to completion is 5.00 years and the maximum time is 9.00 years with an average of 7.19 years of study. All calculations exclude leave times.
Disclaimer
Admissions data refer to all UBC Vancouver applications, offers, new registrants for each year, May to April [data updated: 10 March 2020]. 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: 27 October 2019].

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.

  • Abdul-Mageed, Muhammad (Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning, Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, Computational Linguistics, Social Media Mining, Arabic)
  • Babel, Molly (Phonetics, Recognition of Speech, Perception and Representation, Acoustics, Dialects, speech perception, acoustics of speech production, spoken word recognition, phonetic variation)
  • 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 (Phonology, Phonetics, Laboratory Phonology)
  • Hansson, Gunnar (Phonology, Morphology, 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 (Semantics, Salish languages, Tsimshianic languages, Austronesian languages, Cross-linguistic variation and universals, Semantic fieldwork)
  • Morzycki, Marcin (Semantics, syntax, and their interface, grammar of modification, degree modifiers, nonrestrictive modification, measure phrases, modification of quantifiers, adverbial modification, expressive meaning, semantic restrictions on modifier order, knowledge of meaning)
  • Pulleyblank, Douglas (Phonology, Morphology, African languages, Yoruba)
  • Rullmann, Hotze (Semantics)
  • Silfverberg, Miikka Pietari (Natural Language Processing, NLP for morphologically complex languages, Morphological tagging, Parsing, Computational phonology and morphology, Deep Learning for NLP, Structured Prediction, Computational Semantics, Morphologically Complex Languages, Computational Linguistics)
  • Soskuthy, Marton (language change, Computational modeling, Statistics, Phonetics, Cognitive systems)
  • Tessier, Anne-Michelle (Phonology, Language Acquisition, Constraint-based grammars, Lexical avoidance, U-shaped development, L2 production and perception in childhood, Prosodic processing with cochlear implants, Shitgibbons)

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
2020 Dr. Ozburn examined generalizations about which sounds in some languages can be exempt from a process called HARMONY, in which vowel sounds within a word must match in some aspect of how they are pronounced. She argues that traditional treatments of such exemptions are inadequate, and provides a new theoretical analysis.
2020 Dr. Crippen studied the endangered Tlingit (CLING-kit) language of Alaska, BC, & Yukon. He showed that its complex verb has an internal structure that is fundamentally the same as whole sentences in other languages. His work fits Tlingit into the larger theory of human language structure and supports its revitalization within the Tlingit community.
2020 Dr. Weber examined the structure of words in Blackfoot, a First Nations language. They proposed a model of the correspondence relations between representations of the meaningful parts of language and representations of speech sounds. This research contributes to our understanding of linguistic structure in words of all languages more generally.
2020 Dr. Fry compared language analyses derived by humans and machines. He demonstrated that unsupervised machine learning is able to generate language analyses that are comparable to those generated by humans. His research adds to the growing dialogue that machine learning has become a useful tool for theoretical linguists.
2019 Dr. Keough examined how experience with speech-related airflow affects whether we use it to discriminate between sounds. She showed that while adults can use airflow cues even in novel situations, the ability likely arises through developmental experience. Her work helps us understand how interactions with the world shape our perception of speech.
2019 Dr. Heim studied the role of intonation in Canadian English for the negotiation of shared beliefs. He discovered that the shape of the sentence melody correlates with the interpretation of the speaker's confidence and their response expectation. This study sheds a new light on how speakers encode their attitudes and intentions in conversation.
2019 Dr. Gambarage studied the determiner systems of the Nata (Bantu) and Lilloet (Salish) languages. He concluded that common semantic features of definiteness and specificity found in other well-studied languages are missing in these languages. His work opens up the notion of existence as it relates to the article systems of these languages.
2019 Dr. Lam investigated how post-childhood linguistic experience affects the way bilingual adults perceive speech sounds. In a Cantonese word identification experiment, Cantonese speakers who grew up in Canada used different listening strategies from those who grew up in Hong Kong. These results advance our understanding of bilingual competence.
2018 Dr. Black studied how children and adults detect linguistic patterns in streams of sound. She found that both pre-existing knowledge and factors related to cognitive development, such as executive function, impact this learning process in different ways. This work contributes to our understanding of low-level mechanisms driving language acquisition.
2018 Dr. Chen investigated how natural languages vary in expressing temporal and modal information. Through fieldwork on Atayal, an endangered Austronesian language of Taiwan she uncovered new ways in which meaning components can be combined. Her work contributes to modifying current theories and typology and provides valuable language documentation.

Pages

Further Program 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
 
 
 

Supervisor Search

 

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