Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics (PhD)
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.
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
IELTS: International English Language Testing System
Overall score requirement: 6.5
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
September 2021 Intake
Application Open Date21 September 2020
3) Prepare Application
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.
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)
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
|Fees||Canadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / Diplomat||International|
|Installments per year||3||3|
|Tuition per installment||$1,698.56||$2,984.09|
|Tuition per year|
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
|Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible)||$3,200.00 (-)|
|Other Fees and Costs|
|Student Fees (yearly)||$969.17 (approx.)|
|Costs of living (yearly)||starting at $17,242.00 (check cost calculator)|
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.
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.
Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals
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.
Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.
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 EducationUniversity of British Columbia (3)
University of Victoria (2)
University of Montana
University of Ghana
University of Ottawa
City University of Hong Kong
Sample Employers Outside Higher EducationZAS, Berlin
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher EducationShiatsu Therapist
PhD Career Outcome SurveyYou may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
DisclaimerThese 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.
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.
Completion Rates & Times
|2017||Dr. Thoma studied Bavarian German discourse particles, words that give a wider epistemic context and are used to establish common ground between speaker and addressee. She argued that abstract representations of speaker and addressee knowledge are an integral part of our grammatical competence.|
|2017||Dr. Mackie's work focused on how the pronunciation of words changes over generations. Using computer simulation, he showed that simple phonetic misperceptions can influence the total number and type of consonant sounds found in a language. This research contributes more generally to our understanding of how and why human languages change over time.|
|2017||Hearing oneself while speaking is known to have an effect on speech production and perception. Dr. Stelle investigated the more unusual form of real time, visual feedback on speech production, and showed how this feedback affects speakers. Her work expands our understanding of speech motor control.|
|2016||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.|
|2016||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.|
|2016||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|
|2016||Dr. Chiu studied how speech is planned and what details of an utterance are included in speech plans. He found that planned syllables are uttered rapidly and accurately when participants are startled by a loud sound. His findings provide insights into speech motor planning and coordination of speech movements.|
|2016||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.|
|2016||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.|
|2015||Dr. McAuliffe studied speech perception, the field in linguistics that focuses on how listeners are able to perceive and understand speech. Specifically, he focussed on perceptual learning, which refers to how listeners update their perceptual system in response to hearing speech. His findings contribute to cognitive models of speech perception.|
Sample Thesis Submissions
Further Program Information
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.