Introduction to the Program

Linguistics at the University of Georgia is interdisciplinary by nature. In addition to our core faculty who have appointments in the Department of Linguistics, we also have a large number of adjunct faculty members housed in a number of other departments, who also teach linguistics courses, mentor students, and conduct research in various linguistic subfields.

Our graduate program provides both a strong grounding in core areas of linguistics as well as the opportunity for specialization within the broad areas of

  • formal linguistic theory
  • language variation
  • historical (Indo-European) linguistics
  • language acquisition

A student's program of study, as determined by the student and their advisory committee, will focus on two areas of concentration (primary and secondary) within and among these broader areas. A program of study may also include courses or research projects in related disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, computer science, philosophy, or in the history or structure of a specific language or languages, provided that these courses are approved by the student's committee and the Graduate Coordinator.

Proseminar and colloquium courses are offered every year to enhance students' professional training and to provide opportunities to present and discuss current research projects.

Areas of Study

For students who are interested primarily in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) or in foreign language education, the Department of Language and Literacy Education in the College of Education offers M.Ed and Ph.D. degrees in these areas.

Formal Linguistic Theory

This area deals with language structure and meaning, with the goal of constructing theoretical models to explain how humans acquire, produce, and comprehend language. Research focuses on the study of the sounds of human language (phonetics and phonology), the structure of words (morphology), the structure of sentences (syntax), and meaning (semantics), using natural language data, speaker intuitions, and experimental methods. Students may choose a specific area within formal linguistic theory as their primary and/or secondary concentration.

Language Variation

Languages inevitably change over time and these changes are a source of synchronic variation. The existence of linguistic variants often leads to social valuation of specific features, and these valuations or other social factors (such as language contact) can themselves drive linguistic change. The study of language variation focuses on contemporary and historical patterns of language change, including changes in progress, social factors related to variation, and empirical research methods for the investigation of language in use.

Historical (Indo-European) Linguistics

This area investigates change over a greater depth of time. It involves both the methodology for comparison and reconstruction of historical languages and an intense, hermeneutic approach to studying ancient languages individually. At the University of Georgia, students can acquire a close familiarity with the sounds, grammar, and vocabulary of historic Indo-European languages like ancient Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Classical Armenian, Gothic, Old English, Old Norse, and Old Church Slavic, among others.

Language Acquisition

Studying the way that children acquire their first language(s), or the way that older learners acquire other languages, has practical applications and can also help us understand the nature of language itself. Students in this area can study the theoretical bases for language acquisition, the nature of bi- or multi-lingual speakers' knowledge of language, and the acquisition of specific languages, such as Spanish or German.