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The Department of Linguistics offers programs leading to the Master of Arts degree in Linguistics and the Master of Arts degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Overview of Graduate Programs

The M.A. program in Linguistics is designed to give students a broad training in most aspects of contemporary linguistics, including phonology, syntax, phonetics, semantics, historical linguistics, psycholinguistics, language acquisition, sociolinguistics, and field methods. In addition, students will pursue advanced study through further coursework and thesis research. Graduates of the linguistics program frequently go on to more advanced study and research in linguistics leading to the Ph.D. degree.

The M.A. program in TESOL is designed primarily for students who wish to pursue careers in the teaching of English to speakers of other languages either in the United States or abroad. The program combines both theory and practice. In addition to a core course in linguistics, students in the TESOL program are required to take courses in the theory and methods of language teaching, language assessment, and second language acquisition, and to teach in a supervised practicum in the teaching of oral and written English. Graduates of the TESOL program can go on to advanced study of language learning and teaching or related fields, in addition to pursuing a career in language instruction, instructional materials or test development, teacher training, program administration, or related areas.

For students who are interested in language study but are not committed to either graduate major, the department offers a number of interesting, non-specialist courses which may serve as electives in degree programs such as those offered by the Departments of Anthropology, Communication Disorders and Sciences, English, Languages, Cultures, and International Trade, Psychology, Communication Studies, and the College of Education and Human Services. A sequence of courses is also available for students wishing to pursue a double major combining linguistics or TESOL with other programs at the master’s level.

This program requires a nonrefundable $65 application fee that must be submitted with the application for Admission to Graduate Study in Linguistics. Applicants must pay this fee by credit card. Applicants for admission should address inquiries to the Chair, Department of Linguistics, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL  62901-4517, USA.

Admission to the Degree Programs

Undergraduate GPA

Applicants for admission to either degree program, in addition to meeting the requirements for admission to the Graduate School, are expected to have undergraduate grade point averages of at least 3.0 (A = 4.0). Applicants with GPAs below 3.0 may be granted conditional admission. However, students admitted on a conditional basis must earn a graduate GPA of 3.0. Failure to do so will result in the student being dropped from the program.

Foreign Language Requirement

All students who are native speakers of English must have completed at least one semester of study of a foreign language within the preceding five years (excluding high school) and have achieved a grade of B or better. Those students who have achieved proficiency in a foreign language by means other than graded academic study must demonstrate that they have achieved a minimum level of novice-mid as defined in the proficiency guidelines published by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Students may also fulfill this requirement by taking one semester of a foreign language with a grade of B or better while they are enrolled in their M.A. program. In recognition of their experience in learning English, international students who have learned English as a second or foreign language are exempt from this requirement.


International student applicants who are not native speakers of English must achieve a score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) of at least 577 (paper) or 90 (IBT), or 7.0 on the IELTS. Although submission of scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required for admission to the Graduate School nor to the department, applicants are advised that high GRE scores put them at a competitive advantage when applying for University fellowships or departmental assistantships.

Academic Retention

Academic Probation

As required by the Graduate School, any student whose GPA falls below 3.0 will be placed on academic probation. Any student who fails to return to good standing after one term on academic probation will not be eligible to hold a graduate assistantship. Any student who fails to return to good standing after two terms on academic probation will be dropped from the program. Any student who accumulates three or more incompletes will be put on academic probation and may return to good standing by reducing the number of incompletes to two or fewer.

Minimum Grades in Core Courses

As described below, both M.A. programs include a number of core courses which are required of all students. These courses must be passed with a grade of B or better. Students who receive a grade lower than B on a core course must take the course again. They will register officially for the course and will be granted a letter of permission to do so from the department. Both grades will be counted in calculating GPA. Students who need to repeat core courses may take other courses concurrently or sequentially for which the core courses are prerequisites.

Grade Point Average to Graduate

All graduate work must be completed with an overall GPA of 3.0.

Master of Arts Two-Year Degree in Linguistics

The Master of Arts in Linguistics requires 36 hours of coursework including a mix of required courses and restricted and non-restricted electives in all the major linguistic subfields. There are two options for completing the MA: a thesis option and a non-thesis option. Thesis writers are required to do advanced coursework in phonology or syntax and three to six hours of thesis writing; non-thesis writers have a little more flexibility in their advanced coursework and take more courses at that level in lieu of thesis writing credits.

Required Core Courses: All Candidates (9 semester hours)
All students must take the three LING courses in Set A:

  • LING 505-3    The Professional Study of Linguistics
  • LING 503-3    Phonological Theories
  • LING 508-3    Syntactic Theory

Restricted Electives: all candidates (9 semester hours)
All students must take at least two of the LING courses in Set B for breadth of study.

  • LING 415-3    Sociolinguistics
  • LING 417-3    Language Contact
  • LING 445-3    Psycholinguistics
  • LING 402-3    Phonetics
  • LING 500-3    Formal Semantics

All students must also take at least one writing-intensive LING course from Set C.

  • LING 552-3    Field Methods in Linguistics
  • LING 506-3    Historical Linguistics

Requirements specific to the two options (6 semester hours)
Additional coursework requirements diverge depending on whether students choose the thesis or non-thesis option for the MA.

The thesis option
Those students who wish to write theses must formally apply to the department by the beginning of the third semester. They must also take at least one of the advanced LING courses in Set D:

  • LING 553-3    Advanced Phonology
  • LING 558-3    Advanced Syntax

Thesis-writing students will also enroll in a minimum of three and a maximum of six hours of LING thesis writing.

  • LING 599-3 to 6    Thesis writing course

The thesis is a written summary of a student’s independent research conducted while enrolled in one of the department’s M.A. programs. Every thesis is expected to include a clear statement of the topic, identification of the particular issues to be investigated, a literature review, an explanation of the procedures followed, and an analysis and discussion of research findings. Each student writing a thesis must have a thesis committee composed of at least three faculty members, one of whom serves as chair of the committee. Two of the three committee members must have their primary appointment in the Department of Linguistics. The thesis must be submitted to a public oral examination by the student’s committee. Detailed information regarding the thesis may be found in Thesis Policies and Guidelines, copies of which are available from the department.

The non-thesis option
Students who do not write theses must take two additional LING courses from Set C and/or Set D.

Unrestricted electives
To complete the 36 hours required for the M.A. in Linguistics, students may choose electives from among courses offered within the department or relevant courses taught by faculty in the Departments of Anthropology, Communication Disorders and Sciences, Computer Science, English, Foreign Languages and International Trade, Philosophy, Psychology, Communication Studies, and the College of Education and Human Services (subject to departmental approval). Where appropriate, students are encouraged to take courses in quantitative and ethnographic research methods taught in the Departments of Counseling, Quantitative Methods, Special Education, and Anthropology. Students are also encouraged to attend the annual summer institutes sponsored by the Linguistic Society of America and TESOL. Credit may be allowed for coursework successfully completed in this way.

Master of Arts Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

The M.A. degree in TESOL blends linguistic science with the art of classroom practice. It prepares students both intellectually and experientially so that as professionals they are capable of making wise and informed choices among different language teaching approaches, methods, and techniques. In addition, students will understand how differences among individual students, teaching and learning situations, and socials structures influence decisions they will be called upon to make as teachers or other language professionals. The TESOL master’s program provides a firm and broad foundation in current theories of language and language learning and graduates will be prepared to take on careers as teacher educators and curriculum or assessment specialists as well as classroom teachers.

There are two options for completing the M.A. TESOL degree: a thesis option and a non-thesis option. In both cases 36 credits are required. Both options include five components: a group of core courses totaling 15 semester hours, a selection of language skills-related courses totaling 6 semester hours, a teaching specialty course (3 semester hours), free electives totaling 6 semester hours, and research training (6 semester hours)--either a thesis (thesis option) or additional course work from a selected group of focus courses with a  substantial research component (non-thesis option).

Core Courses (15 semester hours)
All students in the MA TESOL program take the following five courses:

  • LING 472-3    Assessment of ESL and Bilingual Students
  • LING 505-3    The Professional Study of Linguistics
  • LING 541-3    Second Language Acquisition
  • LING 570-3    Methods and Materials of TESOL
  • LING 583-3    TESOL Practicum

Language Skills (6 semester hours)
All students must take at least two of the following language skills-related courses:

  • LING 531-3    Teaching Grammar and Writing in a Second Language
  • LING 585-3    Teaching Listening and Speaking in a Second Language
  • LING 587-3    Teaching Reading and Vocabulary in a Second Language

Teaching Specialties Courses (3 semester hours)
All students must take one of the following teaching specialties courses:

  • LING 470-3    Theoretical Foundations of ESL and Bilingual Education
  • LING 471-3    Bilingual Education Methods and Materials
  • LING 573-3    Introduction to Computer-Assisted Language Learning
  • LING 582-3    Course Design
  • LING 586-3    English for Specific Purposes
  • LING 5XX-3    Teaching Internship

Research Component (6 semester hours)
All students must take at least six semester hours from the following courses with a substantial research component:

  • LING 415-3    Sociolinguistics
  • LING 417-3    Language Contact
  • LING 542-3    Advanced Seminar in Second Language Acquisition
  • LING 543-3    Bilingualism
  • LING 549-3    Research Methods in Linguistics and TESOL
  • LING 584-3    Advanced Seminar in Grammar and Composition
  • LING 589-3    Advanced Seminar in Reading and Vocabulary
  • LING 590-3    Advanced Second Language Pronunciation
  • LING 592-3    Advanced Computer-Assisted Language Learning
  • LING 599-1 to 6  Thesis

Note that students pursuing the thesis option must enroll in a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 semester hours of LING 599 (Thesis).

Free Electives (6 semester hours)
Students can select from a number of elective courses offered each semester. These include additional courses from the categories listed above as well as other courses offered in the department. In addition, courses related to language, education, and/or research methods offered by other departments may be used to complete elective requirements, with approval from the student’s faculty advisor. Students are also encouraged to attend summer institutes and other professional development programs offered by the TESOL International organization or the Linguistic Society of America. Credit may be approved for coursework successfully completed this way.

Accelerated B.A./M.A. in Linguistics

Students who begin as undergraduate majors in either linguistics or TESOL may pursue the 5-year M.A. in Linguistics, providing (i) they have maintained a 3.5 grade point average in 300 and 400-level courses, and (ii) their B.A. coursework includes the following:

LING courses required of all 5-year B.A./M.A. students (15 semester hours):

  • LING 200    Language, Society, and the Mind
  • LING 300    Introduction to Descriptive Linguistics
  • LING 405    Introduction to Phonological Theories
  • LING 408    Introduction to Syntactic Theory
  • LING 406    Introduction to Historical Linguistics, or LING 452 Field Methods in Linguistics

Beyond these courses and the other requirements for their B.A. degrees is added a fifth year, consisting of advanced coursework and a 20-25 page research paper.

Fifth year (27 credit hours)

(12 credit hours)

  • LING 505    The Professional Study of Linguistics
  • LING 558    Advanced Syntax
  • LING 553    Advanced Phonology
  • Elective not taken at the undergraduate level (400-level or above)

Spring (12 credit hours)

  • LING 506    Historical Linguistics (if not taken as LING 406) or LING 552 Field Methods (which may be repeated for credit)
  • 2 electives not taken at the undergraduate level (400-level; or above)
  • LING 593    Research in Linguistics (3 credit hours)

Summer (3 credit hours)

  • LING 593    Research in Linguistics (3 credit hours)

9 hours of 400-level coursework taken at the undergraduate level will also be counted towards the M.A. This enables students in the accelerated M.A. to meet the 36-hours of coursework required for a Linguistics M.A.