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Graduate Program

Master of Arts in Language Documentation (LDD)

The Department of Linguistics offers a new MA in the theory and practice of language documentation and description focusing on courses that provide training in linguistics and in the practice, methodology and technology of LDD. Language documentation encompasses a group of activities centered on the collection of naturally occurring as well as experimentally elicited primary data, such as audio and video recordings and written language data; language description uses this and other sources of data to analyze linguistic structures that underlie language and cognitive categories.

The enterprise of LDD is important in our understanding of the human language capacity in its diverse forms, by creating records of languages that may soon be extinct. Its importance is heightened by the loss of linguistic diversity worldwide, which represents a tremendous and irreplaceable loss of human knowledge.

Language documentation and description efforts can provide the foundation for language grammars, dictionary projects, education and language revitalization materials, and the building of large language corpora, as well as in related fields such as ethnomusiclogy and ethnobotany and allied field such as computational linguistics. Emerging technologies provide new tools for the analysis of complex language data. Our program aims to provide students with the preparation needed to embark on language documentation and description projects, to develop skills transferable to other fields where the collection and analysis of complex language data and working in small language communities may be relevant. Some of these fields may include law and human rights, community activists, health organizations, Google and translation work on minority language groups, NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations), Indigenous Rights activists, museums among many others. Language is fundamental to human communication and cognition, as is the diversity it encompasses.

Program Requirements

The Language Documentation and Description MA program (LDD) is a 32-credit program designed to be completed in two years, as either a non-thesis (Plan B) or thesis (Plan A) degree program.

Students in Plan B will complete 32 credit hours of coursework during the first three semesters and write their MA essay in the final semester.

Students in Plan A will complete:

  • Twelve credits of coursework during the first semester
  • Eight credits of coursework and four credits of research in the second semester
  • Four credits of coursework and four credits of research in the third semester
  • A master's thesis during the final semester

Plan A is especially ideal for students planning to pursue subsequent PhD-level training.


LIN 110: Introduction to Linguistic Analysis.

Students with limited background may take this as a “bridging” course that does not count towards the degree.

Core Courses: 12 Credits

Choose three of the following core courses:

  • LIN 410: Introduction to Language Sound Systems (Fall)
  • LIN 420: Introduction to Grammatical Systems (Spring)
  • LIN 425: Introduction to Semantic Analysis (Fall)
  • LIN 426: Morphology (Fall)

Track Courses: 12 Credits

  • LIN 470: Tools for Language Documentation (Fall)
  • LIN 471: Field Methods in Linguistic Description 1 (Spring)
  • LIN 472: Field Methods in Linguistic Description 2 (Fall)

Advanced Electives: 8 Credits

Offered yearly:

  • LIN 427: Topics in Phonetics and Phonology
  • LIN 450: Data Science for Linguistics
  • LIN 465: Formal Semantics, or LIN 466: Introduction to Pragmatics
  • LIN 460: Syntactic Theory, or LIN 461: Phrase Structure Grammar, or LIN 462: Experimental Syntax

Offered in alternate years:

  • LIN 405: Historical Linguistics
  • LIN 428: Lexical Semantics
  • LIN 468: Computational Semantics
  • LIN 501: Methods in Linguistic Research

Graduate seminars, one offered approximately each semester:

  • LIN 510: Topics in Phonetics
  • LIN 520: Syntax
  • LIN 525: Graduate Semantics
  • LIN 535: Formal Pragmatics

Students entering program with stronger background will substitute appropriate advanced electives for core courses.

Course Changes for Plan A Students

Two or three of the core courses will be replaced by the relevant advanced courses (e.g., 427 for 410, 460/461/462 for 420, 465/466/468 for 425, etc.), and then instead of an additional eight credits of advanced electives, students would take eight credits of research.

Both Plan A and Plan B students will complete the three track courses.

TA Requirement

As part of students’ training in the discipline all MA students in linguistics TA one undergraduate course.