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Few questions- moving towards PhD Linguistics


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Hello all,

I am currently leaning towards a PhD in linguistics, as after being in a Lit based MA, I have decided that I am really not that interested in lit. research. Please answer any or all the following questions if you can!


1. I already will have an MA in literature, and I understand that without substantial linguistics background it is very hard to get accepted into a PhD program. So how do I go about this? Should I get another MA in linguistics?? I have a minor in linguistics from my undergrad. years


2. SInce my specialization throughout my BA and MA has been in foreign language I was always interested in specializing in Linguistics in that language-French. However, I have noticed that in the U.S many such programs only exist in spanish, and just a select few in french linguistics.

My question is would I be limiting my job prospects if I get a PhD in French Linguistics down the road rather than general linguistics?


3. Also, I have been thinking about going abroad to get this 2nd MA and PhD. It will take way less years and possible allow me to improve my language skills and save significantly on the MA costs. But my concern is how good this would be in terms of finding employment after in the U.S?

My options with this choice is basically:

-either doing MA-abroad the US PhD- this will take longer (7 years), but I will have a US PhD

-MA+PHD abroad-5 years/cheapest option, but limited teaching opportunities

-MA+PhD- here, also 7 years but more costs for MA.


I assume that I really need to do a second MA since I have no research papers or concrete Ideas what I would specialize in. I have some thoughts, but I think I really need to delve in the field before committing to PhD.

ANother concern is ofcourse costs. I already have significant loans taken out (around 100K)...which I know is really BAD...but I had no choice! This is why I am really concerned about even taking out another 20K (to get 2nd MA).


Any advice is appreciated.

P.S I feel like I would have been better off going to an MA in linguistics in the first place, but then again I would have never discovered that lit. is not really my passion, and since I wanted to be involved in the foreign language and most of these programs are lit. based I ended up here!

Edited by Francophile1
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  • 1 month later...

Hi Francophile,


I think you underestimate how many linguistics programs will accept candidates without a strong background in linguistics. Many universities simply don't have a linguistics program, especially liberal arts colleges, so many U.S. PhD/MA programs are more lineant about a prerequisit BA or MA in linguistics. You probably should just stress your background in linguistics from you BA minor and your background with French (I am myself an English Lit and Classics [Greek and Latin] major).


Alternatively keep an eye out for progams like McGill University (and other Canadian linguistic programs) where they are open to candidates without a linguistic background, but ask that admitted candidates complete a qualifying year. This qualifying year (at McGill, UofToronto, and UBC) usually just entails 4-5 basic undergraduate credits in Linguistics (usually phonetics, semantics, syntax and morphology). Mind you that the qualifying years usually don't qualify for funding and for an international student will probably run you about 20k. That said, since you already have a minor in linguistics you should may already have those basic credits in which case you can probably skip the qualifying. Talking to admissions is probably the best idea in this scenario. I don't know how many schools in the U.S. offer this sort of qualifying year option.


The U.K. on the other hand offer 1 year "taught" masters as an alternative. These 1 year programs are often purposed specifically for transitioning from one field to a new one. They typically run around £16,000, but funding is available if you apply early. You can often move from one of these programs directly into a PhD in Linguistics in the U.K., though if you want to do a PhD in the states you will probably have to repeat the masters part of the PhD.


I'm not sure what you mean by a PhD in "French Linguistics" though. Linguistics programs are generally more intersted in the study of language and its mechanisms rather than the study of any one language. You should probably look for a program that interests you within one of the sub-fields of linguistics (phonology, syntax, morphology, semantics/pragmatics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, historical linguistics, etc), rather than based on language. Most schools will have a professors who works with French since it is a major language of scholarship. That said, I would again suggest McGill University (not simply because it is my alma mater). It has a fairly strong program that is up and coming with a strong focus on experimental linguistics. Being in Montreal every professor there is fluently bilingual, and there is naturally a lot of research conducted there on French. It also has strong ties to the neighbouring francophone Université de Montréal (a strong but overlooked university). Oh, and Montréal is, as far as I am concerned, the best city to study in, in North America. It has a very large student population, it is really, really cheap to live in, and has a vibrant mix of European and North American sensibilities.


Anyway that's my two-cents. Hope it helps. I really don't think you necessarily need to do a MA in linguistics, but you should find at least a tentative research topic that interests you and which has implications for the study of language in general rather than just French.

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  • 4 weeks later...

If I may add one more cent, 


First, French Linguistics and Linguistics focusing on French are two different studies, found in two different departments. So, if you want to study French Linguistics, you would be applying to the French departments, Linguistics, Linguistics.


Second, yes, you may have to redo the masters as part of the linguistics programs, however, many schools will count it toward your PhD studies, so, it would not be additional cost, or time of study. 


Third, a PhD in England is very well qualified to work in the US, you can also choose to do a Postdoc in the US as well to up you job potentials. 


I ll stop counting now. Ziggy has covered many salient points, but additionally, Many Linguistics programs, specially for PhD requires some courses, or proficiency in two to three languages, so you can use your electives towards French while studying linguistics, and some colleges may even have cross departmental classes that may work in your favor. 


I would say don't worry so much about what you have now, but on which direction you want to go. You can always change things along the way. 


Depi tet pa koupe nou espere met chapo As long as you are alive, the world is at your hand

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