MS and PhD in Spanish Linguistics

Spanish Linguistics

M.S. Degree

 1. Director of Graduate Studies

Students should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) for Spanish Linguistics any time they have questions about the program. Students are responsible for checking with the DGS at least once per semester to make certain that they are not only taking the appropriate courses but are also following the correct sequence of courses. New students must meet with the DGS prior to the beginning of the Fall semester. Continuing students must meet with the DGS during pre-registration. All students must meet again with their DGS during add/drop period if changes to their registration are necessary, as students cannot change their course selection without prior approval from the DGS.

2. Course and Examination Requirements

The M.S. curriculum includes courses in the following five areas of specialization: Applied Linguistics, History/World Spanishes, Phonology/Morphology, Syntax, and Semantics & Pragmatics. Courses are divided into two Tiers. Students must take all courses in Tier I and four courses from Tier II. Tier I courses need to be taken before Tier II courses, except for History of the Spanish Language and World Spanishes, which can be taken in either order.

The following five courses from Tier I:

Spanish Teaching Methodology

History of the Spanish Language

Semantics & Pragmatics I (SPAN 431/531)

Phonology and Morphology I

Generative Syntax I

Any four courses from Tier II:

Instructed Second Language Acquisition

World Spanishes

Semantics & Pragmatics II

Phonology and Morphology II

Generative Syntax II

In addition to courses from Tiers I and II, students take one elective course in any field in linguistics or related area, such as philosophy, cognition, computer science, or bilingual education. In the fourth semester students wishing to write a Qualifying Paper in order to continue to the Ph.D. sign up for Continuous Registration (SPAN 999), in addition to two regular courses.

3. Qualifying Paper

The purpose of the Qualifying Paper (QP) is to give the student an opportunity to show that he or she is able to conduct the kind of independent research that is necessary to write a doctoral dissertation. Students may consult faculty regarding the viability and originality of their proposed topics or any questions that come up along the way; faculty will not read drafts nor will they provide written feedback. The QP may be an original study or one that originated in a previous course but has not received written feedback from any member of the faculty; provision of written feedback disqualifies a paper from being considered. Documentation of the relationship between the QP and any prior paper previously submitted to fulfill a course requirement is required. In addition, if the QP is a conceptual replication of a previous study or is based in whole or in part on one of the faculty’s paradigms or databases, or even public databases (i.e., Childes), it needs to include minimally another independent variable with its pertinent review of the literature necessary to motivate its research question. The deadline for submission of the Qualifying Paper form, which includes a title, topic, reference list, and abstract is February 15th of the fourth semester of study. While it is not necessary to conduct an experiment involving IRB approval for the QP, students wishing to do so should consult the University’s Institutional Review Board web page and obtain approval before the February 15th deadline. The process of obtaining IRB approval usually requires two months. This means that students should have all procedures and materials ready for submission for IRB approval prior to the winter break.

The paper must be submitted by the end of the candidate’s fourth semester of coursework, or the last day of finals in the Spring semester. Students can apply for one extension, which must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and is only granted for medical reasons. The maximum time for an extension cannot exceed two weeks. The Qualifying Paper is evaluated by a committee made up of two Georgetown University faculty members with expertise in the subject area of the paper who, after evaluating the paper (cf. Summary Ranking attached), will provide students with written comments. Members of the committee are appointed by the Chair of the Department in consultation with the DGS; ideally both, but at least one of the members must be a member of the faculty in the Spanish and Portuguese Department. The committee’s decision is reported to the Director of Graduate Studies, who announces it to the student, the Chair, the Registrar, the faculty, and the Graduate School. Decisions are final. If the paper is satisfactory and the student has a general GPA higher than 3.5, and a GPA of 3.67 or higher in the chosen area of specialization, s/he is accepted into the Ph.D. Program. If the paper falls short of passing quality, and/or the minimum GPA has not been reached in both categories, the student is not allowed to continue to the Ph.D. program, but may be awarded a Master’s degree, provided all other requirements, including a minimum GPA of 3.0, are met. Students not wishing to continue to the Ph.D. program need not complete a Qualifying Paper. After successful completion of all requirements for the Master’s degree, students accepted into the Ph.D. program may apply to the Graduate School to obtain the degree of Master’s of Science in passing and participate in Commencement if they so wish.

4. Academic Standing

Students wishing to receive only a Master’s degree are expected to have a minimum GPA of 3.0. Students wishing to continue to the Ph.D. in Spanish Linguistics should see below for prerequisites.

5. Language Requirement

All M.S. students must pass an oral proficiency exam in a language other than English or Spanish administered by a regular faculty member in one of the language departments. After the exam students should request the appropriate form from the DGS to register the result. Students typically have twenty minutes to read an article with the aid of a dictionary. The oral exam then consists of discussion of the article, which, if possible, should cover a linguistic topic or one related to language. The language requirement must be satisfied by the end of the fourth semester, but students should plan ahead and contact language departments early in the semester. Since oral proficiency in a foreign language requires considerable practice, students are advised to start preparing for this requirement from their first semester.

6. Annual Goal and Achievement Reports

By the end of each academic year, every student must file/update a “statement” with the DGS. In the statement, the student lists achievements, including all courses taken, grades, examinations passed, publications and presentations, and services such as participation in student organizations and teaching. The student also details progress made towards the Qualifying Paper and dissertation. The information on this statement is kept on file for such purposes as writing letters of recommendation and teaching assignments and is considered by the Department’s Academic Progress Committee, which is then reported to the Department Chair. The Progress Committee meets every Spring and may recommend appropriate action.

Ph.D. degree

1. Prerequisites

Students wishing to pursue the Ph.D. in Spanish Linguistics must have successfully completed the ten courses for the M.S. They must have compiled a minimum GPA of 3.5 and 3.67 in their chosen area of specialization. They must also have successfully completed the Qualifying Paper (see 3 above for procedure). Students who hold a Master’s degree from another institution may apply for Advanced Standing and be exempted from taking a maximum of three courses from the list of courses included under A2 above, provided they can demonstrate mastery of course content. Students must supply documentation (syllabi, reading lists, research papers) to the Director of Graduate Studies and the appropriate faculty member. Students do not get credit for these courses; all students must complete 16 3-credit courses at the 400 level or above. 

2. Selection of a Graduate Adviser and a Dissertation Director

By the end of the fourth semester in the program, the student must also select a graduate adviser. The student and the prospective graduate adviser will design a Ph.D. course plan (See B3). After completion of the 16 courses and before the student takes the Ph.D. exams, the student must also choose a dissertation director, who may or may not be the same person he or she had chosen as adviser. Every semester, students must have their coursework approved by either the DGS or by their adviser or by both the DGS and the adviser. 

3. Courses

Students authorized to pursue the Ph.D. must complete six further content courses beyond the M.S. chosen in consultation with their graduate adviser for a total of 16 courses (48 credits) beyond the B.A. (excluding all enrollments in Thesis Research). At least three of these courses must be seminars, which are typically advanced courses in a field. Departments use different codes for seminars, as follows: for example, the term ‘Seminar’ appears in the title in Psychology and in Spanish and Portuguese, or the course requires two previous courses in the area (Syntax 3 requires Syntax 1 and 2), or the course code is in the 700s.  Students must have written approval from the DGS or their adviser.

4. Language Requirement

Prior to taking the Ph.D. Examination students must demonstrate reading proficiency in a language other than English, Spanish, and the one used to satisfy the language requirement for the Master’s degree. For protocol and additional information, please refer to 5 above.

5. Ph.D. Examinations

By October 15th of the third semester in the Ph.D. program, the student will present the thesis director with a written proposal that comprises 1) a 350-word abstract that works as an executive summary of the thesis/topic, goals and motivation, and potential theoretical and practical implications; 2) a succinct review of the pertinent literature of selected independent variable(s) or social (external) and linguistic (internal) factors to be accounted for; 3) potential research questions; 4) a potential research design that includes the dependent variable(s) or main phenomenon to be investigated; and 5) a comprehensive reference list.  The length of the proposal should be 10 to 15 pages maximum plus references.  The thesis director uses this proposal to shape the questions for the two written exams. The first exam should be the first attempt to write Chapter 1 (the Statement of the Problem) of the dissertation and will ask the student to contextualize their research by providing a comprehensive overview of previous and current research and to identify potential future areas of research in the specific strand(s) they wish to pursue.  The second exam is the first draft of Chapters 2 and 3 of the dissertation.  This exam asks for more elaboration on the selected independent variable(s) of such future research and comprises a review of the literature, research questions, and a research design to address the independent variable(s).  Chapters 1-3 make up the Dissertation Proposal.  The two four-day take-home exams must be a maximum of 20 pages (theoretical, historical, and sociolinguistics) or 30 pages (Applied Linguistics) in length, not including references, appendices etc., and double-spaced.  The exams will be taken during the last month of the third semester in the Ph.D. program after the student has submitted the department’s “Ph.D. examination form” to the DGS. The examinations are graded by the thesis director and one other professor appointed by the Chair. To pass the Ph.D. Examination, the student must obtain a minimum grade of B+. Students are allowed one rewrite.

6. Dissertation Committee

After successful completion of the Ph.D. exams, the student chooses a dissertation committee, which must consist minimally of three faculty members: a director and two readers. Co-mentorship is also possible albeit exceptional. At least two of the three faculty members must be tenure-line Georgetown faculty, and one must be in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. The readers may be from outside the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, either from another Georgetown department or program or from outside Georgetown University. Such outside readers are recommended whenever feasible. Readers from outside the University must hold a doctoral degree. They must also either be members of the faculty of another university or hold a professional appointment in a non-academic research institution that is equivalent to the academic rank of assistant professor or above. When the student chooses the dissertation committee, he or she must file the appropriate form with the DGS. Changes to the dissertation committee require GSAS’s approval.

7. Dissertation Proposal

One semester after successful completion of the two Ph.D. exams, the student will draft a dissertation proposal to be defended publicly before the established dissertation committee. All committee members must be present, either in person, on Zoom or Skype, or on a conference call. At least one week prior to the defense of the proposal, students must submit to the DGS the “Proposal Defense Form” in addition to submitting the appropriate form, which includes a detailed abstract, to the graduate school. The proposal will be more than an overview of the topic; considerable research on the subject must be evident so that rigorous discussion may take place. For Theoretical Linguistics, the dissertation proposal comprises an Abstract, a Review of the literature, a Statement of the Problem with clearly formulated research questions, a discussion of the methodology used for data collection (if relevant), and a sketch of the proposed solution. For Applied Linguistics, the dissertation proposal comprises an Abstract, Introduction, and Statement of the Problem, Review of the Literature with research questions, and a defendable Research Design and Methodology section to address the research questions. All treatment and testing materials must be included in the appendices. Upon approval of the proposal by the dissertation committee, the student will enroll in two successive semesters of Thesis Research in the last year of study, during which period the dissertation will be written. Once a student has defended his or her dissertation proposal, the student is considered ABD.

8. Dissertation Defense

Upon completion of the dissertation, and before a dissertation defense can be scheduled, the student’s committee must certify unanimously one week before the defense date that the dissertation is ready for defense, that is, that there is a reasonable expectation both a) that the student will be able to address any questions about or shortcomings in the dissertation, and b) that only minor revisions will be required after the defense. After the committee’s unanimous decision that the dissertation is ready for defense as certified by their signatures on the Graduate School Doctoral Dissertation Reviewers’ Report Form, there will be a public presentation and defense of the dissertation in order to satisfy fully the requirements for conferral of the doctorate. The Graduate School requires that the defense be publicized through its web page and that the Doctoral Dissertation Reviewers’ Report Form be filed at least one week prior to the defense. All committee members must be present, either in person, on Zoom or Skype, or on conference call at the defense for the entire session. The candidate will be considered to have passed the dissertation defense when the committee certifies by majority vote that the defense was “successful.” That is, the committee must certify that the candidate has satisfactorily addressed any questions about and shortcomings in the dissertation and that no major revisions are required. If a student’s dissertation has not been successfully defended and accepted by the Graduate School by the end of either the five or seven-year time limit (see Section 1.3 of the Graduate Student Handbook), the student will be terminated from the graduate program, unless an extension of time to complete the degree has been approved by the GSAS.

A student’s Ph.D. program will typically be structured as follows (after completion of the M.S. requirements):

Semester I:
3 courses
Semester II:
3 courses
Semester III:
By October 15th: Student submits dissertation proposal for Ph.D. exams
End of the semester:
Ph.D. Take-Home Exam #1
Ph.D. Take-Home Exam #2
Semester IV:
Student proposes Dissertation Committee
Student works on Proposal
Public defense of Dissertation Proposal
Semester V or VI:
Public defense of Doctoral Dissertation

9. Teaching Requirement

Before graduation, all Ph.D. students are required to show proof of teaching experience. This requirement serves the purpose of furthering students’ educational and professional development. Teaching experience is defined as two semesters of instruction at an institution of higher learning. This requirement may be fulfilled prior to entering or during the Ph.D. program and can be completed at Georgetown University or at another institution. High school teaching or acting as an assistant to a professor cannot be used to fulfill the requirement. Students requiring a waiver must submit a letter to the DGS and provide appropriate documentation. GSAS fellows are required to serve the Department either as research assistants or as instructors. Usually, first-year graduate students are assigned to work with faculty as research assistants (RA) and then to teach one course per semester. Courses could be language courses or upper-level courses in linguistics depending on preparation and availability. The goal is to prepare students to be the best possible professionals within the teacher/scholar model. This means they excel as researchers and as communicators in at least two languages.

10. Deadline Extensions and Leaves of Absence

Students may petition their graduate program and the Graduate School for an extension of the deadline to complete the Ph.D. The Graduate School will readily grant a first extension of up to one year on the recommendation of both the student’s mentor and the program’s Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Further extensions will be granted only in extraordinary circumstances, and only on the recommendation of the mentor, the DGS, and a standing committee to be appointed by the Dean to review all such requests. Once candidacy has been achieved, the Graduate School will consider requests for a personal Leave of Absence (LOA) only if the reasons for requesting the leave would prevent the student from making significant progress on the dissertation. An LOA will not be granted simply for the purpose of extending the time permitted to complete the dissertation. “Personal Leave of Absence” is defined as any LOA other than one granted for medical reasons or to perform military service.

11. Annual Goal and Achievement Reports

By the end of each academic year, every student must file/update a “statement” or “progress report” with the DGS. A copy should also be provided to the student’s thesis director. In the statement, the student lists achievements, including all courses taken, examinations passed, publications and presentations and service such as participation in student organizations, as well as teaching responsibilities. The student also details progress made towards the Qualifying Paper and dissertation. The information on this statement is kept on file for such purposes as writing letters of recommendation and teaching assignments and is considered by the Department’s Academic Progress Committee, which is then reported to the Department Chair. This committee meets every Spring and may recommend appropriate action.