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Programs / Graduate Program / MA in Linguistics

MA in Linguistics

*This program is being phased out. M.A. in Linguistics offering is valid through Fall 2025. We are no longer admitting students to this program.*

Program overview

The Master’s in Linguistics offers training in theoretical frameworks for approaching descriptive and sociolinguistic data with related emphases on historical, corpus, and computational linguistics. Department resources include a computational and corpus linguistics lab and a phonetics lab, as well as access to the Research in Computing for the Humanities (RCH) collaboratory through the department’s engagement with that unit. The department is home to the Linguistic Atlas Project (LAP), as well as other ongoing research projects such as Wildcat Voices and the Young Appalachians’ Living Language (YALL) corpus. In addition to providing invaluable intellectual preparation for doctoral studies in linguistics, the MAL program prepares students for careers in high-tech industry, text-based consultancies in law and medicine, and jobs in government agencies.

How to apply

The application process is handled online through the University of Kentucky Graduate School. To learn more about graduate school requirements or to apply to the MAL program, click here. The deadline to apply to the MAL program is December 11. The GRE requirement has been waived for applications to this degree program.

Financial assistance

Funding opportunities and graduate teaching assistantships are available to qualified students. The Linguistics Program employs teaching assistants in its program for a stipend plus full tuition remission per academic year.  Students will be required to teach a nine credit hour load split between fall and spring semesters.  Assistantships are renewable for two years while in the MA program provided that the student has made satisfactory progress toward a degree, and is performing satisfactorily as a teacher. 

The Graduate School also offers a number of non-service fellowships, for which Linguistics graduate students are eligible. These may be awarded in conjunction with a teaching assistantship. 

Why MAL?

  • The MAL degree emphasizes both linguistic theory, whose aim is to increase our knowledge about the fundamental nature of human language, and typology, the study of the domains of similarity among languages and the dimensions and degrees of their differences.
  • Students of MAL are trained in formal and computational methods in the analysis of linguistic data, important transferable skills and fast becoming a standard expectation in any program of linguistic research.
  • MAL offers specializations in morphosyntax and sociolinguistics.
  • Students have opportunities to participate in faculty research projects involving a range of languages, including K’iche’ Maya, Eastern Iranian, Slavic, Sanskrit, Appalachian English, and others.

The courses

  • Morphosyntax track
    • core: morphology, syntax, phonology
    • additional courses in: grammatical typology, computational linguistics, constraint-based lexicalist grammars, etc.
  • Sociolinguistic track
    • core: syntax, phonology, phonetics - plus courses in
    • additional courses in: sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, discourse analysis, quantitative & qualitative methods in sociolinguistics, acoustic phonetics, etc.

Degree Requirements

30 total hours including the following core courses:


  • LIN 601 - Research Methods in Linguistics
  • LIN 701 - Research Seminar in Linguistic Theory & Typology
  • A syntax course (LIN 512 or 600-level course)
  • A phonology course (LIN 515 or 600-level course)


  • A morphology course (LIN 505 or 600-level course)
  • A phonetics course (LIN 500 or 600-level course)

Required:  At least 20 credit hours (7 courses) taken as regular courses (rather than as independent study or research courses)

Required:  At least 15 credit hours (5 courses) taken at the 600 or 700 level (excluding thesis, practicum, or internship credit)

Only 9 credit hours transferable (excluding independent work, research, workshops, practica, or thesis work); student must have had graduate status at the time the courses were taken.

The faculty

With a world class faculty on hand, students are exposed to cutting-edge research in morphosyntax and sociolinguistics.

  • Rusty Barrett: Mayan linguistics, sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, language revitalization, language & gender
  • Allison Burkette: Linguistic Atlas Projects, sociolinguistics, material culture
  • Andrew Byrd: Indo-European linguistics, historical linguistics, phonology
  • Jennifer Cramer: Perceptual dialectology, discourse analysis, language and identity, Kentucky
  • Josef Fruehwald: Sociolinguistics, phonetics, phonology, quantitative methods, computational linguistics
  • Mark Richard Lauersdorf: Historical sociolinguistics, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, corpus linguistics, language contact, linguistic typology, Slavic, Germanic, Romance languages, language technologies
  • Kevin B. McGowan: Phonetics, speech perception, coarticulation, sociolinguistics

Concurrent Degrees

MAL students may choose to pursue a concurrent degree with another program in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (MCLLC).

Nine credit hours are shared between two degrees, with the approval of both Directors of Graduate Studies. Visit the Graduate School web page to find the Concurrent Master Degrees form


Where can MAL take me?

MAL graduates will be prepared to succeed in the top doctoral programs in the United States and abroad, and will be positioned to enter a global, information-based marketplace that demands the skills that a strong MA in Linguistics provides, with careers in such fields as, for example:

  • speech and language processing
  • globalization of commercial products
  • healthcare communication
  • business
  • legal professions
  • analysts in government agencies