Master’s Program in English Language and Linguistics

The MA in English (specialization in Applied English Linguistics) is designed to train students to think critically and knowledgeably about the English language; about issues of individual development and social behavior that require an understanding of the structure of the language and its modes of variation; and about philosophical, psychological, and pedagogical principles in the teaching and learning of the language. Through required and elective course work in the Department of English, students have the opportunity to learn about such topics as:

  • Articulatory characteristics of human speech
  • Different models of grammatical description (but with primary emphasis on the generative approach)
  • The phonetics and phonology of modern English
  • Syntactic structures and processes of modern English
  • The main regional and social dialects of modern English
  • Linguistic and political aspects of the global spread of English
  • Pragmatic factors in the use of modern English
  • The social and public uses of English
  • The historical antecedents of modern English
  • Principles of language acquisition and language learning
  • Methodological principles in the teaching of English as a second or foreign language
  • Research into the learning of English as a second language
  • Linguistic factors in the description of literary style
  • Theoretical and practical concerns in the analysis and teaching of written composition

The program of course work required for the MA (AEL) degree consists of two components: (1) required courses; and (2) elective courses. The choice of elective courses signals the student’s primary professional interests in the MA program. For most students, the MA (AEL) is taken with a focus on the teaching of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). However, other areas of applied English linguistics that might interest students include the relation of Standard English to nonstandard dialects of English, applications of linguistics to research in the development of reading skills or in composition theory, research in first or second language acquisition, the use of language in society, exploration of the nature of oral discourse, advanced theoretical perspectives on syntax or phonology, and the linguistic analysis of written texts.

While the MA (AEL) is not itself a research degree, it provides a substantial foundation for both teaching and applied research activities of various kinds in fields in which knowledge of the structure of the English language, or of issues about the language, is of central concern, e.g. education, child language development, sociopolitical changes, communication, among others.

Graduate work done elsewhere may be submitted for transfer for degree purposes with limitations of no more than 2 courses (6 credits) to be approved. The Department requires course syllabi, exams, papers, etc. in order to determine whether credit for a particular course will be accepted for transfer.

The normal program of full-time study for the MA degree is 9-12 credits each semester during the academic year. Students must obtain approval of their programs of study from the ELL Graduate Advisor at the beginning of each semester. This is done in conference with the MA (AEL) advisor at the time of registration.

The coursework requirement is a minimum of 33 credits, 12 in required courses and 21 in elective courses. Of the 21 elective credits, at least six credits must be in 700 level courses and at least three credits in 900 level courses. Of the 33 credits, at least 50% must come from graduate level work. In order to receive graduate credit in a course at the 300-500 levels, a student will have to do graduate level work, as specified in the syllabus. Students enrolled in the MA in AEL program must complete the graduate level requirements for any class that they enroll in.

The student must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA in graduate course work. Incompletes are allowed only in extraordinary circumstances and must be removed within eight weeks of the following semester of registration. If they are not removed within that time, they will revert to a grade of F unless special dispensation is granted by the Director of Graduate Studies of the Department of English.

Required Courses

English 314: Structure of English
English 315: English Phonology
English 514: English Syntax
English 516: English Grammar in Use


English 316: Language Variation in the U.S.
English 318: Second Language Acquisition
English 413: English Words: Grammar, Culture, Mind
English 414: Global Spread of English
English 415: Introduction to TESOL Methods
English 416: English in Society
English 417: History of the English Language
English 418: Linguistics and Literary Study
English 419: Gender and Language
English 420: Topics in English Language and Linguistics
English 520: Old English
English 522: Middle English
English 708: Advanced English Syntax
English 709: Advanced English Phonology
English 710: Interaction Analysis: Talk as Social Organization
English 711: Research Methods in Applied English Linguistics
English 713: Topics in Contemporary English Linguistics
English 715: Advanced Second Language Acquisition
English 905: Seminar: Topics in Applied English Linguistics
English 906: Seminar: The English Language

The Department recommends the MA in English degree after the student has satisfactorily completed the following requirements:

(a) a minimum of 33 credit hours of approved graduate course work; 12 of the 33 credit hours are taken in the required courses, 21 credit hours in elective courses.

(b) certification of reading knowledge of one modern foreign language, the choice to be approved by the MA (AEL) advisor if the language is other than French, German, Russian, or Spanish; nonnative English speakers automatically count English as the language that satisfies this requirement.

(c) a final comprehensive examination.

There is no thesis requirement.

Up to two classes (6 credits) of transfer credits may be accepted upon the approval of the MA (AEL) advisor when given proper documentation of the contents of the classes in question. If a student has taken one or more of the required courses in the MA program while enrolled as an undergraduate; they will be asked to take additional relevant course work as a graduate student in order to fulfill the minimum credit hours requirement for the degree. These decisions are made in consultation with the MA (AEL) advisor.

Foreign Language

Each MA candidate is expected to demonstrate reading competence in one foreign language by one of the following methods:

The equivalent of a fourth semester reading course in college with a B or higher grade;

An examination approved by the English Department.

Information concerning the time and place of such examinations is regularly included in the Department’s Graduate Student-Faculty Committee (GSFC) Newsletter. A student must fulfill the foreign language requirement before sitting for the comprehensive MA examination.

Nonnative speakers of English may offer English as the language which satisfies this reading competence requirement. Native speakers of English may choose French, German, Russian, or Spanish as their foreign language without any special permission from the MA (AEL) advisor. However, if students wish to offer a language other than one of these four, they must petition the MA (AEL) advisor to do so.

Students enrolled in the program leading to the MA (AEL) degree should recognize that the purpose of this requirement (reading competence) is distinct from the purpose of the prerequisite for admission to the degree program. All students in this program are required to have the experience of learning a second language, including its spoken form; if students have not satisfied this prerequisite prior to admission, they will be required to take four semesters of language study concurrently with courses leading the MA, degree. Also, all students in this program are required to demonstrate reading competence of one foreign language.

TESOL Certificate

The Program in English Linguistics also offers a graduate level Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages designed to provide academic and pedagogical preparation for prospective ESL/ELF teachers. This Certificate requires 9 credits of graduate level course work along with prerequisite courses drawn primarily from the coursework in the MA program. The Certificate in TESOL may be pursued contemporarily with the MA in AEL. It is possible and common to complete the course work for both the MA in AEL and the Certificate in TESOL in 4 semesters.

Teaching Assistantships

A student who is enrolled for the MA (AEL) degree who has successfully completed English 415, English 515 (or the equivalent), and one or more of English 613-618 may be eligible to be appointed as a salaried Teaching Assistant in the English Language Institute (regular 8-week Summer Session). Such an appointment provides practical experience, under supervision, in the teaching of English to speakers of other languages, but this experience is not required for the MA degree, nor is the opportunity guaranteed.