Mason to Offer New PhD in Linguistics

Posted: April 21, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By B.J. Koubaroulis

This fall, Mason will offer a new PhD in linguistics, with a main objective of training students to be research scientists in academia, industry and government.

“For the last 10 years, we have noticed that more than 15 of our graduates have gone on to receive a doctorate in linguistics at other universities,” says program director Steven Weinberger.

“Quite a few of them are now professors of linguistics. Moreover, almost all of these students who have gone on elsewhere expressed their desire to stay with us for a PhD. But, alas, we had no such program.”

Upon program completion, graduates will be qualified to work in administration of language, speech pathology, learning programs and government-funded research, as well as research and teaching at universities around the world.

The PhD program in linguistics will require 72 credit hours in a wide range of topics, including phonology, syntax and semantics, and will also focus on second language acquisition. Requirements will include fundamental courses in research methods, seminars in the core theoretical areas and electives, qualifying papers and dissertation research.

Mason currently offers three undergraduate programs in linguistics: the undergraduate English concentration in linguistics, the undergraduate Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) certificate and the interdisciplinary minor in linguistics.

In 2008, there were 65 students studying linguistics at Mason; the university typically grants 15 master’s degrees each year.

Located in the suburbs of Washington D.C., Mason is positioned in the heart of a language “mixing bowl.”

This local demand for qualified ESL teachers and other language professionals, as well as the university’s proven track record in teaching and molding linguistics professionals, prompted Mason to develop a new educational avenue for aspiring linguists.

“I believe it is a logical step for Mason to follow since it will provide a capstone opportunity for the foundational material learned during the MA program,” says John Pope, a 1996 Mason MA and TESL graduate who is now a professor at Mason and director of the English Language Institute (ELI).

“Obviously, (Mason’s) Linguistics Program helped prepare me professionally for my career at the ELI by providing a clear understanding of the total language process, as well as the myriad challenges faced by second language learners. The program at Mason balanced ‘pure’ linguistics theory with applied linguistics theory and practical application, which is essential preparation for [English as a Second Language] instructors.”

“My linguistics degree was the foundation that allowed me to move my career ahead,” says Kathy Trump, a 1982 graduate of the MA program who since has co-written two ESL vocabulary textbooks, served as the director of Mason’s ELI and is currently University Life’s associate dean for International Education and Programs.

“The courses I took gave me the linguistic background I needed to be more effective in the classroom, taught me how to be a more critical thinker and turned me into a lifelong learner.”

This article originally appeared in a slightly different format on the College of Humanities and Social Sciences web site.

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