Graduate Student Handbook


Introductory courses in different areas of linguistics are 300 level, while the more advanced courses are 500 level. At the UW, 300 level courses and 500 level courses are open to both graduate and undergraduate students, although 500 level courses have considerably fewer undergraduates. Courses above 500 are usually entirely graduate. There are different requirements for undergraduate and graduate students in the mixed courses.

Following is a listing of most of our regularly-taught courses; see the course catalog for a complete listing. Note that changes to our courses and course descriptions will be taking place in a year or two, as we phase in a new undergraduate program.

101/301: HUMAN LANGUAGE.. Elementary theory and practical work in phonetics, phonology, morphology, and syntax, with attention to formal grammar. NOTE: students may not receive credit for both 101 and 301.

310: PHONOLOGY. Analysis and formal statement of phonological systems; problems and methods of phonological theory.

322: MORPHOLOGY. Morphological characteristics of the world's languages. Introduction to theoretical approaches to morphology. Interaction between morphology and syntax; morphology and phonology.

330: SYNTAX. Grammatical theory; types of elements and processes usable in syntactic descriptions of various sorts.

340: SEMANTICS. Meaning in natural languages, relationship between syntax and semantics, compositional semantics.

426: FIELD METHODS I. Collection and analysis of phonetic, phonological, and morphological data from a particular language, using one or more speakers as consultants.

427: FIELD METHODS II. Collection and analysis of morphological, syntactic, and semantic data from a particular language, using one or more speakers as consultants.

510: PHONOLOGICAL THEORIES. Theories of phonology, and advanced phonological description.

522: ADVANCED MORPHOLOGY. Advanced morphological theory.

530: SYNTACTIC THEORIES. Theories of syntax, and syntactic description. The relation of syntax to semantics, and other aspects of linguistic theory.

540: ADVANCED SEMANTICS. Indexicality, reference and quantification, intensionality, and tense.

800: RESEARCH METHODS AND MATERIALS. Conducting research and writing linguistics. Reserved for Linguistics students or students with adequate linguistics background in other graduate programs.

976-979: SEMINAR.

Note: topics courses and seminars can be repeated for credit.


The Linguistics Student Organization (LSO) takes as its main goals the representation of the student body to the faculty, and the coordination of functions that will help graduate students in their studies and prepare graduate students for their future. All linguistics students enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Madison during regular or summer academic periods are members of the LSO. Meetings are held at least twice a semester.

Through organizing student representation on faculty committees, the LSO strives to maintain the highest level of participation possible by students in the immediate governance of, and policy development for, the Department of Linguistics. The LSO also works to plan and finance both academic and social events for students. For example, in 2000-2001 the LSO had funding to support publication and mailing of working papers to other colleges and universities, among other activities. A third major objective is to receive complaints from students and take action on their behalf if necessary; and, more formally, to provide an official voice through which the opinions of the student body may be expressed. Finally, the LSO also works to equip the library on the thirteenth floor with journals not offered elsewhere on campus that are crucial to linguistic research.

Every LSO meeting is announced ahead of time, usually via e-mail to all students, and is open to anyone.

Additional Information

Writing Assignments

It is recommended (but not required) that graduate students be assigned short termpapers in 300-level courses. These do not have to be original research papers, but should be designed to get the students used to finding a topic and starting to write about linguistics. It is also a way to differentiate between the workload for a graduate student and an undergraduate in the same course.

Graduate students in 500-level courses and above must be assigned at least one paper. This paper should involve original research.

Professional Development

Students are expected to take responsibility for their intellectual development, as well as meeting departmental requirements. Their goal should be original research of the highest quality, and they are expected to take advantage of all of the resources of the department. Material covered in courses provides only a beginning point. Students are expected to keep abreast of the linguistic literature, to attend talks and colloquia (there are two bulletin boards in the department on which announcements are posted), and to seek input on their work from other graduate students and the faculty.

Students should feel free to consult any faculty member on their research, not just the faculty on their committees. They should go to their appointments prepared to discuss the problem they are addressing, the relevant data, and the analysis they are proposing or exploring.

Students can expect sound guidance from their advisor on their academic progress, and they can expect timely feedback from their committees on prelim papers and the dissertation.

Graduate Student Travel Funding

The Graduate School gives the department a small amount of money every year that we can use for graduate student travel. We split it evenly among all graduate students who give papers at conferences during the year (for these purposes we will say that the year goes from May to May). If you do give a paper somewhere, let the department secretary know, and at the end of the year the money will be divided up among all who apply. You cannot count on it being a lot (and of course it depends on how many students make a request), but it can help a little. As a reference point, in 99-00 the students got about $130 each, while in 00-01 they got about $200.

Office Hours

All faculty have weekly office hours, and shortly after each semester starts you will receive a list of the office hours for each professor. (If you are unsure, you can either ask the department secretary, or check the professor's door, where the office hours will be posted.) Many students think they have to email first to ask permission to come to office hours. Please don't do that--all it does is gives the prof one more email message to answer. Office hours are first come, first served--that is, you just show up and wait your turn.

Human Subjects

If you do research with language consultants other than in a field methods class (Ling 426 or 427), you must have human subjects approval. At the UW, the way this works is that the professor has to get approval for the student's project as if it was his or her own. This means that you will have to work it out with your major professor (or whoever else you're working with). If all you're doing is audio taping a speaker, your project will probably be exempt--but that is for the Human Subjects Committee to decide, not you. If you are videotaping, or running some kind of phonetics experiment, you will probably have to develop a consent form for the subjects involved. This is part of the application for human subjects approval, so again it's something to work out with your professor. The crucial thing to understand here is that the University could refuse to allow you to publish your findings or file your dissertation if you didn't have the proper approval. Therefore it is critically important that you take care of this before you start any research with human subjects.

You can find out more at the Human Subjects Committee website.


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