Applelinguist … the apple that started it all

linguistics information for everyone

2.1 Where to Look, Who to Ask

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While many departments don’t keep their websites religiously updated, you can still find a good deal of helpful information on department websites. Some of that information isn’t to be altogether trusted — many departments will claim on their main page to have “strengths” in certain areas that just happen to be every major area. In theoretical linguistic departments, those strengths are morphology, phonetics, phonology, semantics, and syntax. In applied, those strengths are bilingualism, non-native language acquisition, conversation analysis, culture and language connection, and language assessment. However, it should be noted that the descriptions offered by applied linguistics programs seem to be less uniform than the ones offered by theoretical departments.

Still web pages that list the faculty and their research interests can be extremely helpful. Also helpful (perhaps even more so) is the list of graduate students and their interests; this should give you an idea of what sort of students the department is interested in admitting. If you don’t see phonologists on the graduate student list, for example, you can pretty much conclude that this department is not the place to go for phonology, even if the website claims otherwise. The department site is also a good place to get an idea of the graduate student culture at that school; Northwestern, for example, has a link to a humor publication put out by the linguistics graduate students. Speaking of department cultures, it is also important to trust your instincts. We will say more on this later in the section introducing to the schools, we if your email or phone call goes unanswered, a famous name won’t save years of heartache that you detected early on in the process.

What you can also find on the Internet are a few evaluations and rankings of linguistics graduate programs. These sorts of comparisons can be a little sketchy; some of them are out of date, and they don’t seem to be that comprehensive. For example, the most widely parroted rankings list is derived from a 1995 National Research Council (NRC) ranking of linguistics programs. MIT, Stanford, and UCLA are listed as the best programs. But programs such as UC Davis aren’t listed at all. Even if you come across a ranking that appears reliable, beware: Often schools have to pay a fee to be included in an “objective” ranking. For instance, the American Association of Applied Linguistics ( only lists the schools that are members AAAL leaving out numerous schools that offer PhD programs in Applied Linguistics.

If you’re thinking of applying to schools in the U.K., however, the evaluations of linguistics programs for Britain seem vaguely more reliable since they appear to have some set of national standards.


Written by applelinguist

January 7, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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