Applelinguist … the apple that started it all

linguistics information for everyone University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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University of Massachusetts

Focus / Concentrations:                 Theoretical

Department / College:                   Department of Linguistics

In the wacky world of linguistics, UMass Amherst is superior to Harvard. Their program is well-rounded, with an emphasis on grad students pursuing original research. UMass has a bunch of laboratories, including a language acquisition center, phonology lab, and even a lab entirely devoted to Optimality Theory. The department website likes to emphasize its great, close-knit, cohesive grad student culture. The editor of AppleLinguist in his research on linguistic programs had great interactions with UMass faculty.

Every student is funded with a current stipend of $18,500, not a bad sum for an inexpensive location. Roughly 33% of the graduate funding comes from grants, unaffected by the vagaries of the Massachusetts economy. Funding runs for five years. But if you feel as if you may need longer and you happen to research psycholinguistics or phonetics, then you’ll get six years. And if you’re asking yourself, “Why the extra year?” According to John J. McCarthy at UMass, students whose specialization requires lots of courses outside the department (e.g., in psychology) receive a sixth year of funding. There you have it.

The stipend may be smaller than other Massachusetts schools’ funding packages because it’s a public university. As is the case for all other public schools, grad funding could be a potential problem in this economy. Still, UMass’ funding base remains intact as evidenced by two new faculty hires.

In the last two years, UMass has hired Alice Harris, who specializes in historical linguistics, morphology, and Caucasian languages, and Brian Dillon, a psycholinguist who works on sentence processing using ERPs and eye-tracking techniques. The department is currently conducting a search for a phonologist, to start in September 2011.

For Harvard linguistics undergrads tempted to use UMass as a “safety school,” their plan may backfire. At least one outstanding applicant from Harvard has been turned down because it was obvious to them that there was no chance this student was going to choose UMass.


Written by applelinguist

January 8, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. UMass Amherst is generally considered one of the top five linguistics programs when it comes to theoretical linguistics. Like most programs with a theoretical focus, UMass Amherst concentrates on syntax, semantics, phonology, phonetics, but in addition conducts research psycholinguistics, language acquisition, morphology, and Optimality Theory. Unlike Harvard or MIT, I did have a very solid interaction with a professor at UMass Amherst. It speaks well of the program.


    January 8, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    • Some corrections, clarifications, and additions:

      -We fund every student with a stipend (currently $18,500) that’s enough to live on in this relatively inexpensive area.

      -About a third of our grad student funding comes from grants, which aren’t affected by the state’s economy.

      -Funding goes for five years (six years for students in psycholinguistics or phonetics).

      -Our grad students really are a cohesive group. Ask them.

      -Alice Harris joined our faculty this year, which means we now have opportunities for research in historical syntax and Caucasian languages.

      -We’re hiring a new assistant professor in psycholinguistics or computational/experimental phonology.

      -We’ve got nothing against Harvard linguistics majors — I was one myself, and now I’m department head here. In fact, two of our recent PhDs are on the Harvard linguistics faculty.

      I’m pleased but not surprised that Applelinguist had a good interaction with one of our faculty.

      John McCarthy

      January 27, 2010 at 9:32 am

      • Hello Prof. McCarthy,

        I’m sorry for the very tardy reply. Finally, I got around to updating the information on UMass Amherst. I borrowed heavily from your corrections. Indeed your faculty demonstrates tremendous support in the way it handles outside queries, even when they are not spot on.

        I, myself, am beginning at PhD program in SLA at the University of Arizona today, but in the world of interdisciplinary studies, I’m starting off with computational linguistics. Please feel free to send me updates in the future as this site is only as good as its contributors.


        Zachary Brooks
        PhD Student – University of Arizona
        Second Language Acquisition and Teaching


        August 23, 2010 at 4:37 pm

  2. […] University of Massachusetts at Amherst […]

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