The Department of French and Italian

The Graduate Program in French Linguistics

The graduate degree program in French Linguistics combines substantial course work with increased emphasis on independent study. The aim is to provide the student with a broad overview of his/her field as well as a professional specialization within that field.

Students in the French Linguistics program gain a strong comprehensive background in both applied and theoretical linguistics. Main areas include phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. Subfields include historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, dialectology, second language acquisition, and psycholinguistics. Our program aims to train future linguists who intend to pursue a career in academic research and teaching in universities and colleges.

The graduate program in French Linguistics is a PhD program. The MA degree may be obtained en passant to the PhD at the end of the second year of course work provided a student has earned a sufficient number of credits and has maintained the minimum grade point average required by the Graduate School.

Admission to PhD Program:

Students entering the program with an MA are admitted directly into the PhD program. Students entering with a BA who are completing their first two years of graduate coursework in French Linguistics here and who wish to continue toward the PhD will demonstrate their competency to continue toward the PhD through coursework and research. Students must submit a request to be considered for admission to a doctoral program in writing to the Chairman of the Graduate Studies Committee. In evaluating such requests, the Committee will take into account the student's progress, defined in part by classroom performance, term papers, examinations, and one 10-12 page scholarly paper from a completed course, either in French or in English (revised, if necessary). The Committee will also take into consideration input from faculty members in the student’s area as well as input provided by the student’s own performance report. The applicant must submit the paper to a vetting committee appointed by the Graduate Studies Committee Chair in consultation with the Graduate Adviser, approximately one month before papers are due for consideration by the entire GSC.


Students are expected to take courses that provide a thorough understanding of both the theory and the practice of their subject. Coursework for the PhD normally consists of 60 semester credit hours of graduate content courses. Students who transfer with an MA in French from another institution should expect to take a minimum of 30-36 semester hours beyond the MA level.

Students who decide to switch disciplines (e.g., from literature to linguistics) should expect to take additional coursework to ensure adequate preparation for the Comprehensive Exam and satisfactory coverage of the field, to be determined by the Graduate Adviser in the student’s field.

The precise nature of the courses will vary with the needs of the individual student, and must be approved in consultation with the Graduate Adviser.

Recommended Core Courses
The PhD program in French Linguistics has two recommended core courses that provide students with a solid descriptive and theoretical base in French linguistics. Ideally, these courses should be taken within a student’s first two years of graduate study.
• Phonology I (LIN 380K)
• Syntax I (LIN 380L)

Coursework Policies:

Credit/No Credit. Students may take no more than two graduate courses on a CR/NC basis, neither of which can count for any core or area degree requirement.

Incompletes. All grades of X on a transcript must be made up within one semester or they become permanent incompletes [I] on the transcript. Students with an I on their record become ineligible for funding reappointment.

FR398T Supervised Teaching for Graduate Students. All Teaching Assistants planning to become Assistant Instructors MUST take FR 398T. French 398T may count for 3 credits towards the degree but not towards the core or area requirements.

Courses Outside the Department. Students should plan to 5-7 courses in related disciplines. Note that University rules require that at least two graduate courses be taken outside the Department of French and Italian.

Language Competency Requirements. Students must demonstrate competency in Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Arabic, or any other modern language approved by the Graduate Advisor at a fourth semester level. Competency can be demonstrated in various ways. It is strongly advised that students acquire these language skills before beginning graduate study at UT or over the summers. Lower-division language courses will not count toward the degree requirements and will slow the student down in completion of requirements. The language requirement must be fulfilled before the student undertakes the Comprehensive Exam for the PhD.
Option 1: Coursework.  A student may demonstrate competence through coursework in a language equivalent to the 4th semester (~12 credit) level. When relevant, the language requirement may be satisfied with two semesters of Latin (~6 credits).
Option 2: Placement examination. A student may opt to demonstrate competence by passing a departmental placement examination or a foreign language placement exam administered through Testing and Evaluation Services. Students are advised that these exams may only be offered at specific intervals throughout the year and they should plan accordingly.
Option 3:  Graduate reading course. A student may demonstrate competence by passing an intensive graduate reading course in another language (e.g., GER380C, ITL380C).
Option 4: The translation exam. In lieu of coursework, a student may opt to complete the language requirement by completing a translation exam. The candidate must demonstrate an adequate knowledge of the idiomatic and grammatical structure of one language and a thorough understanding of the technical vocabulary of the field. This knowledge will be tested by a written examination consisting of a translation of a passage of about 500 words on a subject appropriate to the student’s major field of interest. The passage will be chosen by members of the GSC in the candidate’s area. In the event that the student wishes to be tested in a language that is not spoken or signed by members of the GSC, the passage will be chosen in consultation with an external faculty member who speaks or signs the language to be tested. The examination is limited to one hour and the translation is to be made without the aid of a dictionary. The process will be administered by the Graduate Advisor and the Graduate Coordinator.


The Comprehensive Exam:

Your comprehensive exam is designed to determine your competence to interpret the theoretical assumptions and the research findings in your area of specialization and your preparation to do research on the topic you have proposed. The content of the Comprehensive Exam will be established by the members of your committee in accordance with degree requirements and consist of two research papers based on problems proposed by members of the committee.

For further details about the Comprehensive Exam, please click here.  


When the student has fulfilled all PhD coursework and foreign language requirements, has passed the Comprehensive Exam, and has chosen a dissertation director and a supervising committee of at least three other faculty members, then he or she will file for doctoral candidacy with the Graduate School and begin registering for the dissertation course. The student must fill out the Graduate School candidacy form online (  After submitted, the application will require approval from the director, the Graduate Adviser, the Graduate Studies Committee Chair of the Program, and the Graduate Dean. Please refer to the Graduate Catalog for all rules governing progress and completion of the dissertation.


By the end of the long semester following the Comprehensive Exam, the student, working with the dissertation adviser, will write a dissertation prospectus of a length agreed upon with the dissertation committee (generally from 15 to 25 pages). The prospectus should be a carefully argued written presentation of the basis for the student’s dissertation research. It should explain the significance of the project in relation to work in the field, justify the research methodology or approach, and set forth the questions to be answered and the conclusions expected. This should be followed by brief summaries of each chapter. The prospectus should demonstrate the student’s ability to undertake research on a topic within the context of current scholarship and critical methodologies, and give evidence of the student’s breadth of knowledge and potential for future success as a scholar.

The prospectus must be submitted to the student’s dissertation committee through the dissertation adviser. Within one month after submission, the committee will either give its approval or request that the prospectus be revised. The student will have one additional month to rework the prospectus in accordance with the committee’s recommendations. The final approved prospectus will be placed in the student’s file and constitute evidence of satisfactory progress.

Pre-defense Meeting:

A pre-defense meeting will gather together the candidate and the full committee, at a date to be determined in consultation with the dissertation director. It should not take place too early, i.e. before the candidate has completed all the basic research and definite results are beginning to emerge. It should not take place too late either, if the correcting and redirecting process is to be meaningful. The purpose of the pre-defense meeting is to enhance the intellectual exchange between all parties concerned, provide students with an opportunity to generate enthusiasm for the project, allow for concerted advice and generally diffuse the stress that often accompanies the defense itself.


It is expected that the dissertation will make a substantial contribution to existing scholarship in the field. The Graduate School requires that dissertations be written in English, unless special permission is granted prior to undertaking the project. Progress on the dissertation is regularly monitored. The dissertation is expected to be completed and defended within two years after admission to candidacy. If it is not, the student’s case will be reviewed by the Graduate Studies Committee.

Dissertation Defense:

The supervisory committee is responsible for approving the dissertation, which the student defends in an oral examination between one and two hours in length. This examination is conducted by the committee (at least four of its members must attend) and is open to the university community. The defense covers the dissertation, the general field of the dissertation, and other parts of the student's program, as determined by the committee. Forms are available from the Graduate School both to apply for the granting of the PhD and to request the official scheduling of the defense (called the "Final Oral"). The dissertation committee should be given at least one month to read the dissertation before the “Final Oral.” The student should arrange with the Graduate Coordinator to arrange a date, time, and place to conduct the defense.

Satisfactory Progress:

All students must make satisfactory progress toward their degree goals in order to continue in the program toward the PhD Satisfactory progress is defined as follows:
• A minimum 3.7 grade point average for those with Walther, Pre-Emptive, or Continuing scholarships and a minimum 3.4 grade point average for all other students.
• A minimum average of 3.5 out of 5 for “quality of instructor” on the student-generated Course Instructor Survey (CIS) and a satisfactory rating from the supervisor of lower-division instruction.
• The completion of all coursework, foreign language requirements, and examinations within four years of entering the program.
• The successful submission of the dissertation prospectus to a properly established supervisory committee within six months of the completion of the Comprehensive Exam.
• The demonstrated potential to conduct sustained and innovative independent research, deemed relevant to the discipline.

Termination from the Program:

Progress will be measured not only in terms of objective grades, but also by feedback from faculty and statements by the students themselves via their annual progress report. The Graduate Studies Committee will continually evaluate each student for evidence of his/her potential to complete the Doctor of Philosophy. Should a student’s scholarly progress in the program be deemed unsatisfactory for continuation, the student may receive a terminal MA degree after four or more semesters of coursework, as long as he/she meets all of the degree requirements and maintains the minimum average grade point average of 3.0 required by the Graduate School.

  • Department of French and Italian

    University of Texas at Austin
    201 W 21st Street STOP B7600
    HRH 2.114A
    Austin, TX 78712-1800