Theoretical Linguistics

Theoretical Linguistics concerns the core structural elements of language, namely phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. In addition to these areas and their interfaces, faculty and students in this concentration also conduct research on language acquisition and historical linguistics.

Theoretical Linguistics Faculty

Affiliated Faculty

1. Foundational knowledge and skills in linguistics. Theoretical linguistics faculty and students value a broad-based understanding of a range of scholarly domains within linguistics. In foundational knowledge, Georgetown Theoretical Linguistics (TLI) Ph.D. students will demonstrate basic understanding of important topics and theories, as well as familiarity with the nature of data and the methods of research, in the domains of linguistic analysis of sound, form, and meaning; language change and language learning; language in society; and computational linguistics.

2. Content knowledge in theoretical linguistics. The diversity of emphases that characterizes theoretical linguistics scholarship is reflected in the range of research and teaching interests of TLI program faculty and students.
Breadth of knowledge in Theoretical Linguistics: TLI Ph.D. graduates will demonstrate general understanding of the variety of domains that constitute the core of linguistic knowledge, including familiarity with diverse questions of interest in the areas of (and interfaces between) phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, language change and language acquisition, as well as many of the approaches to their investigation and resolution.
Depth of knowledge in Theoretical Linguistics: TLI Ph.D. graduates will achieve comprehensive knowledge of at least two areas of formal linguistics and mastery of content knowledge within at least one specific area, typified by (a) critical engagement with cutting-edge theoretical developments in the area, and (b) the contribution of new knowledge in response to important questions, gaps, or problems in the area.
Understanding of linguistic methodology: TLI Ph.D. students will have practical knowledge of multiple methodologies for acquiring linguistic data, for example fieldwork, corpus study, psycholinguistic experimentation, phonetic experimentation, or elicitation and introspection.

3. Research skills. Expertise in research methodology is emphasized in Georgetown’s TLI program and is a hallmark of our faculty and students. TLI Ph.D. graduates will achieve advanced skills in designing and utilizing research methods appropriate for their specific areas of interest, and they will promote high-quality research practice among other researchers (through peer review and teaching, conference attendance and presentations, etc.). Research expertise incorporates valid design of studies, meaningful data collection, accurate data analysis, and adherence to ethical standards.
Empirical literature base: TLI Ph.D. graduates will have acquired deep familiarity with diverse bodies of literature in linguistics that they can draw from for future life-long research and which can be exploited and built upon in their foreseeable future, for example, in careers in academia, technology, public service, or other sectors. TLI Ph.D. graduates will be capable of understanding and articulating the impact that choices in terms of theoretical approach and research methodology have on the development of knowledge in linguistics.
Practical research skills: TLI Ph.D. graduates will have acquired research skills that are applicable to future research endeavors (e.g., academic positions at Research I universities), to future professional endeavors and to communicating with others about the value of linguistic analysis in contributing to our understanding of language and cognition, and its interfaces with philosophy, psychology, biology, neuroscience, computer science, music, literature, and language education.

4. Professional skills. The TLI program emphasizes the development of skills critical to the profession of Linguistics, including in particular academic writing and teaching.
Writing: TLI Ph.D. graduates are excellent academic writers, capable of (a) synthesizing the research of others in ways that are clear and appealing to an audience of academic or professional peers; (b) writing across genres that are prominent in linguistics circles (including research articles, squibs, book reviews, peer review reports, newsletter pieces, grant proposals, conference abstracts, IRB applications, letters of recommendation); (c) writing up one’s own research and being able to succeed with submissions of it to academic or professional venues for publication (such as refereed journals in linguistics, conference proceedings, and newsletters of professional associations); and (d) providing high-quality feedback on the writing of peers and students.
Teaching: TLI Ph.D. graduates will be confident as instructors of linguistics. They will have acquired a repertoire of pedagogical techniques to be able to teach linguistics courses in their areas of expertise. They will know how to present material effectively in the classroom (or other forums for dissemination, like conference presentations), how to structure student-centered learning of content matter in linguistics, and how to foster student learning and critical involvement in life-long learning about language.

5. Professional engagement and collaborative ethos. The TLI program values a commitment to the profession of Linguistics, and its faculty and students regularly engage in professional service to and the promotion of excellence in the field. TLI Ph.D. graduates will demonstrate a commitment to professional engagement and will be recognized for excellence in their specific areas of linguistics, including participation in professional events, dissemination of research in various forums, and service contributions that enhance scholarly exchange and practical application of their and others’ scholarly work. Further, TLI Ph.D. graduates will value and be able to create/sustain collaboration, both when carrying out research projects and when sharing ideas with others working in the same field and topics, be it at professional gatherings, through journals, or through participation in professional associations and research bodies.