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College of Languages, Linguistics and Literature
Moore 569
1890 East-West Road
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-8602
Fax: (808) 956-9166
E-mail: linguist@hawaii.edu
Web: www.ling.hawaii.edu


*Graduate Faculty

*R. A. Blust, PhD (Chair)—historical linguistics; Austronesian linguistics and culture history; field methods
*V. B. Anderson, PhD—phonetics-phonology interface, phonetic and phonological universals, prosody, Austronesian and Australian languages, endangered languages, speech technology
*B. K. Bergen, PhD—cognitive linguistics; computational linguistics; psycholinguistics; sound symbolism
*R. Bley-Vroman, PhD—English syntax, language acquisition
*K. Deen, PhD—language acquisition, syntax, Bantu languages and linguistics
*P. J. Donegan, PhD—natural phonology, vowel systems, acquisition, typology, computerized lexicography, Munda languages
*M. L. Forman, PhD—general linguistics, ethnographic linguistics, Philippine studies
*J. Haig, PhD—Japanese linguistics
P. Lassettre, MA—phonology, morphology, Micronesian linguistics
*P. A. Lee, PhD—logical semantics and pragmatics, history of linguistics, animal communication
*P. G. Lee, PhD—theoretical linguistics, phonology, syntax, computer applications
*W. O’Grady, PhD—syntax, language acquisition, Korean
*Y. Otsuka, DPhil—syntax; Polynesian
*A. M. Peters, PhD—children’s speech
*K. L. Rehg, PhD—phonology, Micronesian linguistics, lexicography, endangered languages, language contact and language planning
*A. J. Schafer, PhD—sentence comprehension and production; sentence prosody; psycholinguistics
*H. M. Sohn, PhD—Korean linguistics
*D. Stampe, PhD—computational linguistics; phonology and prosody; holistic typology and drift; Munda languages
*A. V. Vovin, PhD—history of the Japanese and Korean languages, comparative Altaic linguistics, the Ainu language
*A. D. Wong, PhD—sociolinguistics, Cantonese

Retired Faculty—In Residence

B. W. Bender, PhD—general linguistics; morphology; Micronesian linguistics
D. Bickerton, PhD—language variation, pidgins and creoles, language and literature
G. W. Grace, PhD—historical linguistics; Austronesian
A. V. Lyovin, PhD—typology, Sino-Tibetan, historical linguistics
A. J. Schütz, PhD—descriptive linguistics, field methods, lexicography; Fijian and other Melanesian languages; history of linguistics in the Pacific

Cooperating Graduate Faculty

D. E. Ashworth, PhD—language learning and teaching, Japanese linguistics
J. M. Bilmes, PhD—sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, ethnosemantics, Tai linguistics
J. D. Brown, PhD—language learning and teaching, language testing
C. J. Chaudron, PhD—applied psycholinguistics, discourse analysis
H. M. Cook, PhD—Japanese linguistics, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis and pragmatics
R. Day, PhD—language learning and teaching, discourse analysis, language planning
E. Drechsel, PhD—ethnolinguistics; American Indian languages
E. Hawkins, PhD—language learning and teaching, Polynesian linguistics
Y. Hoonchamlong, PhD—Thai linguistics (syntax, discourse, semantics), Tai/Thai dialectology, language learning and teaching, internet technology in language research and language instruction, translation
H. I. Hsieh, PhD—Chinese linguistics, semantics, pragmatics, mathematical linguistics
G. Kasper, PhD—second-language curriculum, discourse analysis, interlanguage pragmatics
Y. C. Li, PhD—Chinese linguistics, semantics, language learning and teaching
T. V. Ramos, PhD—Philippine linguistics
K. A . Reynolds, PhD—classical Japanese, history of the Japanese language, Japanese sociolinguistics
C. Sak-Humphry, PhD—Khmer language, linguistics and literature
R. Schmidt, PhD—psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, language learning and teaching
B. Schwartz, PhD—linguistic theory and second-language acquisition and analysis, universal grammar, child second language acquisition
L. Serafim, PhD—Japanese linguistics; Japanese language history, dialectology, and Ryukyuan languages
R. N. Sharma, PhD—Indo-Aryan linguistics, Hindi, Sanskrit
J. Ward, PhD—Polynesian linguistics, Tahitian, Balinese

Affiliate Graduate Faculty

S. P. Harrison, PhD—Oceanic linguistics
M. Meyerhoff, PhD—sociolinguistics, creoles

Adjunct Faculty

M. Choo, PhD—Korean
K. Cook, PhD—cognitive and relational grammar; Polynesian languages, especially Samoan
J. Grimes, PhD—theory of the lexicon, discourse, language divergence

Degrees Offered: Certificate in Languages of Hawai‘i and the Pacific, Certificate in Human Language and Computers, Certificate in Language Acquisition, Certificate in Language and Cognition, BA in interdisciplinary studies (linguistics), MA in linguistics, PhD in linguistics

The Academic Program

Linguistics (LING), also called linguistic science or the science of language, is the study of how language works — how it is acquired, how it is used, how it is represented in the brain, how it changes over time and so on. Major subfields are phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, discourse analysis, pragmatics, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics (including developmental psycholinguistics), neurolinguistics, mathematical and computational linguistics and ethnographic linguistics.

Linguistics is revelant to many endeavors, including cognitive science, language planning, language teaching, speech synthesis and recognition, treatment of language disorders, repair of communication breakdowns, and information technology. Our program presents unique opportunities for the study of Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) and Asian languages. It also has special strengths in language acquisition, psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics, among other areas.

The program is recognized as one of the top 25 in the U.S.


All faculty in the department participate in the advising of students majoring in linguistics. Undergraduates majoring in linguistics under interdisciplinary studies are advised initially by the undergraduate adviser. Graduate majors are advised by the chair of the graduate field of study. Students are later assigned to specific faculty members for advising according to their special interests.

Undergraduate Study

Bachelor’s Degree

Students may major in linguistics for the BA degree at UH through the Interdisciplinary Studies Program. In this program, students create for themselves a major equivalent with the guidance of a faculty adviser. The major equivalent may combine the study of linguistics with that of one or more foreign languages or with related disciplines, such as anthropology or psychology. Students majoring in linguistics in this way may include some or all of the MA core of courses in their BA programs and are thus able to do more advanced work in their later MA program.

Graduate Study

The faculty represents a variety of theoretical viewpoints. The various faculty members are especially qualified to direct research on languages of the Pacific and parts of Asia. Fields of special competence include descriptive and comparative linguistics, general linguistic theory, language contact and variation, ethnolinguistics, language development, experimental phonetics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, and cognitive linguistics.

Although the Department of Linguistics is primarily a graduate department and is thus focused mainly on research, it recognizes that many graduates will eventually seek teaching positions and would be more likely to obtain one if they can provide evidence of teaching experience in linguistics or a language-related field.

Accordingly, the department requires each student enrolled in either the MA or PhD program, in addition to the 30 and 33 credits required, respectively, for the completion of those degrees, to have at least 1 credit of LING 699 (Directed Research) or 799 (Apprenticeship in Teaching Linguistics) that involves teaching a linguistics or language-related course (such as a foreign language course) under the supervision of a faculty member either at UH or, by special arrangement, at another institution.

Students may be excused from this requirement if they have already had an equivalent teaching experience before coming into the program. In addition, the chair of the graduate field of study may waive this requirement if it is determined that the student was unable to obtain an appropriate teaching appointment through no fault of his or her own and that no suitable alternative was available.

Students admitted to graduate programs in linguistics normally have a background in at least one foreign language. Some background in mathematics or one of the sciences may also be useful. Students without a course equivalent to LING 320 are required to take this course to make up for this deficiency in their preparation for graduate work.
The GRE General Test is required of all applicants.

The MA program provides a basic introduction to the subject matter and skills of the discipline. The PhD program provides full professional training for careers in research and teaching. Employment opportunities for graduates of both programs today often require additional knowledge of one or more related disciplines. Students are, therefore, encouraged to broaden their training in linguistics by including work in other disciplines. Such programs, and those that include many of the specializations previously listed, will involve the inclusion of faculty members from other fields of study on students’ program committees. Students should make known their interests to the graduate chair as early as possible so that appropriate advisers can be chosen to direct students to courses, and any key prerequisite courses, that will help them explore their interests further. It is also possible for students to include concentrations in linguistics in their programs for the MA degree in Asian studies or Pacific Islands studies.

The guidelines listed below are offered to guide students in their preparation for the various examinations, although individual study must be done in areas not covered by course offerings. Linguistics courses bearing 700-level numbers are seminars, and various sections of these seminars are typically offered in a given semester, depending on the interests of the resident faculty and students. Each semester there are normally a number of seminars dealing with geographical areas, particular language families, the structures of individual languages, and particular theoretical problems. A major portion of the work done beyond the MA level is in seminars and in directed research.

Master’s Degree


The department offers MA Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C programs. In addition to the UH-wide residence requirements of a minimum of two semesters of full-time work, all three programs require that students demonstrate competence in one language other than their native language.

Plan A requires a thesis (12 credit hours) and a minimum of 18 credit hours of course work. A final oral examination covering the thesis and related areas is also required.

Plan B requires a minimum of 30 credit hours and a final seminar presentation near the end of course work. The topic and format of the presentation must be approved in advance by the graduate chair. (More information on Plan B below.)

Plan C requires two semesters of full-time course work in addition to a final examination with both written and oral portions. Plan C is open to select students who have had some previous work in linguistics and who show both high potential for scholarly development and the motivation and discipline necessary for an independent course of study. A committee of faculty is appointed for each prospective student for Plan C. The committee administers a general examination during the student’s first semester of study to determine the appropriateness of Plan C, advises the student in developing a program of study, and administers the oral portion of the final examination.

Plan B students must complete 30 credit hours of course work for a grade (not CR/NCR or Audit), of which 18 hours must be at the 600 level or above, including 3 hours of a 700-level seminar. Students may choose between three “streams”: Linguistic Analysis, Language and Cognition, and Language Documentation and Conservation. For all streams there is a Core List from which different numbers of courses are to be selected:

  • Core List: LING 410, 420, 421, 422, 440, 615, LING 645
  • Linguistic Analysis stream: 10 courses, to include:
    • six courses (18 credits) from the Core List.
    • three courses (9 credits) of your choice (but not 699)
    • one 700 level seminar (3 credits)
  • Language and Cognition stream: 10 courses, to include:
    • four courses (12 credits) from the Core List:
    • two courses (6 credits) from List 1
    • one course (3 credits) from List 2
    • two courses (6 credits) of your choice, but not 699
    • one 700 level seminar (3 credits)
    • List 1: language and cognition: LING 431, 441, 616, 640G (General linguistics), LING 640Y (Psycholinguistics), 670.
    • List 2: data analysis: EDEP 429, SLS 490, 671, PSY 610, 611.
  • Language Documentation and Conservation (LDC) stream: 10 courses, to include:
    • seven required courses (21 credits)
    • two courses from List 3 (6 credits)
    • one more course, subject to your adviser’s approval.
      • Required courses (7): 410, 420, 421, 422, LING 640G (Methods of Language Documentation); 770; and either 750G (Language Planning) or SLS 680P (Bilingual Education)
      • List 3: methods: LING 630, 645, 640S (Sociolinguistics), 750F (Phonetic Fieldwork on Endangered Languages
  • Exit requirement for LDC stream: By the end of the final semester, the student must submit for approval by the Language Documentation and Conservation Committee a ‘Research Portfolio’ of at least 50 pages. This portfolio will include samples of work done by the student on his/her research language. For example, it might include an outline of a reference grammar, sample dictionary entries, language policy or planning proposals, papers on phonetic, phonological, morphological, or syntactic aspects of the language, etc.

Doctoral Degree


All students in the PhD program are required to complete a minimum of 33 credit hours of course and seminar work at the UH (exclusive of LING 800) beyond those counted towards the MA degree. Courses in phonology (LING 621), grammar (LING 622), and a Methods course are required of all PhD students. Methods courses include LING 630: Field Methods, LING 750Q: Methods in Language Acquisition, LING 750F: Phonetic Fieldwork on Endangered Languages, and LING 632: Laboratory Research. Students interested in experimental research are strongly advised to take one or more courses in statistical analysis as well (e.g. EDEP 429, ESL 490 or 671.)

PhD students must pass a preliminary examination, a comprehensive examination, and a final oral examination in defense of the dissertation. The preliminary requirement has two parts: a written examination and acceptance of a Working Paper. The written exam tests four areas: general linguistics, phonology, grammar, and historical linguistics.

This examination is offered once each semester, in August and January. Candidates must register for it in advance; check with the Departmental Office for relevant deadlines and details.

Students who wish to be considered for admission to the PhD program or who are already in the PhD program must take the preliminary examination at the first opportunity after having completed the necessary courses. A student who does not receive an overall grade of ‘Pass’ on the first attempt will be allowed to retake all or any parts of the exam in each of the next two semesters. If s/he has still not received an overall grade of ‘Pass’ at the end of that period, s/he must petition the Graduate Chair for permission for each subsequent retake. The Graduate Chair will call for comments from the faculty before making a decision.

The time period for passing the preliminary exam will be extended for students on official Leave of Absence (as defined by the Graduate Division), provided that the leave is justified for independent reasons (e.g., medical problems, family crisis, etc.)

Students are encouraged to form their PhD program committees in consultation with the graduate chair as soon as possible after they have passed this exam. Students must also have a paper accepted for publication in the Department’s Working Papers series, or in some other acceptable forum (as determined by the editor of the Department’s Working Papers). Both of these preliminary requirements are waived for students receiving the MA under Plan A who also have their theses accepted for publication in an outlet agreed to beforehand by the linguistics faculty.

All PhD candidates must demonstrate competence in two languages other than their native language. One of these two languages must be in the ‘research tool’ category—a major language of the world in which there is ample published material on linguistic topics, such as Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian, or Spanish. Students are expected to demonstrate their knowledge of such a language by taking a reading/translation test involving a linguistics-related passage. Foreign students may use English if it is not their native tongue; certification by the English Language Institute that they are exempt from ELI courses suffices to establish their competence in English.

The other language can be any of the world’s languages (including American Sign Language) for which a qualified examiner can be found in Hawai‘i. This second language requirement is most commonly satisfied either by passing a fourth semester course in the language (e.g. JPN 202) with a grade of at least B (not B-) or by taking a placement test to demonstrate comparable knowledge.

Students are admitted to candidacy after demonstrating competence in both languages and performing successfully on the comprehensive examination, which is both written and oral. Students are expected to demonstrate expertise in three areas of specialization chosen from among the following: phonological theory, syntactic theory, phonetics, semantics, morphology, language in its social and cultural context, psycholinguistics, discourse analysis, language acquisition, computational linguistics, language documentation and conservation, language learning and teaching, language planning, multilingualism, pidgins and creoles, translation, typology and universals, lexicography, or linguistics of any of the following areal or genetic groups: Austroasiatic, Austronesian, Chinese, English, Indo-European, Japanese, Korean, Sino-Tibetan, or Tai. Related disciplines may also be designated as areas of specialization. These particulars are determined when the student’s doctoral committee is formed, after the preliminary exam has been passed.

Each student must then develop a written proposal outlining his or her intended dissertation research project. The student then meets with his or her committee to defend the proposal orally and to discuss various issues that it raises.

In addition to traditional dissertation topics of a theoretical, descriptive, historical, or experimental nature, the faculty is open to topics in applied linguistics when it can be demonstrated that the project will add to the knowledge of language, broadly conceived. Research may include studies of language use in education, law, or other institutions of society; social and cultural influences on language acquisition and use; bilingualism, multilingualism, foreign accent, and translation, the interrelations of language and literacy, etc. Although many such topics can also be treated within disciplines such as anthropology, psychology, literature, and pedagogy, when presented for the PhD in linguistics they are expected to have a linguistic perspective and to make a distinctive linguistic contribution. The decision as to whether such expectations are met is made by the student’s dissertation committee. Committees formed for applied topics will include members drawn from the faculties of closely related and cooperating fields of study such as Asian languages and literatures, English, Languages and Literatures of Europe and the Americas, and Second Language Studies. Students wishing to explore such areas are encouraged to include relevant courses beyond those required for the MA as electives early in their program.

LING Courses