Linguistic Anthropology Graduate Programs

Sep 16, 2018

Often offered as a subfield or specialization within anthropology departments, linguistic anthropology studies how language is used in society. Programs in this field emphasize qualitative methods and examine how language impacts social issues like inequality, immigration, race, class, and gender. Graduate degree programs are primarily available at doctoral level.

Linguistic Anthropology Graduate Program Information

Linguistic anthropology programs provide students with a foundation in sociocultural theory and linguistics along with approaches to fieldwork. In addition to courses like those listed below, Ph.D. students must complete a comprehensive exam and a research dissertation.

Anthropological Theory

Preliminary classes in these graduate programs often provide an overview of theories and methods central to the study of anthropology. Students review foundational texts, consider anthropology as a social science field, and discuss the field's role as an academic discipline. Classes in theory may focus on theoretical developments in the field during a specific time frame like the early years of anthropological study.

Race and Gender

Courses in race and gender reflect anthropology's focus on the experiences of particular social groups. In linguistic anthropology, classes on this subject examine how language use relates to race or gender. Students apply theoretical perspectives to case studies on racism and identity formation. Particular racial or ethnic groups and their language use may be studied.


As a primary research method in anthropology, graduate programs in the field often include an ethnography class. Students learn how to design qualitative studies, conduct fieldwork, and present results using this method. Classes may focus on how ethnography can be used to study a particular geographic region or a social issue like gender or the environment, and students may analyze readings of prior ethnographic studies on these topics.

Topics in Linguistic Anthropology

Doctoral classes in this field are often in a small group or seminar setting focused around a particular topic relevant to linguistic anthropology. These classes review research on issues like political economy, inequality, and ideologies related to language use. Students also usually complete a research project relevant to the seminar's focus.

Linguistics and Language

Students in these programs may be required to take specific classes from a linguistics department or anthropology courses that focus on language. These classes often emphasize how language is used in a specific aspect of society such as the way language impacts humans' sense of place. Linguistics classes also often provide an overview of linguistic research processes and language theory.

Linguistic Anthropology Graduate Program Admissions

Unless applying to a program granting a master's degree as a step toward earning a doctorate, applicants to Ph.D. programs should submit transcripts showing earned bachelor's and master's degrees. Prospective students should prepare a statement of purpose showing how a particular program is a good fit for their goals. Linguistic anthropology programs also ask students to submit letters of recommendation and a master's thesis or writing sample with their applications. Additionally, most programs require GRE scores.

Doctoral-level programs in linguistic anthropology study human language use and its cultural causes and effects. Applicants to these programs can expect to study theoretical foundations of anthropology, principles of linguistics, and research methods including ethnography.

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