MLC FAQ

What makes the MLC unique?

This M.A. program is uniquely designed to find professional applications for the study of language and communication. It features an individualized curriculum to develop skills in Discourse Analysis, Sociolinguistics, and Pragmatics. Additionally, MLC students participate in professional socialization events and career education activities targeted for sociolinguists, designed to enable them to better articulate how their skills and training are of particular value in workplace settings, institutions, and professions which depend largely upon language to accomplish their goals.

Why is the GU Linguistics Department a good place to study language and communication?

The Linguistics Department at Georgetown University is unsurpassed in the areas of Discourse Analysis, Sociolinguistics and Pragmatics. Evidence of this abounds through the achievements and reputations of our faculty. Our department is unique in the breadth of areas in which our faculty and students specialize, so it’s an exciting place to study. In addition, our programs in Sociolinguistics and Applied Linguistics are especially large and lively, and our faculty in Sociolinguistics have a range of specializations, from discourse analysis to quantitative sociolinguistics. Some of our areas of interest include language and family, language and medicine, language and the law, narrative analysis, stylistic variation, linguistic performance, language and dialect endangerment and death, and language and gender. We are also conducting a large-scale study of language and dialect variation, and language, narrative, and identity in the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area.

What will I learn in the MLC?

You’ll learn that language has a profound impact on our lives: it influences how we act, who we are, and how we view the world. It is through language that we accomplish a great deal of our daily work: we formulate plans, present proposals, negotiate contracts, develop brands, resolve disputes, provide advice, diagnose problems, hold meetings, and provide social, legal, and commercial services. In today’s workplace, however, people with different ways of using language (based on nationality, ethnicity, race, class, gender, region, age, and culture) often work together in what are frequently fast paced and multi-tasking environments. Sometimes they end up misunderstanding one another or making mistakes that can have unfortunate consequences.

You’ll learn that one way we can try to avoid these problems is to learn more about language and its role in communication. You’ll do so by gaining answers to the following sorts of questions:

  • How are sounds, forms, and meanings put together to construct messages?
  • How does context influence meaning?
  • How do explicit and implicit meanings combine to reveal peoples’ intentions?
  • How can language perform actions?
  • What are the differences between spoken and written language?
  • Why can stories have powerful effects?
  • How do we communicate electronically?
  • What are the costs and benefits of doing so?
  • How do people who have different backgrounds communicate with each other?

By learning about language and communication, then, you’ll learn that we can put language to work for us: we can take a proactive role in helping people accomplish a variety of interpersonal and institutional goals in a range of workplaces. We can use language not only to reflect, but also to change, our relationships, our work and our world.

Can you be more specific about what I will study?

Linguistics in general is concerned with both the internal structure of language (universal and language-specific principles for building sounds into words and words into sentences) and the ways in which we use language to interact with, and change, the external world. It is the latter concern that is the focus of MLC. Learn more about the methodologies used by sociolinguists here.

Who teaches the courses in the program?

Courses are taught by faculty in the Linguistics Department. Your more specialized courses in sociolinguistics will be taught by the sociolinguistics faculty. faculty from other Georgetown programs, departments and schools, and local experts from the Washington D.C. community. Please see the MLC Professors page for more information about them.

Do I need a background in Linguistics to be admitted to the program?

No, not at all. But don’t be intimidated by Linguistics! Basically, linguists are people who like to solve puzzles about language and are curious about how language is part of how people think, act, and interact. If you haven’t had any prior courses in Linguistics (or if you want to be reminded of what you did learn), the MA provides a ‘gateway’ course in Linguistics that will prepare you for the remaining coursework. All of the courses will provide enough linguistic background to understand the course material.

Our program is well suited for people with various backgrounds. Included are college graduates who majored in Linguistics, but also those with backgrounds in the Humanities (e.g. English, Foreign Languages, History, Philosophy) or Social Sciences (Anthropology, Economics, Sociology). College graduates with Science, Business or Engineering majors, including pre-professional students (aiming to do post-baccalaureate work in Law School, Medical School, or Business School) would also benefit from our program. Members of the workforce (both public and private sectors) who seek advancement in their current positions might be able to do so through our MA.

If you are unsure about your research and professional interests, or have a very specific idea of what you want to do, the MLC will certainly help you carve out a path for after graduation. Watch two brief discussions of admissions and research interests here and here.

How does a linguist understand language and its relationship to communication?

Linguists are aware of the many ways that language helps us convey information including representing the external world to one another: the physical people, places, things, actions and events that we can observe. Training in linguistics will enable you to explore how we convey more internal aspects of our experience: the subjective states of mind and feelings that are part of our cognitive and perceptual worlds. Besides conveying external and internal information to other people, language also allows us to perform actions (such as requests, warning, promises), convey moods, express various facets of our identities, and form personal and social relationships.

While language is a primary means of communicating, it is not the only one. Our program also considers other sources of meaning (e.g. visual, physical, symbolic) that combine together with language to allow us to communicate with one another. Our program also teaches you about different models of communication that combine language, speaker intention, action, context, and interaction along with other modalities of information and expression. We differ from most graduate programs in Communication, however, because we do stress-in both theory and methodology-the primary role of language for communication.

How long will it take me to complete the MLC?

There are two options for completion of degree. How long it takes you to finish depends on various factors: which option you choose, how many courses you take each semester, and whether you are employed while taking coursework.

  • Option (1) is to take 10 courses. Your time-of-completion will vary depending on how many courses you take per semester. We would recommend 3- 4 courses per semester. So your time-of-completion would be about two academic years.
  • Option (2) is to take 8 courses and write a Master’s Thesis. This option allows you to complete your course work in one academic year (by taking 4 courses each semester). Your Master’s Thesis could then be completed during Year 2, giving you the opportunity to be employed full time while completing your degree.

Can I attend as a part time student?

Yes, but we would recommend taking 2-4 courses a year if you do so.

What funding is available to me as an M.A. student in the program?

Unfortunately, the Linguistics department does not have funding available at the master’s level, apart from a couple very small MLC tuition assistance stipends that are awarded every year to one or two students based on excellent performance in the program. You can view a short video about funding options here.

For more information about financial assistance, please visit the webpage of the Office of Student Financial services.

What are some of the ways that this degree can be applied?

Professional applications of linguistics are the heart and soul of the MLC. We have developed many materials and resources about the job search. Specifically, you can explore your career options and see what other linguists working outside of academia have to say.

Many of our alumni have shared their stories of the MLC and where it has taken them. Browse the alumni pages and watch videos from three alumni with quite diverse paths here, here, and here.

Can the MLC help me prepare for a career in education?

Yes. If someone already certified to teach primary, middle, or secondary school is interested in learning about language in the classroom, our general curriculum will provide them with excellent tools by which to do so. Language works in concert with other modalities of communication as a conduit through which students acquire a range of skills and a huge amount of information; learn how to solve problems; think (and write) about complex issues in various genres; express their opinions and thoughts in different formats; engage in civil discussion about their differences. Like teachers, students bring their own ways of speaking, developed through and within their homes, communities and cultures, into the classroom. The expertise of our faculty in discourse analysis, sociolinguistics and pragmatics will help teachers understand not only the speech activities, social interaction, and discourse in their classrooms, but also how diversity among students’ social identities (due to gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, nationality) can be related to different ways of communicating and acting in the classroom.

What professional development is provided to enter the job market?

Throughout the year, MLC students participate in professional socialization and career education events targeted for sociolinguists. The MLC Director, Dr. Anastasia Nylund, also holds regular individual student meetings which involve tailored career development and mentoring. Additionally, the MLC proseminar course, held in the Spring, is designed to enable students to better realize their professional goals. Based on research, students develop tailored materials articulating how their skills and training are of particular value in the workplace settings of their choosing (for example, resumes and questions for informational interviews).

For additional sources of Career information, see our Career FAQ page .

How can I learn more about the MLC?

You can contact Anastasia Nylund, or Erin Esch Pereira.