LINGUIST List 4.318

Tue 27 Apr 1993

Sum: Exotic language requirement

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  1. Stanley Dubinsky, Summary: exotic/non-IE language requirements

Message 1: Summary: exotic/non-IE language requirements

Date: Tue, 27 Apr 93 22:55:40 EDSummary: exotic/non-IE language requirements
From: Stanley Dubinsky <DUBINSKUNIVSCVM.bitnet>
Subject: Summary: exotic/non-IE language requirements

On April 9, 1993, I posted the following query:

> We are interested in finding out about non-IE/"exotic" language
> requirements (at the Ph.D. level) in other linguistics departments and
> programs.
> (1) Does your program have such a requirement?
> (2) How many semesters of the language must be taken to meet the
> requirement?
> (3) What (semester) level of competence must be achieved to meet the
> requirement?

I received responses from individuals at the following 16 institutions:
 Cornell University
 University of Essex, UK
 University of California - Los Angeles
 University of Illinois - Urbana/Champaign
 San Diego State University
 Ohio State University
 University of Florida
 Yale University
 University of Kansas
 University of North Carolina
 Michigan State University
 University of Toronto
 State University of New York - Stony Brook
 University of Texas - Arlington
 University of Southern California

The following summary also includes my own institution,
 University of South Carolina

Four of the seventeen institutions have no specific non-IE requirement:
MSU, USC, OSU, Essex, and UCLA. Some specific comments:

 University of Essex:
 Like most British departments, we are small by comparison with
 many American ones and don't require (or even offer) an 'exotic'
 language course. However, many of our PhD students are native
 speakers of non-IE languages, and most of them tend to work on
 their native language, so the pragmatic impetus for such a
 requirement is perhaps limited.

 At UCLA we do not have an exotic lg requirement at the PhD
 level although such languages are accepted as fulfilling the two
 lg requirement for the PhD.

 Up until last year, we had a pretty heavy requirement--for the
 Ph.D.: reading knowledge of two languages relevant to a
 student's area ... an exam in the history or structure of any
 language, and 10 credit hours and/or a "linguistically oriented
 knowledge" of a language that was not "standard average
 European" (essentially Romance and Germanic, though for some
 reason, Modern Greek was considered standard average European
 while Ancient Greek was not).
 Last year, as we were revising our graduate program
 requirements, the language requirements bit the dust. ...
 The only language requirement for the Ph.D. degree is: Students
 must demonstrate a linguistically oriented knowledge of a
 language other than a [their] native language (or dominant
 language, in the case of bilinguals). This requirement may be
 fulfilled by taking 10 hours of linguistically-oriented course work
 on an appropriate language (on the history or structure of a
 language, for instance) or by writing a substantive paper that
 incorporates ... substantial primary data from the chosen

 Now that M.S.U. has gone to semesters, there's not enough time
 to take the technical classes plus the language classes, and so the
 non-IE language requirement has unfortunately been dropped.

Of the institutions listed above, 12 of 17 have some requirement having
to do with knowledge of a non-IE, "exotic", or uncommonly taught
language (Cornell, Illinois, SDSU, Florida, Yale, Kansas, UNC, Toronto,
SUNY-Stony Brook, UT - Arlington, MIT, and South Carolina). In the
case of SDSU, the course in question is one of a group of four courses,
out of which three must be taken.

Of course, as might be imagined, the class of languages which fulfill such
requirements vary widely.

 At South Carolina, students may take Chinese, Japanese, Arabic,
 Hebrew, or Swahili. The distinction is rather easy to make, since
 all the other languages taught at the university are commonly
 taught, European, IE languages.

 At Cornell, Basque (which is European but non-IE) counts, and
 so does Singhala (which is IE, but not European).

 Illinois has a "non-western" language requirement. Some
 Indo-European languages count toward the requirement: hindi,
 sanskrit, persian, etc. Frequently used are african languages,
 arabic, and hebrew. Some students have chinese/japanese/korean,
 etc. Students from "non-western" countries don't have to take
 any more "non-western" languages.

 At the University of Toronto, (for a B.A. in linguistics) there is
 an "exotic language" requirement. Over the years the term
 "exotic" has been relaxed to include Slavic, etc. Romance and
 Germanic are excluded.

 At MIT, the "Less Familiar Language" requirement used to be
 strictly a non-IE one, but got changed to its present form after
 Greek and Irish arose as candidate languages.

As might be imagined, there is no single approach for dealing with
students whose native language happens to fit into the non-IE or "exotic"
category. Some programs (Essex) cite this as one reason for not having
such a requirement. In some programs (Illinois), native speakers of a
"non-western" language are exempt from the "non-western" language
requirement. It was also noted that native speakers of a non-IE language
can, in some instances, fulfill this requirement by taking two introductory
semesters of their own language (although it is not clear to me whether
this is ever official policy).

The manner in which this requirement may be fulfilled varies from
institution to institution. As can be seen in the table below, five
programs (SDSU, Kansas, SUNY-SB, UT-Arlington, and MIT) require
a course (or courses) in the structure/analysis of an "exotic" language (or
language group). Five programs allow students to meet the requirement
either through a structure course or through study of the language itself
(Cornell, Illinois, Florida, Yale, and UNC). Two programs have students
take language instruction to meet the requirement (Toronto and South
Carolina). There are also two programs which allow students to meet this
requirement by "writing papers demonstrating knowledge of the
phonology and syntax of the language" (Kansas) or by "successfully
completing 1) a master's thesis on the linguistic structure of a non-Indo
European language, or 2) a detailed examination on the structure of a
non-Indo European language together with a substantial paper ... on the
structure of the language examined" (UT - Arlington).

The required number of courses to meet this requirement also varies
somewhat. Taking one year of language instruction satisfies the
requirement for all those programs which have the option, except for
Illinois and Toronto, which require 2 years of instruction. Of those
programs which offer a structure course to fulfill the requirement, only
Cornell requires two semesters.

One problem with using language instruction in a non-IE language to
satisfy this requirement in a graduate program is that it typically involves
registering for two semesters of lower division undergraduate instruction,
and some graduate schools are loathe to count these credits towards the
completion of a graduate degree. This is a problem here at South
Carolina, and was mentioned as having been a problem at Florida.

 language typology/struc/field methods

Cornell 2 sem 2 sem (typology, structure of X)
Illinois 4 sem 1 sem (structure of X)
SDSU ----- 1 sem (exotic lg structures)
Florida 2 sem 1 sem (structure of X)
Yale 2 sem 1 sem (structure of X)
Kansas _____ 1 sem (struct); or research paper
North Carolina 2 sem 1 sem (structure of X)
Toronto 4 sem (BA) -----
SUNY - Stony B ----- 1 sem (structure of X)
UT - Arlington ----- 1 sem (struct); or paper/thesis
MIT ----- 1 sem (structure of X)
South Carolina 2 sem -----

I hope that this summary may be of use to someone else out there. It
will certainly be so to us.

Many thanks to the following people for taking the time to respond: Ed
Rubin, Andrew Spencer, Vicki Fromkin, Lynne Murphy, Zev bar-Lev,
Brian D. Joseph, John Bro, PAINTER <>,
Larry Horn, Frances Ingemann, Craig Melchert, Paul Kershaw, Ed
Burstynsky, Mark H Aronoff, Bill Merrifield, Wayne O'Neil, Bernard

Stanley Dubinsky
Linguistics Program
University of South Carolina
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