Program Overview

Program Objectives

Graduates of the TWU MA in Linguistics program will be able to:

  1. analyze a language that is not well documented;
  2. understand the implications of linguistic analysis for various applications such as the development of orthographies, literacy materials, pedagogical grammars, and dictionaries;
  3. critically read and understand scientific literature in their field;
  4. prepare research findings for publication in professional journals;
  5. qualify for entrance into doctoral studies in linguistics;
  6. be able to address issues in their field from Christian perspectives; and,
  7. continue their professional development in the field of linguistics.

Career Preparation

Linguists with the specialized training of the MA Linguistics program at TWU are in high demand in cross-cultural mission organizations, particularly in the areas of translation, consulting and literacy work. Graduates of this program will have a strong background in both theoretical and applied linguistics and their training will prepare them to carry out language analysis and orthography development, and to establish long-term language-based projects in the developing world. Some students will have had opportunities to apply their knowledge and practice their skills through participation in teaching assistantships. Graduates successfully completing the program will be prepared to go on to doctoral studies in linguistics.

Degree Program Requirements

Thesis & Non-Thesis Options

The program has two options: thesis and non-thesis. Students who pursue the thesis option must complete 30 sem. hrs. of linguistics coursework taken at the 500 or 600 level, write a thesis (6 sem. hrs.) and defend it successfully. Students who pursue the non-thesis option must complete 36 sem. hrs. of linguistics coursework taken at the 500 or 600 level and receive a grade of  P (Pass) on written Comprehensive Exams.

Core Requirements

The MA Linguistics program has core course requirements of 15 semester hours. These five courses cover the main areas of linguistics that are necessary for students preparing for field work in linguistics.

Morphosyntax II and Advanced Phonology prepare students for field work in two of the most fundamental areas of linguistics. Field Methods and Advanced Field Methods focus on teaching students how to gather linguistic data, manage their data electronically and analyze the data.

Finally, Academic Writing in Linguistics gives students the opportunity to write descriptions of their data and analyses.


In addition to the core courses, the program has elective courses (15 sem. hrs. for thesis students and 21 sem. hrs. for non-thesis students).

Students choose courses which develop skills that are necessary for field workers who wish to carry out linguistic analysis, literacy development, and translation.

MALING Program Planning Worksheet


Students who wish to subsequently pursue doctoral studies in linguistics will be advised to take the thesis option. The thesis represents a serious work of understanding regarding a body of previously unanalyzed data or a development or extension of linguistic theory that significantly advances a new understanding of previously analysed data. If the former option is pursued, the student extends linguistic understanding by virtue of applying previously advanced theory to new data; the latter option involves changing (aspects of) a theory in order to cause a greater body of known data to be explained than previous work did. Students writing a thesis are expected to work closely with their thesis supervisor. Through this, they learn the value of advances made as the linguistics community works together, but they are also expected to demonstrate both initiative and ingenuity in regard to pursuing their own individual scholarly goals.

After completion of two semesters of (full-time) study or its equivalent in part-time study, each student will consult with the program advisor and work towards selecting a faculty member who will eventually serve as the chair of that student's thesis committee. The thesis committee will be comprised of the chair person, one other faculty member as second reader, and a qualified scholar from outside of the program faculty as third reader.

The committee chair person is responsible for overseeing the development of the research proposal; for advising throughout the research program, the analysis, and the composition of the thesis; and for the scheduling and the agenda of the oral thesis defence. He/she is also responsible to oversee any revisions necessary until the final copies required by the Trinity Western University School of Graduate Studies are received.

The thesis committee is responsible for approving the thesis proposal and for conducting and approving the oral defense. The oral defense includes a brief presentation of the thesis by the candidate that includes a statement as to why the study is important. Members of the committee then question the candidate concerning different aspects of the thesis. This might include aspects of the thesis that they want more clarification on or find questionable or perhaps troubling. It can also include discussion of aspects of the thesis that they find interesting or for which they want to suggest further avenues worthy of future research. Following the question and discussion period, the candidate will leave the room and the committee will discuss the quality of the thesis and the candidate’s oral defense. The candidate will then be called back in and informed of the committee’s conclusions. The oral defense will be at least one hour in length but not more than two hours.

Comprehensive Examinations (For Non-Thesis Students)

The purpose of the comprehensive examinations is to help pull together students' knowledge of the whole field and allow them the opportunity to integrate their knowledge in one subject area with their knowledge in a different subject area. The examinations consist of nine questions written in one 3.5 hour block and one 2 hour block taken within a period of one week toward the end of the student’s final semester of studies.

Four of the questions cover core course material, four cover material addressed in the electives, and one is integrative in nature.

Program Distinctives

Applied & Theoretical Linguistics

There are over 300 graduate degree programs in linguistics worldwide. When it comes to linguistics, finding the right balance of theory and application for your career goals is a key factor to consider. Many linguistics programs cover a broad range of linguistic theory without an emphasis on application. Of the programs in applied linguistics, most emphasize language teaching.

The MA Linguistics program at TWU is the only graduate degree program of its kind in Canada as it offers a balance between theoretical and applied linguistics with significant flexibility for students to tailor their program to their career goals. It is especially suited to those interested in serving with non-governmental organizations such as Christian mission organizations and international development agencies in areas of linguistic analysis, literacy development, and translation.

Faculty Experience

The majority of the linguistics faculty at TWU are members of SIL International and as such have had extensive field experience working with unwritten languages.  They have put theoretical and applied linguistics training to the test, analyzing the languages of various parts of the world in roles such as translation, language survey, literacy and linguistics consulting.

Canada Institute of Linguistics

The Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL) is a linguistics training organization, serving language communities worldwide, building their capacity for sustainable language development, by means of research, translation, training and materials development. It is also a partner organization with Wycliffe Bible Translators

Community Life

MA Linguistics students share a rich community atmosphere with faculty, staff, undergraduate linguistics students as well as seminary students in the Masters of Arts in Linguistics and Translation program at ACTS Seminaries.  CanIL often hosts common meals, organizes group activities, and more. In addition, CanIL employs a graduate student as a Community Life Coordinator.

The Harvest Centre

Linguistics courses at TWU are taught in the Harvest Centre on the TWU campus at the Canada Institute of Linguistics. The 3-story Harvest Centre was built in 2004, complete with state-of-the-art classroom technology, a linguistics library, staff offices, a computer lab, an elevator and a common dining area.  Students enjoy a warm community atmosphere as well as dedicated study space.