The graduate program in Linguistics at UCSC is relatively small, very focused, and very intense. It concentrates on a few core sub-disciplines of theoretical and experimental linguistics: morphology, phonetics, phonology, psycholinguistics, semantics, and syntax. The goal of the PhD program is to bring students first to the point where they can pursue research in at least two of these areas, and subsequently to the point where they can make substantial and original contributions to an area of specialization. In part because everyone becomes knowledgeable in more than one area, and in part because of the lively research environment, borders are fluid, and a great deal of research takes place at the interfaces.
The department is distinguished by its theoretical open-mindedness. Many disparate theoretical viewpoints co-exist in harmony, mutual respect, and active disagreement. This is possible in part because a shared goal is that of analytical and descriptive depth. The research community that has formed around these shared goals is informal, collaborative, and egalitarian.
While the graduate program at UCSC centers on theory, it encourages the investigation of theoretical issues through the detailed examination and analysis of particular languages. Most of the faculty have research interests and expertise in particular language areas (e.g. Chamorro, English, German, Hungarian, Irish, Japanese, Nez Perce, Romanian, Russian, Turkish, Tzotzil), and a characteristic of work done in the department in all disciplines is its commitment to sustained and deep descriptive work.
A highlight of the year is the annual graduate student conference (LASC: Linguistics at Santa Cruz), which is the culmination of the quarter-long professionalization course known as the Research Seminar.
Research projects funded by the National Science Foundation and other funding agencies have formed an important focus for faculty and graduate student research activities. Two recent such projects have been Existentials at the Interface (Sandra Chung and James McCloskey, co-PI's) and Optimal Typology: Syntactic Markedness Hierarchies in Optimality Theory (Judith Aissen, PI).
The department offers both doctoral and masters programs. The goal of the PhD program is to train researchers and teachers of the highest caliber, ready to embark on careers in academia or in industry. The goal of the MA program (which, like the PhD program, involves both coursework and research) is to provide a level of training suitable for entry into a PhD program in linguistics or into linguistics-related work in industry.