Applied Linguistics

Graduate Program HeadTommaso Milani
Program CodeAPLNG
Campus(es)University Park (Ph.D.)
Degrees Conferred

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Dual-Title Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics and Asian Studies

The Graduate Faculty


The Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics helps prepare scholars who will conduct systematic examinations of individual and societal multilingualism in order to build and test theories of how linguistic systems develop, are acquired, used, and taught in global contexts. The Ph.D. degree program includes the foundational theory and research of linguistics, applied linguistics, second language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and sociolinguistics. It will prepare doctoral students to utilize a range of research perspectives, both qualitative and quantitative, e.g., sociocultural, historical, linguistic, stylistic, discourse analytical. Overall, the purpose of the research undertaken in graduate study in Applied Linguistics will be to illuminate, in all its complexity, the multiple dimensions of the study of language as a mode of social existence, communication, and cognition.

Admission Requirements

Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission. Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-300 Admissions Policies.

Applicants are required to submit official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended. In addition, scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) are required for applicants who have received a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or abroad in which the medium of instruction is English. GRE scores are optional for applicants who have received a degree from an institution of higher education in which the medium of instruction is a language other than English. All applicants are required to submit:

  • three letters of reference (at least two from faculty with whom the applicant has studied) evaluating aptitude for doctoral study
  • at least one sample of scholarly writing (published or unpublished research paper, thesis, etc.)
  • an academic statement describing their teaching and research experience and their specific professional goals and interests

The language of instruction at Penn State is English. English proficiency test scores (TOEFL/IELTS) may be required for international applicants. See GCAC-305 Admission Requirements for International Students for more information.

Applicants to the Applied Linguistics program must have a score of 600 or higher on the TOEFL paper-based test. In addition, international applicants are encouraged to submit a cassette tape recording on which they describe their career goals and the reasons for wanting to pursue doctoral studies at Penn State.

Degree Requirements

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies.

qualifying examination

In the third semester (a minimum of 18 credits) of graduate study, all students must satisfactorily complete a qualifying evaluation in which they are required to present a portfolio of work completed in their program of study. The portfolio will include a transcript of the student's academic record, a program plan, samples of scholarly work in Applied Linguistics and related areas, and a brief description of the proposed dissertation research, showing relevant course work completed and projected. Following submission of this portfolio, the student will meet with the members of his/her Ph.D. committee for an oral qualifying evaluation. The purpose of this evaluation is threefold:

  1. to determine whether the student has achieved a level of learning and understanding sufficient to justify continuing in the program,
  2. to discover what further study is required to bring the student to the competence required for the research being proposed, and
  3. to secure approval of a program of course work and independent study to achieve the requisite competence. The particulars of each student's program of study and research are defined on the basis of the qualifying evaluation.

English Language Competence

During course work prior to the qualifying examination, students will be assessed for communicative competence in reading, writing, and speaking English. Should a higher level of competence be required, the student will be directed to the appropriate resources. International candidates will be advised that the passage of the minimal TOEFL requirement does not demonstrate the level of competence required for completion of the Ph.D. program.

Additional Language Competence

All students must demonstrate competence in reading relevant research literature in one language other than English and intermediate speaking competence in an additional language. The additional language competence requirements may be demonstrated in a variety of ways.

Ph.D. Committee Composition

The Ph.D. committee must meet all Graduate Council requirements. Members of the Graduate Faculty with courtesy appointments in LALS who are members of the Applied Linguistics Graduate Faculty may serve as the chair of the Ph.D. committee with approval of the Director of LALS.

Comprehensive Examination

All doctoral students must pass a comprehensive examination designed to assess mastery of and ability to synthesize and integrate theoretical issues in Applied Linguistics. This examination is taken upon completion of all course work. The content and format of the comprehensive exam will be established by the members of the candidate's Ph.D. committee in accordance with degree requirements of LALS and consist of two course papers that are of publishable quality and two or three research papers based on questions developed by members of the Ph.D. committee. The original papers must be submitted by end of semester prior to that in which the student plans to take the comprehensive exam. The student will be given two months' time in which to complete and submit these exam papers. Within three weeks of submission of the exam papers, the student will take an oral exam based on the original research papers and the exam papers. Students who fail the examination on the first attempt may repeat it once. Students who fail the examination the second time will not be permitted to continue in the program.


Each doctoral candidate is required to conduct an original and independent research project representing a significant contribution to knowledge in the field of study. The project should be presented in a scholarly manner, show an ability on the part of the candidate to do independent research of high quality, and demonstrate considerable experience in using appropriate research techniques. The content and conclusions of the dissertation will be defended at the time of the final oral examination. A written dissertation proposal is required and must be approved at a proposal hearing by a majority vote of the candidate's Ph.D. committee. A majority vote is also required for approval of the completed written dissertation at the final oral defense. The dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.


Dual-Title Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics and Asian Studies

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.

Graduate students with research and educational interests in Asian Studies may apply to the Applied Linguistics/Asian Studies Degree Program. The goal of the dual-title degree Applied Linguistics and Asian Studies is to enable graduate students from Applied Linguistics to acquire the knowledge and skills of their major area of specialization in Applied Linguistics while at the same time gaining the perspective of Asian Studies. 

In order to prepare graduate students for the competitive job market, this program provides them with a solid disciplinary foundation that will allow them to compete for the best jobs in their field. For such students the dual-title Ph.D. in Asian Studies will add value to their degree and their status as candidates. It will produce excellent linguists who are experts in Asian Studies as well. The dual-title degree in Applied Linguistics and Asian Studies will build curricular bridges beyond the student’s major field so as to provide a unique training regime for the global scholar.

Admission Requirements

For admission to the dual-title Ph.D. degree under this program, a student must first apply and be admitted to the Applied Linguistics graduate program. Once accepted into the Applied Linguistics program, the student can apply to the Admissions Committee of the Asian Studies. The Asian Studies Admissions Committee reviews applications and recommends students for admission to the Asian Studies program to the Graduate School. Refer to the Admission Requirements section of the Asian Studies Bulletin page. Doctoral students must be admitted into the dual-title degree program in Asian Studies prior to taking the qualifying examination in their primary graduate program. Applicants interested in the program should also make their interest in the dual-title degree program known clearly on their applications and include remarks in their essays that explain their training, interests, and career goals in an area of Asian Studies.

Degree Requirements

To qualify for an Asian Studies degree, students must satisfy the requirements of the Applied Linguistics program in which they are primarily enrolled. In addition, they must satisfy the requirements described below, as established by the Asian Studies committee. Within this framework, final course selection is determined by the student, their Asian Studies adviser, and their Applied Linguistics program adviser.

Upon a student’s acceptance by the Asian Studies Admissions Committee, the student will be assigned an Asian Studies academic adviser in consultation with the Asian Studies chair. As students develop specific scholarly interests, they may request that a different Asian Studies faculty member serve as their adviser. The student and adviser will discuss a program of study that is appropriate for the student’s professional objectives and that is in accord with the policies of The Graduate School, the Applied Linguistics department and the Asian Studies program.

The doctoral degree in Applied Linguistics and Asian Studies is awarded only to students who are admitted to the Applied Linguistics doctoral program and admitted to the dual-title degree in Asian Studies. The minimum course requirements for the dual-title Ph.D. degree in Applied Linguistics and Asian Studies are as follows:

60 credits beyond the master’s degree, including:

Required Courses
APLNG 580Proseminar in Applied Linguistics1
Foundations Courses
Select 6 credits, which may include but need not be limited to the following:6
APLNG 591Seminar in Second Language Acquisition
APLNG 597Special Topics
Research Methods
Select 6 credits, which may include but need not be limited to the following:6
Experimental Research on Language
Special Topics
Discourse Analysis
Analyzing Classroom Discourse
Asia-related Coursework
ASIA 501Proseminar in Asian Studies I3
ASIA 502Proseminar in Asian Studies II3
Select 9 credits at the 400 or 500 level 19
Select 6 credits in Applied Linguistics electives, in consultation with the applied linguistics adviser6
Language Requirement
All-skills proficiency in one Asian language AND intermediate speaking competence in an additional language other than English
Total Credits34

As many as 6 may come from Applied Linguistics, as approved by the student's doctoral adviser and the Asian Studies Program director of graduate studies. The remaining credits can be taken in ASIA or in any department other than Applied Linguistics.

Particular courses may satisfy both the Applied Linguistics requirements and those of the Asian Studies program. Final course selection is determined by the student in consultation with their dual-title program advisers and their major program advisers.


A graduate minor is available in any approved graduate major or dual-title program. The default requirements for a graduate minor are stated in Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies and GCAC-700 Professional Degree Policies, depending on the type of degree the student is pursuing:

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the Tuition & Funding section of The Graduate School’s website. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set by The Graduate School.


Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Graduates will demonstrate command of historical and current developments in applied linguistics theory and the current literature relevant to a particular theoretical topic and research area in applied linguistics.
  2. Graduates will demonstrate command of current developments in research methods in applied linguistics and ability to collect and adequately analyze data appropriate for addressing specific research questions.
  3. Graduates will demonstrate ability to design and execute original, independent research projects to significantly advance theory and knowledge in applied linguistics.
  4. Graduates will demonstrate ability to clearly and effectively report their research in both oral presentations and written formats using appropriate conventions of the discipline.
  5. Graduates will demonstrate knowledge of and commitment to the professional and ethical standards of scholarly and professional work in applied linguistics.


Campus University Park
Graduate Program Head Tommaso Maria Milani
Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Professor-in-Charge (PIC) Celeste S Kinginger
Program Contact

Seunghoon Choi
234 Sparks Building
University Park PA 16802
(814) 867-4284

Program Website View