General advising FAQ (click below to expand)

What classes should I take?

You can find information about undergraduate program requirements, as well as helpful program-tracking forms (in the sidebar) of the departmental page. Some important notes:

  • Required courses must be taken at McGill (not on exchange). It’s best to take required courses sooner rather than later, especially since some of them will be prerequisites for other courses you want to take.
  • Note that LING 330 (phonetics) and 371 (syntax) are only offered in the winter*; LING 331 (phonology) and LING 360 (semantics) are only offered in the fall.
  • It is your responsibility to ensure you have the right prerequisites for the courses you enrol in; Minerva does not check this!

Here is a good way to get required courses done in three semesters. Note that LING 201 is prerequisite for the later four LING courses; LING 330 is a prerequisite for 331 and PHIL 210 is a prerequisite for LING 360.

  • Fall: LING 201; PHIL 210
  • Winter: LING 330; LING 371
  • Fall: LING 331; LING 360

It is not essential to finish all of your requirements in three semesters, but it is important to plan ahead, especially if you plan to go on exchange.

*NB: During the 2017–2018 academic year, LING 330 and 371 are offered both fall and winter. This may continue into future years, but for now if you are planning ahead, it is safest to assume they will be winter courses.

The class I want to take is full... what should I do?

Step 1: get yourself on the waitlist. Waitlists open up after registration is complete for all different registration groups, which might mean you have to wait and check back if the waitlist isn’t open yet. These dates vary from year to year, but typically waitlists open up in late June.

Step 2: If the waitlist is full, you can always check back to see if students drop. Meanwhile, have a back-up plan!

Step 3: If this is a class that you really need/want to take, note that the only person who can grant you special permission to enrol in the course is the course instructor (not me, not Service Point, not Arts OASIS). Many instructors will tell you to wait until the semester gets going to see if students drop the course.

Does LING 200 count for complementary course credit?

Yes! (But note that LING 201 is the prerequisite for most other Linguistics courses, and is required for the Major, Minor, and Honours programs.) Note, however, that students entering 2017 and after may use only one 200-level course towards their complementary credits.

What's LING 488 Independent Study? Can I do one?

LING 488, Independent Study, is a semester-long course in which you work closely with a professor on a topic of mutual interest. Details are to be determined on a case-by-case basis, but in general this course involves independent reading, regular meetings, and a final project (often a term paper). In most cases, LING 488 will grow out of a topic in an upper-level course which the student would like to research further. Notes:

  • It is the student’s responsibility to get approval from the professor before registering for LING 488.
  • Generally, only full-time faculty members supervise independent study courses.
  • There is no guarantee that you will be able to do an independent study course. It is always dependent on the professor’s existing commitments, interest, and your past academic performance.

What's LING 499 Internship? Can I do one?

Typically the way LING 499 works is as follows: a student gets pre-approval from a supervisor, and then does a summer internship related to linguistics. The for-credit portion (i.e. LING 499) then normally takes place during the following fall semester and is effectively an independent study course which somehow relates to or builds on your summer internship. The internship alone does not count for course credit.

In practice, there is no real difference between LING 488 (Independent Study, which can be done any semester on any mutually-agreed upon topic) and LING 499 (Internship, which normally happens in the fall and connects to an internship). In both 488 and 499, the course plan and evaluation are determined on a case by case basis, but usually involve some independent reading, regular meetings, and a final paper or project.

A reason that a student might decide to do LING 499 instead of LING 488 is that the Faculty of Arts offers an Arts Internship Award (which pays you to do an otherwise unpaid internship) and gives priority to applicants who intend to use the internship towards course credit.

How do I get involved in research in linguistics?

The linguistics department doesn’t keep a centralized list of research, volunteer, or work opportunities, though many such opportunities to exist. The best way to get involved is to get in touch with professors directly and ask if there are any opportunities available. Often, this kind of work may grow out of an upper-level course you take, after a prof has a chance to get to know you. Since funding is limited, being willing to volunteer your time in a lab or research group may help you get your foot in the door.

I don't have the prerequisites for this course, but Minerva let me register... so it's okay, right?


Minerva is not smart––Minerva will let you register for anything. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have completed all of the listed course prerequisites (or have special permission from the instructor) before enrolling in the course. You can find information about course prerequisites by clicking on the course on this page.

How should I email a professor?

Sometimes this isn’t totally obvious. This page does a pretty good job of giving advice.


Honours FAQ (click below to expand)

Should I do Honours?

First, see this excellent document written by Prof. Charles Boberg. Some important notes:

  • Honours is a trade-off: you graduate with a lot of depth in Linguistics, but at the expense of getting more breadth in other areas.
  • Some of the important aspects of Honours––independent research experience, a close working relationship with a professor––can be achieved in other ways.
  • While an Honours degree certainly flags you as a strong student, I am not aware of any graduate programs which require Honours.

In short: if you find yourself wanting to take more Linguistics courses, if you are doing well in courses, and are excited about doing independent research, Honours might be for you!

How do I find an Honours thesis supervisor? How long is a thesis? How do I pick a topic?

You can find useful information about Linguistics Honours theses in this document by Prof. Charles Boberg. In short:

  • Approaching a potential supervisor is your responsibility, ideally the semester before you intend to write a thesis.
  • As with independent study, generally only full-time faculty members supervise theses. Whether a professor agrees to supervise your thesis may depend on her existing commitments. In most cases, your thesis supervisor will be someone with whom you have taken one or more courses.