Graduate Program in Linguistics University of São Paulo


Graduate Program in Linguistics
University of São Paulo


The teaching culture aligned with research and focused on extending knowledge and services to society was part of the very project that led to the founding of University of São Paulo (USP) in 1934. Several foreign specialists who visited USP encouraged and favored the establishment of close contact between the knowledge produced here and that produced abroad, primarily in Europe during the initial phase. Since it was founded, the university has been an institution at which research is considered an essential part of university life.


Such an environment favored the creation of the Graduate Program in Linguistics in 1971. Since then, during these more than four decades, the program was responsible not only for monitoring, but also effectively contributing toward the global development of the Area of Literature and Linguistics.


The program has earned the maximum score (7) in the assessments completed by Brazil's Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) consecutively for several years. The program earned this score during the 1999-2000 biennial evaluation, with the results announced in 2001. Of special note is the fact that, during the evaluation before this most recent one, in which the assessors from the area were especially rigorous, the program was the only one in the area of Linguistics to receive the maximum score.


All program faculty members are currently part of international research teams and they all have relevant publications abroad. Students receive institutional and financial support to ensure the smooth implementation of their projects, including participation in events and internships abroad in order to help disseminate Brazilian linguistics beyond the country's borders, incorporate new knowledge and maintain their investigations up to par and in alignment with they do best in the area. The results are visible: many graduate students publish their work in international periodicals and take part in selective conferences abroad. Furthermore, master's students seeking doctorates abroad are systematically accepted, often times with scholarships from the host institution itself.



Program Organization

The projects for the USP Graduate Program in Linguistics are developed in virtually all sub-areas of linguistics theory, analysis and description, organized based on the Semiotics and General Linguistics area of focus, and developed through two academic disciplines: language and discourse studies.

There are 10 currently active lines of research:


Linguistics and its interface with other sciences - Theoretical and Applied

Study of the interface relationships between Linguistics and other sciences and areas of knowledge, such as cognitive sciences, neurobiology, anthropology, philosophy, mathematics, psychoanalysis, education, traductology and phonoaudiology, focused on the overall understanding of language-related facts or the development of techniques and methods for using language sciences knowledge.


Analysis of the phonetic and phonological system

Phonetic-articulatory and acoustic study of the sounds of languages and voice identification procedures. Description and formalization of the phonological systems of natural languages.


Analysis of verbal discourses and texts expressed in oral and written form, as well as non-verbal texts.

Analysis of enunciative strategies and mechanisms for building and organizing the meaning of wording. Examination of the relationships between the different texts and discourses of a culture.


Description of non-Indo-European languages (indigenous, African and sign language)

Study and description of African languages, Native American languages and Brazilian sign language. Study of the elements that determine the presence and permanence of African languages in Brazil.

Study of words

The line of research focuses on studying the word, and discussing – from the phonological, morphological, syntactic or semantic perspectives – its meaning, the factors that lead to its formation and the implications of this for learning or acquisition – all processes that persist for the speakers' entire lifetime.


Study of linguistic variation, change and contact

Study of the different types of variation, linguistic change and issues related to linguistic contact, considering identity, ethnic, socio-cultural and historical aspects.


Study of linguistic principles and parameters

Explanation of the nature of linguistic knowledge. Study of the common properties shared by languages and derived from the apparent diversity between the same. Examination of diversified parametrization, with especial attention given to Portuguese.


Study of the processes of language acquisition

Study of linguistic models and their application to the acquisition of maternal and foreign languages. Study of the processes of language acquisition and disorders and pathologies associated with this process.


History of the knowledge of language, historiography and linguistic documentation

Description and interpretation of social-cultural mechanisms, from which knowledge about language has emerged and been disseminated over the span of time. Retrieval, editing, compilation and disclosure of bio-bibliographic material about languages.


Computational linguistics

Research about the computational modelling of human language and the automatic treatment of natural languages. Development and improvement of theoretical models, algorithms and automatic analysis systems at all levels of linguistic investigation.


Admission into the Program

Two levels of training are offered: master's and doctorate.



The master's program can be started right after the student concludes his or her bachelor's degree (earned in any area of knowledge). The estimated duration of the course is a maximum of 27 months. The student must earn 24 credits minimum in study areas corresponding to three Graduate courses in the Linguistics Program, and conduct their research in one of the program's lines of research. At the end of the master's degree period, students must produce a dissertation, or in other words, an academic text that reveals the results of their research and demonstrates their mastery of linguistic analysis in the study area. The dissertation is presented and defended publicly by the students before a committee of specialists from the area. It may be written in Portuguese, English, French and Spanish.



To be admitted into the doctorate program, the candidate must have earned a master's degree (in any area of knowledge). The estimated duration to conclude the work is 48 months. The doctorate must should earn 12 credits in the study areas, which is possible by studying two areas from the Graduate Program in Linguistics. The doctorate-level research should be original, offering new approaches and results to a relevant problem in a sub-area of activity. In the end, the doctorate student should produce a thesis: a text that reveals in-depth knowledge in his or her area of specialization, in alignment with the most recent methods and pertinent bibliographic materials and clearly demonstrate the reach and originality of the results. The doctorate student presents and defends the thesis publicly before a committee of specialists from the area. It may be written in Portuguese, English, French and Spanish.



Selection Process for Admission

Both for the master's as well as the doctorate program, the selection process for admission is opened every six months. There are four phases, all of which are eliminatory. The first is the proficiency exam in a foreign language (English or French for the master's; English, French or Spanish for the doctorate). The students approved during this phase complete a second one, which includes an essay test of general knowledge about linguistics, also eliminatory, applied in a group setting, with double blind correction by professors assigned by the program coordination area. The students approved during this phase are invited to present a research project, which is examined by a committee of three professors associated with the research program of which the project is part. If the text is approved, the candidate is called to submit his or her proposal by the same committee from the project text. Those who earn a score of six or higher during the last three phases (proof of linguistic knowledge, project and submission of project) are then classified for admission into the program. Proof of linguistic knowledge, the project and submission of the project may be completed either in English, French or Spanish, at the candidate's discretion. There is also the possibility for completing the linguistic knowledge test and project submission at a distance, via video chat. Detailed instructions about the documentation, procedures and dates may be obtained AT THIS LINK.


Scholarships and Costs

Every six months, immediately following the enrollment of new entrants, the program selects candidates for master's and doctorate program scholarships offered by two Brazilian federal agencies: The Brazilian Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) and the National Council of Technological and Scientific Development (CNPq). All enrolled students can apply, regardless of their nationality, age or socio-economic status. In the selection for scholarships, the students' CV and project are the main areas evaluated. The candidate must also complete an interview with a commission of teachers and graduate student representatives. The project and interview may be conducted either in English, French or Spanish, at the candidate's discretion.

The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) also offers master's and doctorate scholarships, which are selected directly by its scientific committee. In other words, the decision is made independently from the Linguistics Program. In order to compete for these scholarships, the candidate submits a research project established together with his or her advisor directly to FAPESP.

Students who are regularly enrolled can also request housing and meal assistance from the University of São Paulo on the university campus, as well as public transport assistance in the city of São Paulo. They receive medical and dental care through the hospitals and clinics at the university itself, and if applicable, may apply for placement for their children at the daycare and elementary school also maintained by the university.