M.A. Native American Languages & Linguistics

The Native American Languages & Linguistics M.A. (NAMA) is oriented toward community language activists who wish to train in the kinds of skills and experience needed to work on maintaining, revitalizing, and documenting their native languages.

Students interested in NAMA can either be speakers or second language learners of their language or ones who have studied a particular Native American language and have close contact with that language community. The specialized nature of this degree focuses on indigenous languages and meeting the needs of Native American communities due to the rapid decline in the use of heritage languages, tribal communities have pressed for practical linguistic training to:

  • Revitalize, maintain, and document indigenous languages;
  • provide skills and expertise for Native American linguists to develop teaching grammar and other educational materials;
  • promote understanding of indigenous peoples' educational issues at every level of policy-making;
  • enhance and promote understanding of complex factors leading to language choice, language shift and language loss, and;
  • work with archival media (such as audio legacy audio recordings and historical documents) to enrich the language record and to produce viable teaching materials.

We are also open to other community-oriented objectives and projects. Additionally, NAMA students are encouraged to participate in the life of the Linguistics Department and other university departments (Anthropology, American Indian Studies). There are many opportunities to enrich their experiences and professional network through interacting with other students, professors and researchers who have similar goals and interests – there is a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw upon.

Students complete the degree in one academic year plus one summer doing coursework at the American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI). The NAMA program also often serves as a stepping stone for those students who wish to advance to the Ph.D. level in linguistics or related disciplines.

What studies are included?

The NAMA program is designed to be completed in minimum 15 months and begins as a summer admit program: during the first summer session, the student completes coursework in the AILDI. Here they focus on language materials development, working with language archives, teaching methods, and other relevant Native American language and linguistics topics.

In the fall and spring semesters, the student enrolls in the core course of the program, Workshop on Descriptive Linguistics, LING 597A for 4 credits each semester. The Workshop courses consist of lectures and laboratory work on indigenous languages, particularly the student's heritage language, and provides the opportunity to interact with other students in both the NAMA program but also Anthropology and American Indian Studies. 

The Native American Linguistics and Language Master's consists of a minimum of 26 units and a 6 unit thesis. For other required courses and electives, please see the Graduate Student Handbook on page 27. Potential topics for the thesis include:

  • brief grammar sketches/descriptions,
  • language planning projects for their community,
  • short surveys on different topics on the language,
  • language teaching methods and materials
  • studies of legacy or historical materials (documents, recordings, etc.)

What can you do with a NAMA degree?

The NAMA graduates who return to their community often work for their tribe's language program or institutions of higher education. A number are currently in teaching or administrative positions for tribal language programs. The NAMA program also serves as a stepping stone to other graduate degrees; several NAMA alumni have continued their research, gone on to complete doctorates in related fields, and are now faculty at universities teaching and doing research in language maintenance and revitalization.  ​

What kind of background should I have as an applicant?

There are two major requirements in order to be admitted to the NAMA program:

  1. An undergraduate degree: this can be in any field of study, and should be awarded by the start date of the NAMA program.
  2. Previous experience or studies in their own native language as a second language or being a native speaker of a native language. The majority of NAMA applicants are non-traditional students who come from diverse educational backgrounds and life experiences. As such, there is no ideal age limit: many students who wish to undertake our program have already had careers in other areas. We encourage older students to apply.

Fellowship Opportunity

The Master's of Art in Native American Languages and Linguistics is considered a Workforce-Ready Master's Program. The UA Graduate College, with the assistance of the Marshall Foundation and the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Education, and Social and Behavioral Sciences, has created the Arizona Works Tuition Scholarship in order to incentivize Arizonans to enroll in UA Master’s programs in these colleges that meet the workforce needs of the State. For more information and to apply, please visit: http://grad.arizona.edu/funding/opportunities/arizona-works-tuition-scholarship