The University of Chicago | Graduate Admissions

South Asian Languages and Civilizations - PhD

Division: Humanities
Degree Type: PhD 

Program Description

The geographical region South Asia, which includes the Indian subcontinent and surrounding areas, may be studied as an academic area of focus from within a number of departments at the University of Chicago, which is one of the foremost centers of South Asian Studies in the world. Each Department has its own disciplinary focus: Anthropology, History, Political Science, Divinity, English, and so on.

The Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations (SALC) in the Division of the Humanities, founded in 1965, emphasizes a text-based approach. Historical, social, literary, and political issues of South Asia are addressed here through fine-grained textual analysis and studies of South Asian textual traditions. That is why training in South Asian languages - four years minimum for the language of concentration, two years minimum for the secondary language - is seen as an integral part of the department's program. The languages regularly taught in the department are Bangla, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Pali, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Tibetan and Urdu. Persian is also available, mainly through the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, though some advanced courses in the language are also offered through SALC.

The research interests of individual faculty members are described in the faculty pages of the Department's website.

 In the University as a whole, especially in the Humanities and Social Sciences Divisions, there are a number of areas in South Asia of special focus, which involve at least one member of the SALC Department faculty: they include (with relevant languages) West Bengal and Bangladesh (Bangla), Buddhist Studies (Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese), the Deccan (Marathi, Telugu), North India and Pakistan (Hindi, Urdu), Sanskrit Studies (including special attention to regional uses of Sanskrit), South India (Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu), and Southeast Asia.

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Application Method

Applications should be initiated through the online application. Paper applications are not accepted.


Deadline for admissions and financial aid: December 15

The Department of SALC admits applicants once a year for the following Autumn Quarter. Applications received after the deadline cannot be considered.

Campus Visits

Campus visits and interviews are not required. Contact the department for more information.

Degree Objective

The Department of SALC admits applicants only for the Ph.D. degree, and does not offer a stand-alone MA program. We do not offer an MA program.  If you are interested in pursuing an MA focusing in [Department], we encourage you to explore the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH).

Application Requirements

  1. Online Application Form and Supplemental Form  
  2. References:  Three letters of reference should be included with your application.
  3. Graduate Record Examinations and TOEFL Scores:
    Graduate Record Exam scores (general test only) are required of all applicants, including those with previous MAs. For information on additional examinations required of some international applicants, please see the Test Requirements page on the divisional website.  The University GRE code is: 1832
  4. Statement of Academic Purpose:  All applicants should carefully state their purpose in pursuing a graduate degree. This statement is given considerable weight in the final decision regarding admission.
  5. Writing Sample:  Applicants should submit a sample of their scholarly writing that is between 15 and 20 pages in length.
  6. Transcripts: Official transcripts from all post-secondary educational institutions should be submitted with your application.

Admissions Decisions

Admissions decisions are emailed in early March. Direct all questions about your application directly to the admissions office.

Program Requirements

To receive the degree of Ph.D. in South Asian Languages and Civilizations, a student must complete a minimum of 18 courses (the actual number of course may be higher depending on the language proficiency of the student). These include the required language courses, the 3 required Departmental seminars, and other courses relevant to the student’s chosen specialty. The latter may include courses offered in other departments as well as in SALC. Students may not receive a grade of ‘R’ in any of the courses counted among the required 18 courses, and none of these may be an informal reading course.

Three languages are required: (i) the South Asian language of concentration (the major language); (ii) a second South Asian language relevant to the student's program of study (the minor language); and (iii) a third language of scholarship (e.g. French, German, Hindi, Japanese, etc.).

Competence in South Asian languages and civilizations is demonstrated as much by close familiarity with South Asian texts as by a broad knowledge of the plurality of South Asian practices and traditions. To this end the PhD program includes three required departmental seminars. These seminars are taught in a two year cycle.

1. & 2. Research Themes in South Asian Studies I and II (SALC40100/40200)

3. South Asia as a Unit of Study (SALC40000)

In their first year of study, students are required to submit a qualifying paper on a subject agreed upon with a faculty member.

In their second year of study, students are required to submit a second qualifying paper on a subject agreed upon with a faculty member. 

While the program asks students to pursue specialized research in their area of concentration, it is essential that they do this in relation to a broad understanding of the cultural and historical context in which their objects of specialized study are situated. The Department therefore requires oral examinations on the basis of two reading lists in (1) a major area of study, and (2) a minor area of study.

Time to candidacy must be no more than five years. Time to degree must be no more than twelve years.




Costs & Financial Aid

University funds are awarded and administered by the Humanities Division. The Department faculty makes its recommendations to the Division based upon the student’s record. There is no separate application for these funds beyond the initial application to the Department, except for the summer stipends for GAI students. The amount and duration of University-based support varies. As of 2007-08, many students will also have teaching service included in their funding packages. Questions concerning University-based support should be directed to the Departmental Graduate Student Advisor and/or the Humanities Dean of Students.