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Transfer Credit and Study Abroad

Transfer credits may be used to satisfy elective requirements for the Linguistics major or minor, provided that the courses are approved, and subject to the Limit on Special Courses (see below). Transfer credit includes:

  • Credit for courses taken by transfer students before attending U-M
  • Transfer credit for courses taken elsewhere by U-M students, for example, remote learning courses taken when a comparable course is not available at U-M
  • Credit for study-abroad courses

Admissions Office Database

The U-M Office of Undergraduate Admissions maintains a database of previously evaluated courses including study abroad. Students may request approval for courses that are not listed in the database.

If the class is listed on the Transfer Credit Equivalency (TCE) website as transferring for equivalent credit (e.g., LING 111 or LING 210), then no additional steps are required. However, if the class is listed on the TCE website as transferring for departmental credit (e.g., LING 301x Dept.), you may request an evaluation as described below.

The Limit on Special Courses

Both the major and the minor place a limit on the total number of elective credit hours that can be satisfied using special courses. "Special courses" include not only transfer credits and study-abroad, but also cognates, experiential practice, and independent study. (Note that cognates may be used only for the major, not for the minor.)

For the major, the limit is 12 credits, and for the minor, it is 6 credits. That limit applies to special courses as a whole, not just to transfer credits and study-abroad.

Approval Procedure

If a transfer or study-abroad course is not listed as approved in the Admissions Office database, a student may request approval by sending email to the Student Services Coordinator or by making an advising appointment with the Linguistics Director of Undergraduate Studies.


In order to evaluate a course for approval, the department requires documentation of its contents and form, provided by the student. For that reason, it is unfortunately not possible to give final approval for a course until after the course has been taken.

However, it is possible to pre-evaluate a course for currently enrolled students. A pre-evaluation is a best estimate, based on available information, of whether the course will be approved. The more information the student can provide, the better an estimate the department can give.

At the pre-evaluation meeting, the director reviews whatever materials the student is able to provide (usually a course description, sometimes a syllabus) and provides a best estimate, either:

  • The course is expected to qualify for Linguistics credit, provided that the actual course matches the description given, and provided that the student provides satisfactory documentation of work done.
  • The course will not qualify, because it fails to satisfy one or more of the criteria.

The judgment may be qualified as uncertain if insufficient material is available. A note of the results of the pre-evaluation is placed in the student's file, for reference when the course has been taken and final evaluation is possible.


After the student has taken the course and has received University transfer credit for it, the student has a second meeting with the director for final evaluation. For approval, documentation of both the content and form of the course is needed. (See Approval Criteria below.)

We recognize that the amount and kind of documentation available varies greatly from case to case, but it is in the student's interest to provide sufficient documentation to make it clear that the criteria for approval are satisfied. Examples of documentation include syllabus, reading list, handouts, term paper, exam, homeworks.

If a conditional approval was given in pre-evaluation, it will be respected, as long as its conditions are satisfied. That is, a positive pre-evaluation will be confirmed if, in the director's judgment, the actual course was "as advertised" and the work done was as expected.

Approval Criteria

There are a few hard constraints on approval:

  • The course must represent work at the 300 level or higher. In unusual cases, the department may decide that a course that initially transferred at a lower level represents 300-level work, and may have the course level adjusted.
  • Extra-departmental credits are always elective credits. They cannot be used to satisfy the core-course requirements (313, 315, 316) or the capstone requirement. (A student doing a linguistics minor is only required to do two of the core courses and may take the third as an elective, in which case it may be taken extra-departmentally.)
  • Credit cannot be given for the same course twice. In particular, elective credit cannot be given for an extra-departmental course that has substantially the same content as an intra-departmental course that the student receives credit for.

Beyond those restrictions, the following provide some general criteria that are used in evaluating courses. These criteria are used for all extra-departmental courses, including cognate courses as well as transfer credits and study-abroad. Note that this list is intended to give students an idea of what to expect; it is not definitive. The ultimate determination is at the discretion of the director.

With respect to contents, the fundamental question is whether the course is primarily linguistic in nature. The following sorts of course generally do qualify:

  • A course on the linguistic structure of a language, e.g., "Phonology and Morphology of Arabic"
  • A course on the history of a language, e.g., "The History of English"
  • A course on the languages of the world that has significant linguistic content, e.g., discussion of genetic groupings, linguistic characteristics of language families, etc.
  • A course on sociolinguistics, if it has sufficient genuinely linguistic content
  • Advanced or specialized courses in phonology, syntax, or semantics
  • Courses on other subfields of linguistics, such as computational linguistics, mathematical linguistics, historical linguistics, and closely related areas such as philosophy of language or mathematical logic

By contrast, courses that generally do not qualify include:

  • Regular language courses, that is, courses whose primary aim is to impart competence in a language
  • Courses on language in society whose focus is culture or social issues

With respect to form:

  • The course must be a graded, academic course.
  • The course usually cannot be independent study or directed research. To get linguistics credit for independent study or directed research, one must enroll in a LING independent study with a Linguistics supervisor. Exceptions may be granted for transfer students, if sufficient documentation is provided.
  • There must be a final exam, term paper, homeworks, or other significant written student work.