The MIT Indigenous Languages Initiative (MITILI) is a special Master’s program in Linguistics for members of communities whose languages are threatened.  The goal of the program is to provide its graduates with the linguistic knowledge that will help them in efforts to keep their communities’ languages alive. In addition, the MIT Indigenous Language Initiative offers expanded opportunities for MIT students and faculty to become involved in indigenous and endangered languages through work with native speaker linguists in the Master’s program and also with outside groups.

Entrance Requirements

  • A native speaker’s knowledge of an indigenous or endangered language or commitment to learning it as a second language (as evidenced, for example, by demonstrable commitment to the community in the area of language revitalization).
  • Demonstrated ability and interest in scholarly and practical work in or out of the community relating to the language. Applications are encouraged not only from individuals who are have demonstrated their capabilities in a traditional academic setting but also from individuals who have demonstrated their ability in concrete ways recognized as valuable within their home communities.

Program requirements

The MITILI Master’s is a two-year program, with the following requirements:

  • A MITILI student who has not completed formal coursework or its equivalent in one or more areas of formal linguistics will take 24.900 and one or more of 24.931, 24.932, and 24.933 in their first year in the program, in addition to an independent study focused on their language. A student who has already completed coursework or its equivalent in the area covered by one or more of these classes will take a more advanced class in the same area.
  • The second year will normally be devoted to the writing of a Master’s thesis under the supervision of the student’s advisor, alongside whatever additional coursework is judged to be relevant to that project. Upon the completion and successful defense of the thesis during the student’s second year, the student will be recommended for a degree of Master of Science (S.M.) in Linguistics, which will be the final degree awarded in the program.
  • Upon the completion of the first year of the Master’s program (or at any time thereafter), a MITILI student who wishes to continue graduate-level education in Linguistics beyond the Master’s level may, with the support of their advisor, request admission to the PhD program in linguistics. The successful completion of a Master’s may or may not be required as a precondition, depending on the student’s needs, desires, and progress at the time.

Student support

  • The MITILI program offers a full scholarship that covers tuition, fees and health insurance, plus a stipend, at the same level as that offered to students in the Linguistics PhD program.


  • Students applying to the MITILI program follow the same application procedure as the PhD program. In the “Statement of Objectives” section of the application please state you are applying to the MITILI program.