MA in English Linguistics

Please note: applications for 2016 entry will close on 29 July 2016.


This MA programme offers students the opportunity to study the English language in depth at postgraduate level. Specifically, it aims to provide students with the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to describe Modern English. The programme is of interest to those who wish to continue for a research degree in English Language or Linguistics, those who wish to become teachers or lecturers of English, or those intending to pursue a career in writing, publishing, or editing.

Application Requirements

Applications are welcome from candidates who have at least a second class Honours degree in English language or literature, or in linguistics, or an overseas equivalent. Some prior knowledge of English language studies (specifically English grammar) is expected for the programme.

Curriculum and Assessment

The programme extends over one calendar year for full-time students and two calendar years for part-time students. Teaching takes place over two terms: the autumn term runs from October to December and the spring term runs from January until the end of March. Examinations take place after the Easter break at the end of April/early May. Students write their dissertations over the summer.

The programme of the MA in English Linguistics is structured around two obligatory core courses: students take English Grammar and Methodology, and either English Corpus Linguistics or English Language in Use. In addition they take two optional courses (which form part of the component Topics in English Linguistics), an obligatory course in Research Methodology, and they write a Dissertation. The core courses are taught in weekly seminars over two terms. The option courses are taught either in the autumn or spring term. The table below offers an overview with information about assessment and credit weightings.

Assessment   Credits
Modern English Grammar (obligatory core course) Three-hour examination paper in April/May   30
English Corpus Linguistics (core course) or English Language in Use (core course) Long essay   30

Topics in English Linguistics

(two option courses to be taken)

Three-hour examination paper in April/May   30

Research Methodology

(obligatory course)

Portfolio of Essays and course assignments   30
Dissertation 10,000 words, to be submitted by 1 September of the year following entry to the programme   60



Different Topics courses are offered each year. In past years they have included:

  • Phonetics and Phonology of English
  • History of the English Language
  • Literary Linguistics
  • English Words

Students are principally taught through seminars and tutorials. Over the year they write a number of essays, and they do presentations during the spring term. They have access to the Survey of English Usage (see below), and are taught how to make use of its resources for their dissertations

The MA in English Linguistics (MAEL) and the MA in Linguistics (MAL)

There are important differences between the MA in English Linguistics (MAEL) and the MA in Linguistics (MAL). First, the former is based in the English Department while the MA in Linguistics is based in the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences. From the point of view of content the MAEL focuses on the English language, and has a more descriptive outlook than the theoretically-oriented MAL, which does not have an exclusive focus on any particular language.

Part-Time Students

Part-time students take the Modern English Grammar course in their first year, together with one option course. During the second year they take their second core course (either English Corpus Linguistics or English Language in Use), as well as a second option course. The dissertation will be written during the summer of the second year of study. Part-time students will be encouraged to work on their dissertations over the summer following their first year. Please note that if you intend to work, your employer will need to allow you to work flexibly, as it will not be possible to make special timetable arrangements for part-time students. Please also note that there are restrictions on non-EU students applying for part-time places.

Opportunities for Further Research

Students who have obtained good results for their MA examinations may be considered for the MPhil/PhD programme, subject to places being available.

Research Resources

The Department of English Language and Literature houses the Survey of English Usage (SEU), an unparalleled resource for research into the grammatical repertoire of mature educated native speakers of English. The SEU houses several corpora (large collections of authentic spoken and written texts). Among them are the British component of the International Corpus of English and the Diachronic Corpus of Present-Day English, both of which can be explored using innovative search software. Many important studies of the grammar, semantics and lexis of present-day English are based on SEU material. Among them are the Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (Quirk et al. 1985), which is recognised internationally as one of the standard reference grammars for English, and the Oxford Modern English Grammar (Aarts 2011).

Students at UCL have a wide range of library resources at their disposal both on campus and online. There are also several outstanding libraries in the near vicinity of UCL, including the British Library and the University of London Library.

What Students Say

Benjamin Lukoff writes: “I began the MA program unaware of just how high the academic reputations of my instructors were, but it was a most welcome surprise. UCL English is truly a world-class department in a world-class university in a world-class city and I continue to value the education I received there.”

David Marsh (a former mature part-time student and author of Guardian Style and For Who the Bell Tolls) writes “the course is great, and so is the teaching.” More... [Hell Part 2 - sitting exams]

Academic Staff Participating in the Programme

  • Professor Bas Aarts, Professor of English Linguistics and Director of the Survey of English Usage, author of Small Clauses in English (1992), English Syntax and Argumentation (1997/2001/2008), Syntactic Gradience (2007), Exploring Natural Language (2002, with Gerald Nelson and Sean Wallis), Oxford Modern English Grammar (2011), and the Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar (2014); co-editor of The Verb in Contemporary English: Theory and Description (1995, with Charles F. Meyer), of Fuzzy Grammar: a Reader (2004, with David Denison, Evelien Keizer and Gergana Popova), The Handbook of English Linguistics (2006, with April McMahon), and of The Verb Phrase in English: Investigating Recent Language Change with Corpora (2013). Aarts is a Founding Editor of the Cambridge University Press journal English Language and Linguistics.
  • Dr Kathryn Allan, Senior Lecturer in English, author of Metaphor and Metonymy: a Diachronic Approach (2009), editor (with M. Winters and H. Tissari) of Contributions to Historical Cognitive Linguistics: Syntax and Semantics (2010), editor of Current Methods in Historical Semantics (2011, with J. Robinson), and a number of journal publications.
  • Dr Rachele De Felice, Teaching Fellow; author of Data-Driven Pragmatics: a Framework for Speech Acts (forthcoming 2014), and a number of journal articles.
  • Sean Wallis, Senior Research Fellow, Survey of English Usage, programmer of the ICECUP corpus exploration software, technical supervisor of ICE-GB and DCPSE, co-author, with Gerald Nelson and Bas Aarts, of Exploring Natural Language (2002), co-editor, with Bas Aarts, Geoffrey Leech and Joanne Close, of The Verb Phrase in English: Investigating Recent Language Change with Corpora (2013), and author of many journal articles and book chapters on Corpus Linguistics methodology and statistics.