MA in English Linguistics
Programme Convenor: Dr Rachele de Felice
Explore how the English language works and grow as a researcher on the UCL MA in English Linguistics. Students on our MA programme are taught by experts in the fields of grammar, morphology and semantics, phonetics and phonology, pragmatics and discourse analysis, and corpus linguistics. We focus on developing your research skills, with plenty of opportunities to discuss your work, from class presentations to regular one-to-one tutorials. You'll be based in Bloomsbury, the heart of London, just minutes away from the British Library and the British Museum.
The 2017/18 programme consists of four main units (Modern English Grammar, English Corpus Linguistics OR English in Use, Research Methodology, and a range of Options), and a dissertation.
- Modern English Grammar
This course offers a comprehensive overview of the grammar of contemporary English. During the first term we start with the basic building blocks of word classes, phrases and clauses, as well as grammatical functions. During the second term we discuss more complex syntactic structures. A major feature of the course is that students will be trained to apply the principles of syntactic argumentation.
This 30-credit course is compulsory for all students. It is taught in two-hour long weekly seminars over two terms, and is assessed by a three-hour written exam.
- Research Methodology
The main aim of this course is to train students in a range of practical research skills, allowing them to perform self-directed research in linguistics, from identifying sources of evidence and designing experiments, to evaluating empirical results, engaging critically and integrating results with existing literature. During the first term we discuss topics such academic writing, data collection, and quantitative and qualitative research. The second term includes statistics for linguistics, and a set of four sessions focused on developing your dissertation work from first ideas to well-formed reserach proposal.
This 30-credit course is compulsory for all students. It is taught in two-hour long weekly seminars over two terms, and is assessed by a portfolio of written work.
- Pathways: English Corpus Linguistics and English in Use
Students choose to specialise in either Corpus Linguistics or English in Use after one term of seminars. Both 30-credit courses are taught in two-hour long weekly seminars over two terms, and are assessed by a 6,000 word Course Essay on a topic of the student's choice.
Click on the headings for full reading lists.
This course teaches the theory and practice of corpus linguistics in English language research and applications. Two state-of-art fully-grammatically parsed corpora of spoken and written English developed at UCL, ICE-GB and DCPSE, are used as exemplars to teach the course in depth, in the first term. In the second term these resources are explored along with a range of contemporary corpora, to illustrate the breadth of corpus linguistics research performed today.
Students will acquire a thorough understanding of corpus linguistics research methods in (for example) syntax, semantics, pragmatics and lexicography.
This course looks at how speakers of English use language directly and indirectly to achieve communicative goals, and introduces students to the main theories of pragmatics, different approaches to Politeness and Impoliteness Theory, as well as topics ranging from forensic linguistics to world Englishes. Students develop the skills to apply corpus analysis tools to investigate and describe pragmatic and discourse phenomena, and to related what is studied to real-world examples of language in use.
- Topics in English Linguistics
This module is assessed by a compulsory three-hour written exam. It covers a range of topics in English linguistics, and in the exam students will be required to answer questions on two of these topics. Options typically include:
This one-term option course considers various aspects of the lexicon of English, including the structure and meaning of words and how this changes, where new words come from, and social aspects of word use. We will discuss topics in morphology, lexical semantics and the history of English, and take a detailed look at the 'life stories' of some English words.
This one-term option course will provide students with a basic understanding of articulatory phonetics and the ways in which sounds are produced; a thorough grounding in the phonetics and phonology of spoken English; an introduction to the main issues in the phonology of English; and the practical skills of phonetic transcription.
This two-term course foregrounds the relationship between language and literary and non-literary texts, and considers language use from particular perspectives. In classes we will discuss approaches from within stylistics and discourse analysis, and examine the ways in which specific linguistic choices create variations in style and meaning. The questions of what makes a text, and what makes a 'literary' text, will be explored; we will go on to explore topics including the difference between spoken and written texts, features of language such as deixis and metaphor, and the language of particular authors including Milton and Henry James.
History of the English Language
The final dissertation is a very important component of the course. It consists of 10,000 words and students work on it over the summer vacation. Several weeks of the Spring Term Research Methodology sessions are devoted to workshops helping students develop their dissertation plans.
Curriculum and Assessment
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.
Forms of assessment for each module are given above.
The Survey of English Usage
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the 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.
- Can I do the course part-time?
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.
- What is the difference between the MA in English Linguistics 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
- What opportunities are there 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.
"I started my MAEL programme in 2014, which was also the starting point of my lifelong ambition. I attended all compulsory and optional courses since they are so interesting and are never a waste of time! As a non-native, I also gained excellent experience in academic research and developed great writing skills (many thanks to all tutors who gave me tutorials). I like the subject, the courses, the staff, the department, the school, the city, so I further my study here for a PhD degree! Legendary!"
Ai Zhong (MAEL 2014-15)
"I did the UCL MA in English Linguistics part-time over two years and lectures on semantics, phonetics and grammar were the highlight of my week! It impacted my work in two ways; I became much more aware of the language choices we make, often inadvertently, and this improved my communication in general. Since graduating, I have also set up a new division of my PR business, Word Savvy, which helps business people to think about their written and spoken communication. I would definitely recommend this MA to others. It’s fascinating and has brought great benefits to my working life."
Director, PR Savvy (MAEL 2013-15)
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. MA Convenor, MA English Linguistics.
- 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.