UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


MA Linguistics

The Linguistics MA aims to give students a thorough grounding in modern theoretical linguistics. Students gain a basic understanding of the three core areas of linguistics: phonetics and phonology; syntax; and semantics and pragmatics, and are then able to tailor the programme to meet their personal linguistic interests.

Key Information

Programme starts


Modes and duration
Full time: 1 year
Part time: 2 years

Fees and application deadlines:  Details available in the UCL Prospectus

Location: London, Bloomsbury

Entry requirements

Normally a minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard is required.

English Language Requirements

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency.

The English language level for this programme is: Good

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

International students

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

Applicants with a significant academic background in theoretical linguistics, e.g. with an undergraduate degree in linguistics, may also be interested in the specialised MA Linguistics programmes in phonology, pragmatics, semantics and syntax.

See below for short videos on studying Linguistics and Language Sciences at UCL and a guided tour of Chandler House, home of UCL Linguistics:

UCL Language Sciences – Teaching Philosophy


UCL Language Sciences – Chandler House Tour


Further information on the MA Linguistics degree programme can be found here:




Why study this degree at UCL?

The UCL Division of Psychology & Language Sciences undertakes world-leading research and teaching in linguistics, language, mind, and behaviour. More specifically, UCL Linguistics is one of the leading departments for research in theoretical linguistics in the UK and its staff includes world leaders in theoretical syntax, semantics, pragmatics, phonology, and experimental linguistics.

Our work attracts staff and students from around the world. Together they create an outstanding and vibrant environment, taking advantage of cutting-edge resources such as a behavioural neuroscience laboratory, a centre for brain imaging, and extensive laboratories for research in speech and language, perception, and cognition.

Our world-class research is characterised by a tight integration of theoretical and experimental work spanning the full range of the linguistic enterprise and forms the bedrock of the department’s eminent reputation, which is also reflected in other markers of excellence, such as its editorial involvement with top journals in the field.

Department: Division of Psychology & Language Sciences

Student / staff ratios › 181 staff including 173 postdocs › 780 taught students › 440 research students

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

In the UK’s 2021 Research Excellence Framework, as part of the Faculty Unit of Assessment, UCL Psychology and Language Science’s Research Environment ranked equal First in the UK. Additionally, 92% of our research was graded 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’).

Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.

Content and Structure

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits. The programme consists of four compulsory taught modules (total of 60 credits), two modules selected from a group of three choices (total of 30 credits), two optional modules (total of 30 credits) and a research dissertation (60 credits). All modules have the value of 15 credits (apart from the dissertation).

Detailed module descriptions are available at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/pals/linguistics-plin-modules

Students must take the compulsory modules below:

CodeTitleCredit value
0.5 ECTS point
PLIN0045Semantics and Pragmatics I15 1
PLIN0084Phonetics and Phonology I15 1
PLIN0047Syntax15 1
PLIN0048Foundations of Linguistics15 1
PLIN0049Dissertation in Linguistics60 1

Students must select TWO out of the three modules below:

CodeTitleCredit value
0.5 ECTS point
PLIN0081Semantics and Pragmatics II15 2
PLIN0053Interfaces in Syntax15 2
PLIN0074 Phonetics and Phonology II15 2


In addition, students choose TWO 15-credit option modules in consultation with the programme director. You can find further information at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/pals/linguistics-plin-modules.

Students will be able to tailor the programme to meet their personal linguistic interests either by focusing on one particular area, or by diversifying into other branches. For example, a student could choose to study an option (such as language acquisition or language evolution) only indirectly related to the core areas, and to write his or her dissertation on yet another area (for instance, sociolinguistics). Alternatively, a student could choose to study an option taken from one of the core areas (such as advanced syntactic theory or issues in pragmatics), and to write his or her dissertation in a related area. As a consequence, students may spend as much as three fifths or as little as one fifth of their time working in one particular part of the discipline.

Time table
You can view the timetable for the current academic year at www.ucl.ac.uk/timetable. Click on "degree programme", enter "Linguistics", choose MA Linguistics, Year 1, and click on "Show Timetable". You will now see all classes for all compulsory modules for the whole year. You can click on "Change Display" at the top left to see classes for Term 1 and Term 2 separately. You need to attend all lectures and for most modules, you will attend one additional tutorial.


Programme Director: Dr Jamie White

Teaching staff (NB: staff may occasionally be absent for a term or more on research or other leave)

In addition, we can call on the support of Postgraduate Teaching Assistants.

Click below to listen to Prof Andrew Nevins talk about "slips of the ear":

Application and Entry

Start of programme

  • September intake only

Key Information

Programme starts


Location: London, Bloomsbury

Application and next steps


Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.

Who can apply?

The programme is particularly suitable for students whose undergraduate degree included a minority of linguistic course-units, or who have studied linguistics of a more traditional type elsewhere. It is also suitable for good graduates who have encountered linguistics only indirectly, for instance through psychology, philosophy, or foreign language teaching.

For more information see our Applications page.

Apply now
What are we looking for?

When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Linguistics at graduate level
  • why you want to study Linguistics at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to the chosen programme
  • how your academic and professional background meets the demands of this rigorous programme

Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver.

Fees and Funding

Further information is available in the UCL prospectus: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/taught-degrees/linguistics-ma#fees-funding. UK/EU national may be eligible to apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,000 to help with fees and living costs. Learn more about postgraduate loans.

UCL Scholarships

For information on general scholarship opportunities, please select the link below:

Other funding

The European Funding Guide includes details of further funding opportunities.




Many linguistics graduates from UCL carry on studying linguistics at MPhil/PhD level with a view to pursuing an academic career. Others go on to teach languages, especially English (as a first or foreign language) or embark on a range of other careers, from law, media, computing and speech and language therapy to all aspects of commerce and industry.

Recent career destinations for this degree
  • Lecturer, King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia
  • Investigations Specialist, Amazon
  • Translator, Hunan University
  • English as a Foreign Language Teacher, Wall Street Institute
  • PhD in Translation Studies, Imperial College London

Linguistics MA students acquire a wide range of transferable skills, which opens up opportunities in many different sectors include language teaching, translating and interpreting, marketing, communication, journalism, management, and law.

Graduates who achieve good results are well placed to go on to a research degree in linguistics at top universities, often with a view to pursuing an academic career.


Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2013–2015 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.

Read general information on careers open to Linguistics graduates and information on the career paths taken by some of our alumni.

Open Days

We have a number of virtual open days. Please get in touch with pals.lingteachingoffice@ucl.ac.uk for further details.


Programme content
Question: I have some background in Linguistics already. Is the general (conversion) MA Linguistics programme appropriate for me, or would one of the specialisation programmes be more appropriate? Can I transfer to a specialisation programme?
Answer: The general (conversion) MA programme is designed to be appropriate for students who have no background in Linguistics, or a limited background in Linguistics. We assume no prior background and start at a foundational level, but we aim to bring students to a high level very quickly so that they are prepared to undertake a dissertation project at a high level. This programme is also appropriate for students who have some background in Linguistics (for example, a few of classes as part of an English degree, Literature degree, Languages degree, etc.). Students in this situation typically find that the first few weeks of classes will review some familiar material, but that the classes quickly move to a level that is more advanced than their prior experience.
The specialisation degree programmes are designed for students who already have an extensive prior background in Linguistics, usually the equivalent of an undergraduate Linguistics degree. These programmes assume that the student already has a broad understanding of foundational linguistics concepts across sub-areas and a fairly advanced understanding of the sub-area of the specialisation. The modules begin at an advanced level and do not cover basic concepts.
If you have an offer for the general conversion MA programme, but think that your prior experience would make one of the specialisation programmes more suitable, then feel free to get in touch with us before or soon after enrolment. We can review your prior background and transcripts and offer advice on whether a transfer to one of the specialisation programmes would be more suitable for you. Transferring to one of the specialisation MA programmes from the general MA programme requires review of your application and approval from the programme director of the specialisation programme.
Question: Is there a list of book I can read to get a better idea of the subject?
Answer: See the reading list
Question: To what extent can I tailor the general MA programme to focus on a specific sub-area (e.g., syntax, phonology, semantics, etc.)?
Answer: The general (conversion) MA programme is designed to give you a broad foundation in all of the core areas of Linguistics through the compulsory core modules. However, you still have the ability to tailor the programme quite strongly to focus on the sub-area that you are most interested in through your option modules and dissertation. You are able to choose two option modules, and you can write your dissertation in the sub-area of your choice. If you choose to do all of your option modules and your dissertation in the same sub-area, this means that you can take up to 120/180 credits in the same sub-area. So, you have the opportunity to specialise quite a bit, even on the general MA programme, if you would like to do so. Alternatively, you can decide to spread your option modules around to get a broad sampling of different sub-areas.
Question:  How are dissertation topics determined on the conversion MA Linguistics programme, and what guidance do students have about dissertation topics?
Answer: Students on the conversion programme start approaching supervisors around April. Staff provide information about which topics they can supervise, and information about any specific projects that they have that students can join. There are some projects available that are already designed, but students can also approach staff with their own ideas for projects to work on. When it is time to decide on dissertation projects, students can set up meetings with potential supervisors to figure out whom they would like to have as a supervisor and what project they want to work on.
Question: Can I take option modules from other departments/schools (languages, computer science, philosophy, speech, etc.)?
Answer: From our perspective, we are usually happy for you to take option modules from other departments or other schools. However, the possibility of this varies greatly depending on which modules, and which other departments/schools you are interested in because the other department (and the module leader) has to accept you onto the module. Some modules have very little space for outside students, and some have very specific prerequisites. Many students do end up taking option modules offered by other departments, and we are typically happy to assist you in pursuing this, but it depends on the other department’s approval.
Question: Is there an opportunity to study experimental linguistics?  
Answer: Yes, our department places a strong focus on experimental methods for studying language, in addition to more traditional linguistic analysis. There are modules that focus on experimental linguistics that you can choose, and you can also choose to focus on experimental linguistics for your dissertation.
Question: Is there an opportunity to study corpus linguistics?  
Answer: It may be possible to study an option module on this topic offered by another department, details are included on our list of option modules. Occasionally, we have seminars in the department that touch on this area, including a recent seminar led by one of our alumni focusing on NLP, but these are not held every year.
Question: I am interested in language and the brain. Can I study this on the MA Linguistics?
Answer: Our department very much treats Linguistics as part of the cognitive sciences. This approach is reflected in our teaching and research. We have modules that focus explicitly on language and the brain, such as the Neurolinguistics option module. In addition, we are part of the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences (Faculty of Brain Sciences), and we share a building with the Language and Cognition department, so there is a lot of opportunity to get involved with seminars, modules, and research related to language and the brain in and around our department.
Question: Do I need to have prior programming/computing experience for any compulsory or option modules?
Answer: None of the modules in our department require any special programming or computing experience as a prerequisite.

Part-time Study and working alongside studying
Question: Do you accept part-time students on the MA Linguistics programme?
Answer: Yes, you can study the programme on a part-time basis over two calendar years. As a part-time student, you will take fewer modules in each year but please note that teaching does place during the working day.

Question: Is it possible to do the MA Linguistics degree full-time and also work a part-time job.
Answer - This is advice from current MA students:
The full-time MA programme is quite intensive, and will take up much of your time. You may find it difficult to work a job in addition to doing the programme full-time, especially at certain parts of the year (like exam time), though people differ of course. This may be easier to handle if you have a job that is very flexible or if you have a lot of control over the hours that you work.

Preparing for the programme
Question: What advice do you have for preparing for the course before the start of term or at the beginning of term? Is there anything students find helpful to do to prepare?
Answers - this advice was provided by several current MA students:
•    It is helpful to do some reading in advance, as the classes are quite fast paced once they begin. Keeping on top of readings, preferably in advance of class, is helpful when classes start. This helps you to take in more during the lectures.
•    Check the timetable before the beginning of term so that you have a good idea of how the classes are scheduled during the week.
•    Consider joining the UCL writing lab once term starts, as it helps a lot with essay writing. The department also provides support for writing, so take advantage of this.
•    Take advantage of extra training sessions offered by UCL and the department, including writing, reading, library skills, career courses, etc.
•    How you proceed once the term starts is really important. Make sure to always come to lecture, attend seminars, do the reading, etc., to really stay on top of things.
•    Don’t be afraid to contact the lecturers of specific modules (even in advance) to ask questions or to get reading lists!
Question: What is the typical timetable like? (Please note that the arrangements for 2020-21 will be very different due to the pandemic)
Answer: Each module typically has one two-hour lecture and one seminar/tutorial per week, so you will spend around 2-4 hours per week in class per module. Full-time students typically take 4 modules per term (term 1 and term 2). Part-time students typically take 2 modules per term.
Question: I will need to apply for a Tier 4 visa, When will I receive my CAS number?
Answer: You will be contacted about the CAS number only after your offer has been made unconditional. You can find further details at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/students/immigration-and-visas/tier-4-visas/confirmation-acceptance-studies.

Progression to PhD
Question: Will completing this programme help me get onto an MPhil/PhD programme?
Answer: The MA Linguistics is an intensive course which covers all the main areas of theoretical linguistics and also gives you a taste of empirical/experimental work in the field, so it provides essential background and some training in research skills. If you do well in the programme, your chances of being accepted onto an MPhil/PhD programme in theoretical linguistics are good. However, it is unlikely that you could proceed straight after completing the MA Linguistics programme to a PhD due to the very early application deadline for PhD programmes (and especially for funding) - it is usually too early for a student to be able to develop a good research proposal. Most students find that they need to first finish the Master's dissertation, before they are ready to think about an appropriate topic for doctoral research, so there is usually an interim year between the Master's and starting a PhD. However, there may be exceptions to this and it may depend on where you want to go to do your doctoral work.

Question: Is it recommended (or compulsory) to do a second year of a more specialised degree after the general MA Linguistics in order to go into a PhD programme?
Answer: It certainly is not necessary. A number of our general MA students go directly into a PhD programme. Even on the general MA programme, it is possible to go into depth in a specific sub-area (see related question above), and the general MA degree provides students with the background to produce dissertations of a very high quality. If you do well on the programme, you should be in a good position to look directly towards a PhD programme at the completion of your MA degree.