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MPhil and PhD in Language and Communication

The PhD in Language and Communication is an interdisciplinary programme involving Education, Language and Linguistic Science, Psychology and Sociology. It focuses on investigating language as it is used in the real world and the processes which underpin it. We conduct highly data-driven research into the communicative structures – linguistic, sequential, gestural – used in everyday life, in workplace settings, in educational settings, and in on-line interaction.



The PhD in Language and Communication is an interdisciplinary programme run across four departments: Education, Language and Linguistic Science, Psychology and Sociology. The staff on the programme are experts in language and communication who pool their resources to offer the PhD. Students on the programme have two joint supervisors, each from a different department, and are part of the academic community of both departments.

Academic staff on the programme have established international reputations for innovative research and cross-disciplinary working. We employ multiple methodologies underpinned by a range of approaches to the study of language, including cognitive, ethnographic, interactionist, or dynamic/emergent approaches to language study. Some of us use primarily qualitative methods (notably conversation analysis), while others specialise in experimental and quantitative approaches.

We are international in outlook and welcome multilingual and multicultural research projects. Students on the programme have conducted research on a wide range of European, Asian and African languages and social settings (and more information about these can be found on the ‘research’ tab).   

Partner departments all have a full training programme for PhD students and students registered on the Programme have access to training in their departments. Such programmes include subject-specific courses, courses on research skills, and generic courses aimed at increasing students’ employability, personal effectiveness, language skills, etc.

The PhD in Language and Communication is available to full and part time research students, and also to Visiting Research students who would like to come here for short periods (usually between one term and a year) for specialist training.


Potential research areas

Areas of research in which we would be willing to supervise theses include (but are not limited to):

  • conversation analysis, especially its relation to linguistics (including phonetics), gesture; its application to different settings and problems
  • language in particular settings: new media, the classroom, clinical encounters
  • developing new methodologies, especially multi-modal, and methodologies that combine insights from qualitative and quantitative research paradigms
  • cross-linguistic differences in language and communication; bilingual communication; communication in English as a second language

Current or recently completed PhD theses

Here is a sample of previous PhD theses:

  • lawyer-client interaction
  • verbal and non-verbal behaviour in political communication
  • classroom interaction in Italian primary schools
  • medical (doctor-patient) interaction
  • repair in one-to-one EFL classroom talk
  • broadcast debate interviews
  • language and interaction in ordinary conversation
  • second language acquisition in the classroom
  • co-constructing understanding in second language conversation
  • calls to emergency services in a Russian city
  • lawyer-client consultations, in preparing cases for court
  • pedagogic interactions in Italian primary school classrooms
  • second language acquisition in the classroom
  • negation in Danish conversation
  • story-telling in multi-party (Italian) conversation
  • the examination of witnesses in Italian criminal trials
  • calls to the emergency services in a Russian city
  • doctor-patient interaction in diabetes/ENT oncology clinics
  • doctors' interactions with patients who are 'frequent attenders'
  • homeopathic consultations
  • laughter in (Finnish) doctor-patient (primary care) interactions
  • AIDS counselling in Thailand
  • industrial (management-employee) negotiations
  • controversy and argument in radio call-in programmes
  • answering indirectly in broadcast news interviews
  • service encounters between native and non-native speakers of a language, in Finnish universities, hotels etc



All students are assigned two supervisors from two different departments. This system of joint supervision reflects the inter-disciplinary nature of the programme and provides input from different but complementary disciplinary perspectives and methodologies.

When making an application, indicate which disciplines your research topic is relevant to and a possible supervisor for your research. The list of staff on the programme and the information on individuals' web pages will help you to identify these disciplines and individuals. The course co-ordinator will be happy to advise you.

Staff on the PhD in Language and Communication Programme

  • Peter Bull (Psychology)
  • Microanalysis of interpersonal communication; social psychology of health
  • Ian Davies (Education)
    Citizenship education, global education, global citizenship education, history education, social studies education
  • Paul Foulkes (Language and Linguistic Science)
    Phonetics; phonology; child language acquisition; sociolinguistics; forensic phonetics
  • Clare Jackson (Sociology)
  • Celia Kitzinger (Sociology)
    Gender and sexuality in talk; conversation analysis; help lines; feminist and LGBT issues; childbirth; trauma
  • Emma Marsden (Education)
  • Second language acquisition (especially of French, Spanish and English); foreign and second language education (especially grammar pedagogy and implicit learning); the role and design of experiments in educational research
  • Heather Marsden (Language and Linguistic Science)
    Second language acquisition (especially of syntax-semantics and syntax-pragmatics interface phenomena); applications of theoretical linguistic research for language teaching; third language acquisition; second language acquisition research methodology
  • Richard Ogden (Language and Linguistic Science)
    Phonetics; phonology; conversation analysis; cross-linguistic research
  • Darren Reed (Sociology)
    Gesture, interaction, embodiment, on-line communication and performance, science and technology studies, conversation analysis, social media, performance studies
  • Beatrice Szczepek-Reed (Education)
    Prosody, phonology, conversation analysis, cross-cultural interaction, institutional interaction.
  • Vanita Sundaram (Education)
  • Merran Toerien (Sociology)
    Conversation analysis; interaction in institutional settings, especially clinical encounters (e.g. doctor-patient interaction); gender and interaction.
  • Danijela Trenkic (Education)
    Pragmatics and discourse comprehension (with particular reference to definiteness); input and metalinguistic knowledge in second language acquisition; prosody and segmentation in second language listening comprehension
  • Robin Wooffitt (Sociology)
    Language and consciousness; identity and authority in interaction; the relationship between conversation analysis and critical movements within social psychology, such as discursive psychology


Entry requirements

Candidates should have a good first degree or MA in linguistics, psychology, sociology, education, communication, or a related area.

You are welcome to contact the programme co-ordinator, Richard Ogden ( if you are in doubt about your suitability for the programme because of your previous experience.

Graduate students with English as a second language

For applicants whose native language is not English, the Programme requires an English language proficiency level of 7.0 in the British Council's IELTS test with at least IELTS 7.0 in writing.  We do accept other English Language Tests. Information on these is available at

We also strongly recommend that applicants attend the University's Intensive Summer Courses. Their four and eight-week pre-sessional courses in August-September will help you build the study skills necessary for living within British culture and its academic life. Typical courses comprise 21 contact hours a week in groups of 12.

Students who have successfully completed a recent undergraduate or taught masters degree at a UK University are exempt from the English Language requirement.

Applying for study

Application for Research degrees are made online. Please follow the link below to access the online form:

Application procedures

On the application form you need to provide a brief outline of your proposed research area, as well as a more detailed Research Proposal.  This, together with the other information you provide on the form, will be reviewed by the proposed supervisor, in consultation with another specialist in the relevant research area. If you have not already visited us informally, to meet and talk to the person with whom you are interested in working, and if it seems that your proposed field of research is one in which we are able to offer appropriate supervision, then you will normally have the opportunity to come and talk to us about your plans, and see the university.

Applicants from overseas are encouraged to visit the department, wherever possible, so that you can get a clear, first-hand impression of the department, the university and the city of York.

You are free to make informal enquiries through the programme co-ordinator Richard Ogden ( to see whether there are staff members whose research interests and expertise are likely to match your own and are more likely to be able to provide appropriate supervision for your project.

Please note that the University and the Department pursue a policy of equal opportunities in offering places to read for postgraduate degrees, as in all appointments.

Fees & funding


  • Up to date information on tuition fees is provided by the University Registry Services on their website.



Who to contact