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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 semester and a year) for specialist training.

Applying for our PhD programmes

Applications for our PhD programmes are made through the 'Select' online admissions system. There are more details on the application process and the online form on the Postgraduate Admissions website.

When you submit an online application, you will need to include details of your previous study and provide full transcripts of results. You will also need to provide the contact details for two academic referees. Candidates whose first language is not English must supply evidence that they meet our English Language Requirements. In addition, you must provide a detailed Research Proposal

For an initial discussion about the possibility to pursue a PhD in our Department, please fill the doctoral enquiry form and we will contact you as soon as possible.


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.


Who to contact