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MA Linguistics

Gain a thorough foundation and background in modern linguistics

2018/19 entry


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2018 (term dates)

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Understand and investigate the building blocks of language through linguistics.

Our MA in Linguistics is a general research training degree. You'll study a detailed foundation in the central areas of modern linguistics, while at the same time you'll be able to develop your own particular areas of specialism and expertise. You'll be able to apply your skills and knowledge to linguistic data, and have practical training in techniques used in linguistic analysis.

With world-class tutors you'll gain knowledge, and you'll be introduced to research questions and methodologies. You'll also be able to perform original research in linguistics.

This programme offers different routes to suit your level of experience studying linguistics.


World-leading research

We are 2nd in the UK for world-leading linguistics research (Times Higher Education, REF 2014).

Studying phonetics allows me to appreciate the fine details of human speech: the rhythms, intonations, sudden stops and breathy starts. It trains your ear to identify sounds you’ve always heard, yet never really heard before. It equips you with the skills to transcribe these sounds and share them with others. Believe me: after taking phonetics, you'll never view conversation in the same way again.
Daniel, MA Linguistics

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Course content

In Autumn Term you'll study four modules in core areas of linguistics. In Spring Term you'll choose two modules from a range of options, and begin a further core module, Key Ideas in Linguistics which you'll complete in Summer Term. You'll write a research dissertation to complete the programme.

The modules that you'll study in Autumn Term assume no prior knowledge and provide introductions to the core areas. You'll study modules in Spring Term which will prepare you in the research area for your dissertation. 

You'll study eight taught modules worth 120 credits, and complete your dissertation which is worth 60 credits.


Core modules

You'll take six core modules. The typical modules are:

Language Variation and Change (10 credits)

This module is a broad introduction to sociolinguistics, with a focus on the links between language and society. You'll learn about the main ways of describing variations within language (e.g. social, geographical and stylistic differences in spoken English). You'll also delve into contemporary approaches to identity and language attitudes, drawing from both sociolinguistics and social psychology.

Semantics (10 credits)

This module will introduce you to the study of meaning in natural language. You'll learn about the logical techniques to analyse meaning, as well as semantic theory and recent approaches to the study of meaning.

Syntax (10 credits)

This module introduces you to the scientific methodology employed in syntax. You’ll gain an understanding of a theoretical framework within which syntactic investigation can be undertaken. You’ll also begin to develop skills in data analysis and syntactic argumentation.

Phonetics and Phonology (10 credits)

This module will give you practice at using articulatory and acoustic phonetic terminology to describe English and other languages. You’ll learn about the International Phonetic Alphabet and the principles of its use; you’ll be introduced to some simple notational devices for the phonological analysis of speech. This module will also prepare you for further modules in phonetics and phonology.

Key Ideas in Linguistics (20 credits)

You'll gain an overview of some key ideas in linguistic research from the 20th century and beyond. You'll explore a wide range of literature in Linguistics. This module will take you from seminar discussion around key pieces of research in Linguistic Theory to practical sessions to equip you to undertake either a theoretical project, or an empirical project.

Research Training (20 credits)

This module is taught by various members of staff which brings you the benefit of our combined expertise in a range of linguistics research skills. The module covers research design and writing skills in linguistics, and offers subject-specific workshops. You’ll be able to develop and present research plans, and you’ll learn how to communicate your research to others.

Option modules

You'll choose two 20-credit modules in Spring Term. Your options may include:

Articulatory and Impressionistic Phonetics (20 credits)

You'll gain thorough training in the skills of articulatory and impressionistic phonetics, including the production of the sounds of the IPA chart, and you'll learn the skills and principles of impressionistic listening and phonetic transcription.

Bilingualism (20 credits)

This module reviews bilingual development. You'll study topics such as: the controversy over 'one system vs. two' in bilingual acquisition, the effect of bilingualism on cognition, code-switching in children and adults, and aspects of bilingual education.

Phonological Variation and Change (20 credits)

You'll develop practical skills in the study of phonological variation and change, focusing on auditory and acoustic analysis of various English dialects. You'll learn experimental and basic statistical methods for investigating sound structure and sound change.

Syntactic Theory (20 credits)

You'll develop your knowledge of syntax and syntactic theory and your skills in evaluating syntactic analyses.

Topics in Language Variation and Change (20 credits)

The module provides you with an opportunity to go into depth in a number of discrete areas of language variation and change, building on prior knowledge of these areas, but also introducing new areas as well. The focus is on language and dialect contact and speech community type. 


If you have covered substantial parts of the taught MA programme in your undergraduate degree, please talk to us about whether one of our specialist degree programmes may be more appropriate.

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.


In Summer Term and over the vacation you'll prepare and complete your dissertation of between 8,000 and 10,000 words (60 credits), supervised by a member of staff. You'll submit your dissertation in September.

Topics have ranged from:

  • Production and Perception of Smiling Voice
  • Phonological Memory and Language Development in Late Talkers
  • The Acquisition of Geminates in Japanese
  • Preservation of Syntax in Alzheimer's
  • Clicks in Chilean Spanish Conversation.

More recent MA dissertation topics.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2018/19

Study modeUK/EUInternational
Part-time (2 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee
year 1 fee
Full-time (1 year)£7,580£16,780

Fees information

UK/EU or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK/EU or international student.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Home/EU students

International students

Find out more about funding specific to Language and Linguistic Science.

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers accommodation costs and estimated social costs.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

Teaching format

You'll be taught with a mixture of lectures, seminars, workshops and practical training. You'll have approximately three contact hours a week for each module. For some modules you’ll complete collaborative group work outside your classes. You’ll be set essential reading, and will complete weekly assigned exercises.

You’ll also spend approximately one hour a week in Autumn Term on the Research Training module, which will then increase to two hours in Spring and Summer Terms.

As you study modules you’ll take part in assessments that do not contribute to your final mark, instead giving useful feedback on your progress and understanding. A member of the teaching staff will act as your supervisor throughout the degree, to help guide your studies and monitor progress.


All of our modules have Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) websites where all crucial materials—reading lists, handouts, discussion boards—are always accessible.

We have our own departmental e-Lab for the teaching and study time of our students. Here you will have access to a variety of resources, including specialist linguistics software, corpora of different varieties, and online language-learning materials. 

Teaching location

You will be based in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science on Campus West. Most of your contact hours will be in Vanbrugh College, with some additional teaching on Campus West.

Course location

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

You'll submit exercises or essays for your core modules. You'll produce 5,000 word essays for your option modules. You'll submit an assignment and a report for the Key Ideas in Linguistics module. For the Research Training module you'll take one examination, complete a short review of a research article, and write a 1,000 word review of a colloquium talk.

The support from the staff, especially those lecturers who I have had contact with, has been excellent. I have always been welcomed into their offices to talk about both academic and personal aspects. During the masters degree, I constantly asked myself a question: and now? what's next? Staff in the department have given me excellent advice and encouraged me to trust myself.
Eloi, MA Linguistics

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Careers and skills

Effective communication, critical thinking and project management skills are central to most careers. The study of linguistics at York equips you with these skills and others, which translate readily into any work context.

Our graduates have an excellent record of pursuing fulfilling paths after graduation, often going directly into employment. Their work spans advertising, retail management, teaching English as a foreign language, IT, accountancy, broadcasting, clinical and forensic linguistics.

Apart from your knowledge of linguistics, you will leave with the confidence and skills that come from successfully completing a demanding course and participating fully in university life.

Find out more about how we can help make you more employable 

Career opportunities

  • Marketing and communications
  • Publishing
  • Broadcasting and journalism
  • Academic research and higher/further education
  • Local government and public service
  • Finance and accountancy
  • Teaching
  • Clinical and forensic linguistics
  • Law
  • Software development

Transferable skills

  • The capacity to analyse data and evaluate competing interpretations of evidence
  • You'll be able to develop a hypothesis from the predictions of a theory or model
  • The ability to design a research project and present data
  • Reflective independent learning and time management
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Problem solving
  • Intercultural awareness

Entry requirements

Qualification Grade

You should have, or be about to complete, a 2:1 undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification.

If you are unsure about your eligibility, or want an informal chat about whether this course would be suitable for you, please contact us.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. Visit general guidance on international entry requirements or email for further details for this course.

  • IELTS: 7.0, with a minimum of 7.0 in Writing and Speaking and no less than 5.5 in all other components
  • PTE: 67, with a minimum of 67 in Writing and Speaking and no less than 51 in all other components
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 185, with a minimum of 185 in Writing and Speaking and no less than 162 in all other components
  • CAE (before January 2015): 75, with 'Very Good' in Writing
  • CPE (before January 2015): B
  • TOEFL: 96, with a minimum of 24 in Writing and Speaking, 17 in Listening and 18 in Reading
  • Trinity ISE: level 3 with Distinction in all components


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

Apply for this course

Next steps

Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

Geoff Krause Postgraduate Administrator

Learn more

Department of Language and Linguistic Science

Related courses

If you are new to the field or have only minimal prior background:

If you have considerable prior background we offer two specialist MA programmes:

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