Linguistics and English Language

MSc Developmental Linguistics

Understanding the use and development of language at all stages of life

Two children reading books


  • How do children learn language?
  • How do adults learn a second language?
  • How do bilinguals accommodate two languages in their mind?
  • What happens when we forget a language?

These are some of the central topics you will learn about in this taught master's programme on developmental linguistics. The programme offers knowledge and research skills in understanding how our linguistic competence changes as we acquire or lose language at various points in our lifespan.

Programme content and structure

This programme comprises two semesters of taught courses, followed by a dissertation.

Full programme structure

Learning outcomes

By completing this degree, students will have acquired up-to-date knowledge of first/second language acquisition and bilingualism as well as research skills required to conduct empirical studies in these areas (including experimental design, statistics, corpus analysis, and various experimental techniques). Much of the general research skills taught in the programme, such as quantitative analysis and scientific reporting, are transferrable to other areas of research as well. The programme can be taken as a stand-alone master's degree, but also provides an ideal preparation for PhD study.


Many graduates of the programme proceed to do a PhD in language development/acquisition. Some pursue a professional career after further training in a related area (e.g., speech and language therapy, language technology). Others have obtained a position in a language-related institute (e.g., the National Centre for Languages, Cambridge Assessment).

Entry requirements

A UK 2:1 degree, or its international equivalent, preferably in linguistics, psychology, cognitive science or related subject. Applicants with a 1st degree results in other areas will also be considered.

Who is this programme for?

The programme is intended for those with a specific interest in the research-oriented study of developmental linguistics, and will not be suitable for those whose main interests are in general linguistics, language teaching or language education.

Why study developmental linguistics at Edinburgh?

The interdisciplinary and modular nature of the programme allows you to tailor your study to your own interests by combining a range of courses taught by world-class experts in Linguistics, Psychology and other related subject areas in Edinburgh, a university with the largest concentration of language-related researchers in the UK. 

The programme places equal emphasis on first language acquisition, second language acquisition and bilingualism, making it an ideal choice for those who wish to have a broad knowledge in language development studies.

Our skills-oriented training means graduates of the programme will be equipped with cutting-edge research skills in developmental linguistic and other related areas.

Teaching and assessment 

Most courses consist of lectures and tutorials, the latter comprising lab work, paper discussion or presentations, depending on the topic of the course. Some courses feature project work that require two or more students working together to carry out an empirical study. Coursework assessment is done through a mixture of exams and assignments including essays, critical reviews of published work, analysis of real or mock data, and mini-research projects. For 20-credit courses, there are usually two pieces of assessment, one halfway through the semester and the other, at the end of the semester. For 10-credit courses, there is usually one piece of assessment, which is at the end of the semester.

Courses run by other parts of the University may vary; in those cases, check the relevant DRPS entry.

Student support

Students on the programme receive regular administrative support from the School Postgraduate Office, and general academic guidance from the Programme Director. A careers consultant for the School offers advice on career development and options after graduation. The School organizes career related events, to which alumni of the programmes are invited.

Facilities and resources

Most courses will be taught in classrooms and computer labs, according to the nature of the activities. Students will also have access to the University main library and the School’s own library, a recording studio, and experiment booths. The School also has a developmental lab (for studying infants/children), EEG/ERP labs (for studying neural activities in the brain) and eye-tracking facilities, which can be made available to students with appropriate training and supervision.

Labs and facilities

Staff profiles

Vicky Chondrogianni profile pic

Dr Vicky Chondrogianni is a lecturer in bilingualism and the Programme Director for MSc Developmental Linguistics. Her research focuses on cross-linguistic aspects of acquisition and processing in typically-developing monolingual and bilingual children and in children with language impairment. Dr Chondrogianni teaches Second Language Acquisition, Developmental Language Disorder and Research Methods in Developmental Linguistics.

Jennifer Culbertson profile pic

Dr Jennifer Culbertson is a Chancellor’s Fellow in the Centre for Language Evolution. Her research focuses on understanding how languages are shaped by learning and use, in particular, how typological universals arise from properties of our cognitive system. Dr Culbertson teaches First Language Acquisition and Universals of Language, and is involved in the teaching of the Psychology of Language and Research Methods in Developmental Linguistics.

Mits Ota profile pic
Dr Mits Ota is a reader in linguistics. His research looks at how children and adults develop knowledge of the sound system of the language and how that process is related to their learning of words. Dr Ota teaches First Language Acquisition, Second Language Acquisition and Research Methods in Developmental Linguistics.
Antonella Sorace profile pic
Professor Antonella Sorace is a world-leading expert on second language acquisition and bilingualism, with a specific focus on the cognitive aspects of language development. Professor Sorace is the founder of Bilingualism Matters, a research and information centre about bilingualism and language learning. She teaches Second Language Acquisition, Psychology of Language Learning, and Child Bilingualism.

Find out more

Fees, funding and how to apply