MSc Psychology of Language

Develop an in-depth understanding of current research in psycholinguistics

Handwriting behind head

A one year, taught Masters programme

This MSc programme aims to provide an advanced understanding of current research in psycholinguistics, and is aimed primarily at students who are considering advanced research in the area. Students develop an up-to-date knowledge of a broad range of areas of the psychology of language and acquire the statistical and methodological skills that allow them to conduct novel research in the field.

What is psycholinguistics?

Psycholinguistics is a specialised area of psychology focusing on the mental representations and processes that underlie human language use.

We study how people are able to produce or comprehend language, and how groups of people are able to interact in dialogue. This study ranges from single words to entire texts and deals with written and spoken language.

Much of psycholinguistics relies on experimental methods: reaction times, naming speed, eye movements during reading, and also EEG/ERP recordings are all very much in use in the field.

Content and structure

Full programme structure

Compulsory courses

All students on this programme take two courses that build the skills needed to undertake psychological research in this area.

Optional courses

A wide range of additional courses cover topics such as language disorders, language comprehension, language production, and the relation between language behaviour and the brain. Students also have the opportunity to take courses from across the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences and the School of Informatics.


In addition to the taught courses, you will also need to complete a dissertation on a substantive issue in psycholinguistics, normally involving experimental work or occasionally, computational modelling. The majority of dissertation work takes place over the summer, and is worth 60 out of the 180 credits you need to qualify for an MSc.

Previous dissertation topics have included:

  • Effects of Linguistic Distance on Executive Functions in Bilinguals
  • Investigating sentence processing in children: Is there a priority of semantics over syntax?
  • The Phonology of Inner Speech
  • Sublexical Properties of Semantic Radicals in Relation to Semantic Processing in Chinese Characters: Evidence from Psycholinguistics and Neuropsychological Perspectives
  • Is collaborative reference concrete? Forging semantic entities in dialogue

Is this course right for me?

Applicants have usually completed a first degree which includes a significant background in psychology, linguistics, or cognitive science. Interested candidates with other backgrounds are encouraged to contact the Programme Director.

We are especially keen to work with students who have clear research interests in the area of psycholinguistics.

If you are more interested in language teaching, you may find our MSc Applied Linguistics to be a more suitable programme.

MSc Applied Linguistics

Why study the psychology of language at Edinburgh?

The University of Edinburgh is firmly established as a world-leading centre of research for Psychology. Assessments by the Research Excellence Framework in December 2014 placed Edinburgh as best in Scotland and 3rd in the UK, based on volume of world-leading and internationally excellent research.

Students interested in interdisciplinary study also benefit from the close links that exist within the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences.

The University attracts a high calibre of visiting speakers. These talks are an excellent way to explore new topics and get to know other postgraduate students.


Labs and facilities at the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences


The following staff are involved with this programme:

    Research interests
Patrick Sturt

Dr Patrick Sturt

Programme Director

Syntactic processing in language comprehension, Computational models of incremental parsing. Anaphor resolution. Eye movements in reading.
Holly Branigan
Professor Holly Branigan Language production; dialogue; language development; bilingualism
Martin Corley
Dr Martin Corley Production and comprehension of fluent and disfluent speech
Leonidas Doumas
Dr Leonidas Doumas Analogy, relational reasoning, mental representation, cognitive development.
Martin Pickering
Professor Martin Pickering Psychology of language and communication, including language production, language comprehension, dialogue, and bilingualism, with a focus on syntax and semantics.
Hugh Rabagliati
Dr Hugh Rabagliati Language development and processing, with a particular focus on meaning. Relationship between language and thought
Richard Shillcock
Dr Richard Shillcock Reading, cognitive modelling, language representation and processing.

Find out more

Fees, funding and how to apply

Image credit

Source images: "Kumaranasan - handwriting from notebooks" by Vinayaraj, CC-BY SA 3.0;  "Head" by Marco Galtarossa, CC-BY 3.0.