Postgraduate study

Linguistics MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Linguistics

This MSc gives students all of the intellectual and practical skills to engage in linguistics research, either for its own sake, or as part of cross-disciplinary research.

Students graduating from our programme will understand how to analyse key data in syntax, semantics, phonology, and morphology, how to theorise such data, and how to exploit empirical methods to test their theories.

The key aims of the programme are to:

  • provide specialist knowledge within the fields of phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics
  • integrate relevant knowledge in those fields
  • establish a foundation for advanced research within phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics
  • provide a comprehensive understanding of the basic principles of research in theoretical and descriptive linguistics
  • develop the students’ analytical skills in an interdisciplinary context

We offer a strong focus on theoretical understanding: students will learn how to analyse data in the context of current theoretical understanding of linguistic structure at all levels, drawing on the expertise of the department, which is particularly strong in theory development, and will be well placed to compare and evaluate competing proposals, both from within the same theoretical model, and from competing models. Additionally, students will acquire the necessary data-elicitation skills, and skills in naturally occurring data in corpora.

All of these skills provide a firm foundation for further PhD study, either in Linguistics or in a related discipline that makes heavy use of core Linguistics (e.g. Developmental Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, etc.).

The programme is best suited to applicants whose academic background is in Linguistics, English Language, Philology or Cognitive Science.

This programme is not suitable for applicants wishing to pursue supplementary training in the areas of Translation Studies or Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).

The programme (a total of 180 credit points) requires students without a background in Linguistics to take the following core courses:

  • Introduction to Phonology
  • Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics
  • Introduction to Language Research
  • Introduction to Syntax

Students with a background in Linguistics may be exempted from any or all of the courses at the Programme Director’s discretion.

Students will also need to choose, under the guidance of the programme director, additional course options from an approved list of level 11 courses; students who are exempted from any of the courses listed will have to choose courses to ensure that their total number of credits excluding the dissertation comes to 120.

It is possible for students to take up to 20 credits of their optional courses from other MSc options offered within the School subject to the Programme Director’s approval.

Students graduating from this programme will understand how contemporary research approaches the study of language.

Students will acquire and enhance the following professional/subject-specific/practical skills:

  • general analytical (ability to construct, re-construct, critically evaluate an argument)
  • organisational (ability to complete a project, setting up research goals, identifying necessary means and ways to completion)
  • team- or group-work (presentations, in-class discussions)
  • critical thinking (ability to select and evaluate the relevant data, such as experimental evidence or evidence from secondary sources)
  • writing (how to convey purpose, motivation, method, results, and interpretation in written form)

The MSc Linguistics has been designed to be a flexible programme. It is suitable for students with a strong background in Linguistics at undergraduate level wanting to take advantage of our wide range of course offerings to deepen their knowledge of the discipline. It is also suitable for students from other academic backgrounds looking for a conversion course that will provide an intensive foundation in Linguistics. This MSc can therefore lead to a variety of career options depending upon the chosen focus.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in Theoretical Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, Modern Languages, English Language, Cognitive Science or Psychology.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.5 in each module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 23 in each module)

  • PTE Academic: total 67 (at least 61 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections)

  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 176 in each module)

  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.*

(*Revised 8/11/2018 to provide more accurate information on English language qualifications expiry dates. Revised 22/03/2019 to provide more accurate/comprehensive information.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Read our general information on tuition fees and studying costs:

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your residency status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 3188
  • Contact:
  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD

Applications are held for processing over three deadlines:

Round Application deadline Places awarded
1 1 December 2018 31 January 2019
2 1 March 2019 30 April 2019
3 1 July 2019 31 July 2019

MSc Linguistics operate a gathered field approach to applications. This means that all complete applications that satisfy our minimum entry requirements will be held until the nearest deadline and the admissions panel will meet to consider all applications received together after that date. To be considered as having met the deadline your application must include transcripts and an academic reference.

Applications must be complete with all supporting documentation to be passed on for consideration, this includes references. Please ensure that you inform referees of any deadline you wish to meet.


You will be asked to add contact details for your referees. We will email them with information on how to upload their reference directly to your online application. Alternatively, they can email their comments to:

Personal statement

In addition to the supporting documents requested on the application form, you should include a personal statement detailing the background of your interest and why you are attracted to the programme. We expect you to have a good understanding of the field you propose to study.

Sample of work

To demonstrate your suitability for this programme, please provide a sample of your written work (in English) on a relevant topic of your choice. If you don't have any academic work that would be suitable, you should provide a short original essay, approximately 2,000 words, discussing some published research (for example, a book chapter or research paper on a relevant topic in psychology, linguistics, philosophy, or computer science) that you found interesting.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 3188
  • Contact:
  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD