Postgraduate study

Evolution of Language and Cognition MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

I chose this MSc because it is one of the oldest and most respected places to study language evolution, with a centre and masters programme dedicated exclusively to the area. It is academically rigorous and broad in the topics it covers and skills it teaches. As I hope to go on to undertake a PhD, it has equipped me very well with the required academic skills and knowledge.

Miranda Stocks MSc Evolution of Language, 2017
Miranda Stocks               MSc Evolution of Language, 2017

This programme is a unique and fascinating interdisciplinary programme which focuses on the treatment of language as a dynamic evolving system, bringing together origins, acquisition and change.

Joining the world-leading Centre for Language Evolution (CLE), you will investigate the origins and evolution of human language.

Key research areas

As a student on this programme, you will become part of the world-leading Centre for Language Evolution (CLE) here in Edinburgh. The CLE is at the cutting edge of current research into the origins and evolution of human language, and is the biggest research group in the world in this area.

You will be involved first-hand with the CLE’s ongoing research effort. Your dissertation project (undertaken as part of the Masters) will enable you to make your own contribution to our understanding of the evolution of language and cognition.

Building on a first degree in psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, or a cognate discipline, the programme provides you with a broad introduction to the field of language and cognitive evolution, and allows you to tailor your studies to your own interests, by combining a wide range of courses in the area of language and cognition.

Linguistics & English Language is rated 3rd in the UK by Times Higher Education for the quality and breadth of the research using the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021).

What will I learn?

This programme offers a range of courses covering the key concepts and methodologies in the evolution of language and cognition. Key questions which are at the heart of the recent renaissance in the scientific study of the origins and evolution of human language will be tackled on this interdisciplinary postgraduate programme, such as:

  • What is it that makes us human?
  • How did our brains evolve?
  • What are the origins of human language?
  • Why do we think the way we do?
  • What are the mechanisms of biological, cultural and linguistic evolution?

You can also take advantage of the interdisciplinary department and draw on teaching and research both elsewhere in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences and within other relevant schools.

Is this MSc for me?

You will be involved first-hand with the CLE’s ongoing research effort. Your dissertation project will enable you to make your own contribution to our understanding of the evolution of language and cognition.

This programme provides solid grounding in the scientific study of human behaviour, which provides the ideal basis for further research in many associated areas, including linguistics, cognitive science and human evolution.

Reputation, relevance and employability

Edinburgh has a proud and distinguished place in the teaching in Linguistics and you will be taught by world-leading experts. Our Linguistics and English Language department is home to academics leading research into a wide range of topics.

You will benefit from the breadth and strength of the interdisciplinary academic community at Edinburgh, having the opportunity to select option courses and attend research seminars across different disciplines.

Our students’ research projects are often published in academic or professional journals.

Our programme has an excellent reputation among employers and further research opportunities. Many of our graduates have gone onto PhD training and we have a high academic job placement record.

Find out more about our community

The School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences is home to a large, supportive and active student community, hosting events and activities throughout the year which you can join. As a postgraduate student you will have access to a range of research resources, state of the art facilities research seminars and reading groups.

This programme contains two semesters of taught core courses and optional courses followed by a dissertation.

The taught courses and their assessments take place between September and December (Semester 1) and between January and April (Semester 2). Planning for the dissertation will take place until April and carried out between April and August.

Core courses

The core courses are:

  • Origins and Evolution of Language
  • Simulating Language
  • Online Experiments for Language Scientists
  • Statistics and Quantitative Methods
  • Introduction to Syntax
  • Introduction to Phonology and Phonetics
  • Research Ethics Training in Linguistics and English Language

Optional courses

The optional courses offer you the opportunity to explore areas of your interest. Examples of optional courses are:

  • Seminar in Cognitive Modelling
  • Computer Programming for Speech and Language Processing
  • First Language Acquisition
  • Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics
  • Historical Linguistics
  • Or any other course available to MSc students subject to approval from the programme director

Dissertation

The dissertation involves writing a research project in close collaboration with an expert supervisor.

You will produce a written report, similar to an academic journal article; indeed, some dissertations are published as journal articles.

The empirical work and writing takes place between April and August and will be due in August.

Past examples of dissertation topics include:

  • The evolution of recursion
  • From icons to symbols in graphical communication
  • The learnability and communicative function of pronominal system
  • Silent gesture as a window into word order biases

How will I learn?

Most courses are taught by a combination of live and pre-recorded lectures and seminars/tutorials. The number of contact hours and the teaching format will depend to some extent on the option courses chosen.

After classes finish in April, you will spend all your time working independently on coursework, exam revision and on your dissertation. When you carry out your supervised dissertation research, you will receive guidance from your supervisor through one-to-one meetings, comments on written work and email communication.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScEvolution of Language and Cognition1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2022/23

On successful completion of this programme, you will have gained:

  • a comprehensive synthesis of the most recent scientific findings relating to the origins and evolution of human language
  • a firm basis for subsequent advanced specialised research
  • a broad awareness of issues and findings in the evolution of language and cognitive evolution across participating single-subject disciplines
  • transferable skills in written and verbal communication, group and teamwork, computing, programming and numeracy, time and project management
  • the ability to work as an independent researcher and as part of a team

This programme provides solid grounding in the scientific study of human behaviour, which provides the ideal basis for further research in many associated areas, including linguistics, cognitive science and human evolution.

The programmes also teaches a broad range of transferable skills applicable to a wide range of modern jobs, such as:

  • journalism
  • translation services
  • teaching (following further training)

Our graduates

The analytical skills you develop and the research training you receive will be valuable in a wide range of careers. In addition to a number of our graduates going onto further academic research opportunities, some recent organisations that they have progressed to are:

  • Pearson Education
  • BPD Training
  • ITWeb

Careers Service

Our award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, providing:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance and personal assistance
  • internships and networking opportunities (with employers from local organisations to top multinationals)
  • access to the experience of our worldwide alumni network

We invest in your future beyond the end of your degree. Studying at the University of Edinburgh will lay the foundations for your future success, whatever shape that takes.

Your application and personal statement allow us to make sure that you and your chosen MSc are good matches for each other, and that you will have a productive and successful year at the University of Edinburgh.

We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. You should avoid applying to more than one degree. Applicants who can demonstrate their understanding and commitment to a specific programme are preferred.

Personal statements

When applying you should include a personal statement detailing your academic abilities and your reasons for applying for the programme.

The personal statement helps us decide whether you are right for the MSc programme you have selected. But just as importantly, it helps us decide whether the MSc programme is right for you.

Your personal statement should include:

  • What makes this particular MSc programme interesting for you?
  • What are the most important things you want to gain from the MSc programme?
  • What are the key courses you have taken and that are relevant for this specific programme and what are your academic abilities?
  • any other information which you feel will help us ensure that you are a good match to your intended MSc programme.

A good personal statement can make a big difference to the admissions process as it may be the only opportunity to explain why you are an ideal candidate for the programme.

References

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, referees can email their comments to:

pplspgoffice@ed.ac.uk

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

These entry requirements are for the 2023/24 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2024/25 academic year will be published on 2 October 2023.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in linguistics, psychology, cognitive science, computer science or biology.

Entrance to this programme is competitive. You can increase your chances of a successful application by exceeding the minimum programme requirements.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

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 Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

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, Trinity ISE or PTE, 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 (non-MESC).

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.

Find out more about our language requirements:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScEvolution of Language and Cognition1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScEvolution of Language and Cognition2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

There are a number of highly competitive scholarships and funding options available to MSc students.

Deadlines for funding applications vary for each funding source - please make sure to check the specific deadlines for the funding opportunities you wish to apply for and make sure that you submit your application in good time.

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
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD
Programme start date Application deadline
11 September 2023 3 April 2023

We operate a gathered field approach to applications for MSc Evolution of Language and Cognition.

This means that all complete applications that satisfy our minimum entry requirements will be held until the nearest deadline. 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 are held for processing over the following deadlines:

Round Application deadline Places awarded
1 01 December 31 January
2 01 February 31 March
3 03 April 29 May

Applications will not be accepted after the final deadline.

Supporting documents and references

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 must submit one reference with your application.

Please read through the ‘Important application information’ section on this page before applying.

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

Further information

  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD