Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Linguistics and English Language PhD

Awards: PhD

Funding opportunities

The transformative supervision meetings, labs, professional training and departmental research seminars are all conducive to a thriving linguistics training. I am exposed to cutting-edge training and research. This inspiring environment allows me to conduct world-leading research in bilingualism.

Katerina Pantoula Current PhD student in Linguistics & English Language

We have an outstanding international reputation in many areas of Linguistics and English Language research.

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).

We can offer expert supervision across a wide range of topics, including:

  • Applied Linguistics
  • Developmental linguistics, including first and second language acquisition
  • Discourse and conversation analysis
  • Historical English linguistics, including the syntax, morphology, and phonology from the earliest periods to the present day
  • Language evolution
  • Linguistic fieldwork
  • Morphology, including word formation
  • Multilingualism
  • Phonetics and phonology, including diachronic phonology and the phonology of varieties of English, Scots and their history
  • Pragmatics
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Speech technology
  • Syntax and semantics, including theoretical syntax, descriptive syntax of English, diachronic syntax and both lexical and formal semantics
  • Varieties of English, both British and international

Research groups

Our expertise clusters in a number of research groups and research centres:

  • Developmental Linguistics
  • English Language
  • Language Evolution & Computation (LEC)
  • Language in Context
  • Language Variation and Change (LVC)
  • Meaning and Grammar
  • Phonetics and Phonology
  • Centre for Language Evolution
  • Bilingualism Matters

Research in speech technology is carried out at the Centre for Speech Technology Research, a collaboration between the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences and Informatics:

You will receive supervision by at least two members of academic staff, who will meet regularly with you to discuss your progress and wider issues in your field of study.

This may include:

  • discussion of relevant literature (for example, journal articles and book chapters)
  • Firming up of research proposal
  • Preparation for fieldwork and data collection
  • discussion of draft chapters of your thesis
  • preparation for conference presentations

Research students are assigned to research groups, each of which hosts regular research activities.

The department also has a visiting speaker series (the Linguistic Circle), and you are encouraged to participate in the School’s Language at Edinburgh research network.

The unrivalled holdings of the University and National Libraries and the National Archives of Scotland make study of this subject at Edinburgh especially attractive.

Our students become part of one of the biggest communities of linguists in the United Kingdom.

We have state-of-the art technical and laboratory facilities:

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.

While many of our PhD graduates choose to remain in academia as lecturers and researchers, going onto post-doctoral opportunities or progressing into faculty positions, some pursue employment and careers in other sectors.

Find a research opportunity that matches your interests

Write a research proposal

Your research proposal will be used to consider whether the proposed research is feasible and can be supervised by our staff members, so it is important that your theoretical and methodological preparation for it are clear.

We understand that it can be difficult to formulate research plans well in advance of carrying out the work, but we encourage you to articulate your ideas as clearly as possible. You should draft your proposal several times and, ideally, seek comments on it from other people (perhaps from your referees or former lecturers) before submitting it.

It is recommended that you contact your planned supervisor(s) well in advance of the deadline to identify a suitable topic for your research proposal.

You should then draft the research proposal independently and then discuss it with your planned supervisor(s), revising it based on their comments and suggestions.

Each PhD thesis contains several theoretical and empirical chapters. Your proposal should focus on the empirical work, laying out plans for at least two empirical studies (further plans can be worked out as you progress). Ideally, each of the studies should be a publishable journal article; students are strongly encouraged to publish their work in collaboration with their supervisors.

Your proposal must not exceed 1000 words; the panel may not read the part of your proposal exceeding the limit. This does not include references.

Your proposal should include:

  • A title for the project
  • A brief background for the planned research question(s)
  • A compelling, brief rationale for the studies, including the specific research questions/hypotheses
  • A description of the methodology for addressing these questions/hypotheses, which generally includes:
  • Sufficiently large sample(s) of participants (allowing for appropriate statistical power) and measurement/experimental procedures
  • If using existing data (e.g., data from large cohort studies or biobanks, imaging data sets, etc.), describe the data sets
  • Your data analytical approach (e.g., suitable statistical models)
  • If using qualitative data such as interviews, describe your methods and analytical approach
  • Note that the methodology should be realistic, within the resources and time-scales available to you and your supervisor(s), and also allowing for necessary time for writing the thesis
  • An indication of how your proposed work fits with and contributes to the research programme of your planned supervisor(s).

A PhD thesis typically means teamwork, involving the student and one or two supervisors, and often also other members of the research group(s) of the supervisor(s); a student receives training and help form the team, but can also contribute to the team with their research. Applicants who can show a good fit with a supervising team have an advantage.

We may ask for a brief (Zoom or MS Teams) interview with you if we have further questions.

If your application is successful, we expect that your research will develop. It is likely that your supervisor(s) or those reviewing the work will suggest changes or developments to your research as your studies progress.

Therefore, you will not be held to the ideas that you explain in your proposal during the course of your research.

Contact potential supervisors prior to making an application

We strongly encourage you to get in touch with a potential supervisor, and to include their name in your application.

When contacting a potential supervisor, please include a draft proposal and CV as this will provide the starting point for discussion. You can introduce yourself by explaining why their work interests you.

Please note that our academic staff are very busy and it may take time for them to respond to your enquiry.

Get ready to apply

In order to ensure full consideration of your application, we ask that you submit your complete application including all supporting documentation.

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. Please allow plenty of time as we can only consider your application once we have received your full application, including your references.

Consider your funding options

There are a number of funding opportunities both within the University and externally. Funding is highly competitive at PhD level.

Pre-application Checklist

To receive a pre-arrival checklist to help you with your application, please email the PPLS Postgraduate Office at

Please complete this checklist to keep track of your application preparations. Please submit the completed checklist as an additional document to your application.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in English language, linguistics, or a related subject.

Your academic achievements will be assessed by a panel of academics along with the research proposal submitted as part of your application.

(Revised 19 February 2024 to clarify entry requirements and assessment methods.)

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

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

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. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • 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 five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Read our general information on tuition fees and studying costs:

Only applications received by the Round 1 deadline will be considered for University of Edinburgh based funding.

You may be able to secure external funding outside of this deadline.

Featured funding

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

Only applications received by the Round 1 deadline will be considered for University of Edinburgh based funding. You may be able to secure external funding outside of this deadline.

We operate a gathered field approach to PhD applications.

This means that all complete applications which 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.

Applications are held for processing over two deadlines:

Round Application deadline Places awarded
1 13 November 31 January
2 11 March 31 May

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