Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Developmental Linguistics MSc, Diploma, Certificate

Awards: MSc, Diploma, Certificate

Funding opportunities

This programme will develop your understanding of how language knowledge is acquired and how it changes as people acquire or lose language at various points in their life.

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 with a particular focus on empirical/experimental research.

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

Key research areas

This programme will help you gain intellectual and practical skills to engage in developmental linguistics research, either for its own sake, or as part of cross-disciplinary research.

This highly flexible MSc draws on the University of Edinburgh’s unparalleled research expertise in linguistics. Linguistics and English language at Edinburgh has access to a wide breadth of research themes, with the greatest theoretical depth that you will find anywhere. This programme gives you the flexibility to choose courses and research topics to suit your academic interests and goals.

The department has multiple overlapping research groups, covering everything from meaning and grammar to language evolution. This programme is unique in allowing you freedom to draw on these resources.

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?

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.

Joining a vibrant research community of developmental linguists, you will have the opportunity to carry out advanced research to try to answer questions related to the area of language development and bilingualism. Some of the central topics you will learn about are:

  • 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?

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?

The programme is designed primarily for graduates with a background related to linguistics and/or psychology who wish to develop their knowledge of current research on language acquisition - first, second, bilingual, and impaired.

You will also look at language change from a cognitive perspective and from the point of view of current linguistic theories.

You will benefit from the programme's strengths in:

  • Scope - which places equal emphasis on first and second language acquisition and bilingualism, making it an ideal choice for those looking to gain a broad knowledge in language development studies with focus on empirical/experimental research
  • Interdisciplinary teaching - allowing you to tailor your studies to your interests
  • Skill-oriented training - through methodology courses, lab sessions and project work, you will be equipped with cutting-edge research skills

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 amongst 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 to December (Semester 1) and January to 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:

  • Introduction to Syntax
  • Introduction to Phonology and Phonetics OR Introduction to Phonology
  • First Language Acquisition
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Statistics and Quantitative Methods
  • Research Methods in Developmental Linguistics

Optional courses

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

  • Origins and Evolution of Language
  • Universals of Language
  • Simulating Language
  • Guided Research in Linguistics and English Language
  • Online experiments for language scientists
  • Bilingual interaction
  • Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching
  • Or any other course available to MSc students subject to approval from the programme director


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.

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.

On successful completion of this programme, you will have gained and enhanced the following skills:

  • an advanced understanding of current issues, theories and findings in developmental linguistics
  • intellectual skills to analyse and interpret language data with specific reference to the developmental aspects of linguistic knowledge
  • practical and specific skills needed to conduct novel research in this field
  • transferable skills in written and verbal communication, group and teamwork, computing, programming and numeracy, time and project management
  • your ability to work as an independent researcher and as part of a team

This programme will provide you with the specialised skills you need to perform research in language learning and development. The programmes also teaches a broad range of transferable skills applicable to a wide range of modern jobs. It will also serve as a solid basis for doctoral study.

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 they have progressed to are:

  • Euroschools

  • Global Language Services

  • Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

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 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.


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:

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

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, preferably in linguistics, psychology or a related subject.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

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:

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

MSc Developmental Linguistics operates a gathered field approach to applications. You may submit your application at any time.

All complete applications that satisfy our minimum entry requirements will be placed on a shortlist and held until the next batch processing deadline, at which point applications will be ranked and offers made to the top candidates.

Applications are processed in batches:

Round Application deadline Places awarded
1 30 November 01 February
2 01 February 02 April
3 04 March 30 April
4 03 April 29 May

If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

Supporting documentation and referees

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.

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