Undergraduate study - 2019 entry

Subject area: Linguistics

Why choose Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We're ranked in the world's top 5 universities for linguistics in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018. We conduct world-leading research in linguistics and English language.

  • We support a range of theoretical approaches, and you will be exposed to different, sometimes competing, theories of language structure. Our researchers have worked on a wide range of languages, and we have ongoing linguistic fieldwork projects on Brazilian Portuguese, Celtic, Faroese and Shilluk (a Sudanese language).

  • You will have access to our state-of-the-art cognitive neuroscience research laboratory, which includes world class eye tracking facilities to help discover the mechanisms of language tracking in the brain, and our perception laboratory, for perceptual and psycholinguistic experiments, as well as experimental booths equipped with the latest language research software. You will also be able to use and study in the psychology library.

  • You can study linguistics as part of a joint programme with a wide range of languages, allowing you to enhance and deepen your understanding of your chosen language by understanding the nature of language itself.

  • We have a depth of expertise in the theoretical and empirical study of the major areas of language structure: syntax, semantics, pragmatics, phonetics, phonology and morphology. We also have research strengths in sociolinguistics and language variation, the history of linguistic thought, language acquisition, and the study of language in context. We are a leading centre for the study of language change and historical linguistics.

  • We host three research centres: the Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics, which is a centre for research on how language changes and what drives linguistic change; Bilingualism Matters, a hub for an international network of experts on bilingualism and bilingual language acquisition; and the Centre for Language Evolution, which is famous for studying how language evolves in the lab.

Study abroad

I wanted a lively, international university that allowed me to grow up quickly and independently. Edinburgh gave me just that

Alex Hersey 2nd year MA (Hons) Linguistics
Alex Hersey 2nd year MA (Hons) Linguistics

Linguistics examines how language works, describing how sounds, words, sentences and conversations combine to express and create meaning. It also studies the uses of language in everyday life, the ways in which it varies across society and evolves over time, and how it is mastered by children.

Linguistics can also be studied as part of a joint honours programme with a range of other subjects.

Linguistics has a long history at the University of Edinburgh and our teaching staff have an excellent reputation for research in this area.

Linguistics is a new subject for nearly all undergraduates so you will require no prior knowledge at the beginning of the programme.

Year 1

You will take two semester-long courses, which introduce you to the principles of theoretical linguistics.

You will also study the way we learn language, the regional and social variations of language in general, and of the English language in particular, and methods of communication.

If you are studying linguistics as part of a joint honours programme you will also take courses from your other subject area.

Year 2

You will take four further semester-long courses (two in the case of some joint honours programmes) looking at linguistic theory and research techniques, the structure of spoken and written English and other languages, and at the evolution of language and the patterns of linguistic change as it has occurred in and beyond the UK.

Year 3

You will study compulsory courses and choose from a range of advanced linguistics courses such as Child Bilingualism, Origins and Evolution of Language, Speech Production and Perception and Pragmatics. If you are studying a joint honours in linguistics with a language you will spend Year 3 studying or working abroad.

Year 4

You will continue to choose specialist courses according to your interests. You will also take a specialised research training course before starting your honours dissertation, regarded by many as the most formative experience of their undergraduate studies.

Are there additional costs?


Our facilities

Teaching will take place in the linguistics computer labs and other teaching facilities located within the University's Central Area. You can also use the School's recording studio, perception experiment laboratory and the Eyetracking Lab, which is run jointly with the School of Informatics. You will also have access to the University's libraries and computer facilities.

Study abroad

There are opportunities to study abroad through Erasmus or the University's international exchange programme.

How will I learn?

Most courses are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials and some small-group project work. You will also do some independent practical work in Year 2 and more independent study in Year 3 and Year 4.

How will I be assessed?

During Years 1 and 2 you will undergo continuous assessment through tests and assignments. In Years 3 and 4, you will be assessed through coursework, exams, projects and your dissertation.

Linguistics graduates work in a wide range of fields such as journalism, international relations, translation, marketing and social research. Recent graduates have taken up funded places on MSc programmes or have found employment in speech technology research.

A linguistics qualification is also a good foundation for careers in professions such as speech and language therapy, adult literacy, or for teaching English as a foreign language.