Undergraduate study - 2018 entry

Subject area: English Language

Why choose English Language at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We offer an unusually wide range of courses in English language, so you can choose options that fit your particular interests and skills.

  • In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), 87 per cent of our research in Linguistics and English Language was classified either world-leading (4) or internationally excellent (3).

  • Students can also study the Scots language, which has its own rich linguistic and literary tradition.

Study abroad

My programme is not only equipping me with skills that I can use for my future career, but also with the tools and attributes to look at the bigger picture.

Bryan Tan 3rd year MA (Hons) English Language & Literature
Bryan Tan 3rd year MA (Hons) English Language & Literature

The English language has a well-recorded history of more than 1,000 years and its changes can be traced through written materials ranging from medieval manuscripts to text messages.

Using techniques from modern linguistics, you will analyse the structure of written and spoken English and will explore how the language has changed in the course of its history.

You can also study modern-day varieties of English and Scots and identify the similarities and differences between the features of English and other languages.

English is a highly structured system of communication in which the most complex and elusive meanings are encoded in sequences of sounds travelling through air, or of letters written on pages.

Using the techniques of modern linguistics, you will analyse the structure of syllables, words, phrases, sentences and other linguistic units to see how they carry the message from the speaker to the listener, and from the writer to the reader.

Year 1

You will take our carefully designed introductory course, which introduces 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 a joint honours you will also take courses from your other subject.

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 at the patterns of linguistic change as it has occurred in and beyond the UK.

Year 3

You can start to specialise and choose the topics that interest you most. Courses available at this level include Reading Old English, Dialects of Britain and Ireland, Global Englishes, English Word Formation, History of Scots, and many more.

Year 4

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

Are there additional costs?


Our facilities

Lectures and seminars will be held within the University’s Central Area. You will also have full access to the University’s libraries and computing facilities.

Study abroad

There are opportunities to study abroad in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America through the Erasmus scheme and 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 Years 3 and 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.

Popular career paths for English language graduates include journalism, publishing, PR, advertising, and, with additional training, speech and language therapy. You can also train to teach English in the UK or abroad.