Undergraduate study - 2019 entry

Subject area: English Language

Why choose English Language at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We're ranked in the world's top 15 universities for English language and literature in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018. We conduct world-leading research in English language and linguistics.

  • English language offers an unusually large number of course options. As well as gaining a comprehensive grounding in linguistic concepts and ideas, you will look at the development of English from pre-history and the language of early Britain, to modern English and its status as the global language of the 21st century.

  • There are opportunities to study how English language is spoken abroad in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America.

  • We offer some of the best opportunities in the world for the study of Scots as spoken in northern England and Scotland. We also have expertise in the forms of English spoken in America, the Southern Hemisphere, and Asia.

  • You will be taught by world-class language scientists with a broad range of specialisms including sociolinguists, historical phonology, dialectology, syntax, Old English, and varieties of English and Scots.

  • English language can be studied as part of a joint programme with a wide range of subjects, where an understanding of the history and development of the English language can deepen and enhance your understanding of subjects such as English literature, linguistics, and Scottish ethnography.

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 4th year MA (Hons) English Language & Literature
Bryan Tan 4th year MA (Hons) English Language & Literature

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

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.

Year 1

You will take two semester-long introductory 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 a joint honours programme, 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.