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Experimental and Theoretical Linguistics offers an excellent opportunity to explore the broad spectrum of linguistics and its sub-disciplines.
The programme is designed for graduates with a background in language and related areas such as English, Modern or Classical Languages, Linguistics, Psychology and Anthropology, looking to explore the theory and methodology of linguistics in-depth. You'll explore the study of sound (phonetics and phonology), the study of words (morphology), sentences (syntax) and meaning (semantics and pragmatics).
If you have a keen interest in language in the broadest sense, and a willingness to explore theories of language critically, this is the course for you. The MA programme also offers a smooth transition to PhD study for those who wish to pursue further research.
You will choose four modules each in the autumn and spring, including core modules on Sounds, Structure, and Meaning, supplemented with options on, for example, psycholinguistics, language acquisition, language learning and teaching, sociolinguistics and stylistics.
This will allow you to develop areas of interest, and engage with aspects of your chosen discipline which are informed by the latest research and scholarship. You then complete a research dissertation of up to 15,000 words over the summer.
English Language and Linguistics at Kent is a dynamic and growing community with a vibrant research culture. We specialise in experimental and theoretical linguistics. In particular, our interests focus on quantitative and experimental research in speech and language processing, variation and acquisition, but also cover formal areas such as syntax, as well as literary stylistics. In addition to English and its varieties, our staff work in French, German, Greek, Romani, Korean, Spanish and Russian.
Staff and postgraduates are members of the Centre for Language and Linguistics (CLL), a research centre that seeks to promote interdisciplinary linguistic research. We also have links with research networks outside Kent, and are involved with national and international academic associations including the Linguistics Association of Great Britain, the British Association of Academic Phoneticians, the Linguistic Society of America, the Association for French Language Studies and the Poetics and Linguistics Association.
A first or second class honours degree in a relevant subject (or equivalent)
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.
The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Duration: 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
The programme comprises eight 15-credit modules.
The four core modules, Sounds, Meaning, Structure and Research Skills, provide you with a solid grounding in linguistic theory and methodology, while a range of optional modules either develop themes covered in the core module, or explore the relationship between language and other disciplines, such as literature (stylistics), the mind (psycholinguistics), and society (sociolinguistics).
Teaching in the MA in Linguistics takes the form of lectures, tutor-led and student-led seminars and tutorials, as well as problem-based workshops allowing students to engage with linguistic data and theory. You also have the opportunity to attend subject-related conferences and talks by visiting speakers.
You can study the programme on a 12-month full-time or a 24-month part-time basis.
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation. Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.
This module will introduce students to the study of semantic meaning. The focus will be on developing a fluency with analytical tools in semantics and pragmatics, and using these to explain a range of phenomena. Topics covered will include truth-conditional semantics, reference, presupposition, conversational implicature, and Speech Act Theory. Students will have the opportunity to reflect upon real data and analyse the processes of conveying and understanding meaning.
This course constitutes an in-depth introduction to syntax, focusing specifically on the question of what constitutes knowledge of language. By examining a core area of linguistic investigation (syntax), students will have the opportunity to explore the form and structure of the various kinds of linguistic knowledge speakers possess. The investigation will proceed from a theoretical as well as a descriptive perspective, and students will be encouraged to evaluate theoretical claims in the light of observations drawn from a wide range of languages. As such, the module will equip students with the theoretical and methodological tools required in the specialised modules and will highlight the crucial role of description in supporting and testing theoretical claims.
This course will equip students with the necessary training in a broad range of research skills, with the express aim of preparing them for postgraduate level writing and research, and ultimately for their dissertation. Key topics will include: academic writing in linguistics; bibliographical search; hypothesis formation; falsifiability; ethical procedures; introduction to quantitative and qualitative methodologies.
This module deals with the linguistic study of speech. It covers how speech sounds are produced and perceived and what their acoustic characteristics are (often referred to as phonetics), as well as how speech sounds are organised into sound systems cross-linguistically (often referred to as phonology). Emphasis will be placed on the sound system of English (including dialectal variation) but basics of sound systems across the world's languages will also be covered and contrasted with English so that students are familiar with the gamut of speech sounds available in the world’s languages. Finally, the course will cover the differences between the traditional "static" view of speech sounds as articulatory postures and the organisation of running speech. This will be covered together with the repercussions that our current knowledge about running speech has for our understanding of phonological systems, their organisation and formal representation in phonological theory.
This module is an introduction to quantitative research methods in linguistics, with the aim of familiarising students with the main methodologies by analysis of relevant studies from the literature and hands-on experience with study design. Key topics will include: hypothesis formation; experimental design; paradigms for quantitative linguistic research; data analysis and interpretation.
This module will review and critique past and current theories of Second Language Acquisition from a range of theoretical perspectives: linguistic, cognitive, psychological and social. It will also examine the wide range of factors that affect the second language learner and how these might be mitigated. It will then continue by indicating the implications for teaching and learning, and how different areas of the language are acquired.
This course will focus on the structure of lexical items, the way in which these different lexical items are stored and the nature of the relation between them. Relevant theoretical work in the fields of psycholinguistics and language processing will be outlined and discussed. Students will evaluate the efficacy of these theories on the basis of experimental investigations which they themselves will construct and conduct, for example word association experiments, lexicon decision tasks and parsing phenomena.
During this course, students focus on a set of case studies (e.g. Language abilities in Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Specific Language Impairment and Down Syndrome; The Aphasias; Sign Language), which provide novel insights into ongoing questions within language acquisition research. Issues considered include: the extent to which linguistic capacities interact with psychological ones; the distinction between developmental and acquired disorders; the evidence for and against linguistic principles being operative in child grammars; the distinction between language delay and language deviance, and the reliability and validity of social, cognitive and linguistic tests against which individuals' capabilities are measured.
The module will begin with an examination of Labov, Weinreich and Herzog's early 'manifesto' for sociologically informed linguistics, and the reasons for dissatisfaction with structuralist and generative models in the 1960s/early 1970’s. It will then review classic urban sociolinguistic work as exemplified by Labov (New York), Trudgill (Norwich), and the Milroys (Belfast), before exploring in turn the assumptions underpinning sociolinguistic methodology and some of its key findings (for example, the sociolinguistic gender pattern). The claims of sociolinguists regarding language change will then be considered, and some putative sociolinguistic universals, i.e. general claims about language in society which are presumed to be universally applicable, tested. The module will conclude with consideration of the relationship between social and linguistic structure, and examine some recent work in the field, which challenges the general linguistic tenet that all languages are equally complex.
This course will explore a specific model of formal syntactic theory: Minimalism. By investigating some of the core issues developed within the Minimalist Program, such as the role of phrase structure, the central role of movement processes and the mechanisms which are responsible for them, students will have the opportunity to examine how the Minimalist framework can account for the differences and similarities found in languages, in which ways it is controversial and the assumptions it makes regarding the interaction of syntax with other linguistic components (morphology/semantics/pragmatics). Focusing on a specific model will give students the opportunity to consider in depth not only its methods and its aims, but also the proper nature of syntactic argumentation. The investigation will entail both theoretical and descriptive perspectives, thus emphasizing the importance of description in supporting and testing theory. As such, students will be encouraged to evaluate theoretical claims in the light of observations drawn from a wide range of languages.
The aim of the dissertation is to develop further the students' ability independently to plan, research, formulate arguments and communicate research findings in a coherent manner within an extended piece of written work. The dissertation functions both as the culmination of the year's work and as a bridge between guided and independent research, preparing (and, it is hoped, encouraging) students to continue on to carry out research at DPhil level.
The topic of the dissertation will usually be based on, and develop from, work undertaken on one or more of the four coursework modules undertaken in the course of the MA
Assessment consists of a combination of written coursework, practical/experimental work (where appropriate) and seminar presentations.
On successful completion of the taught modules, students write a 15,000-word research dissertation (included in their final grade) on a topic agreed with their supervisor.
The programme aims to:
You gain knowledge and understanding of:
You develop intellectual skills in:
You gain subject-specific skills in:
You gain the following transferable skills:
The 2023/24 annual tuition fees for this course are:
For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.
For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact email@example.com.
The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.
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In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, over 90% of our Modern Languages and Linguistics research was classified as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ for outputs and environment.
Following the REF 2021, Modern Languages and Linguistics at Kent was ranked 11th in the UK in the Times Higher Education.
Alongside our research centre below, we also have links with research networks outside Kent, and are involved with national and international academic associations including the Linguistics Association of Great Britain, the British Association of Academic Phoneticians, the Linguistic Society of America, the Association for French Language Studies and the Poetics and Linguistics Association.
The Linguistics Lab has facilities for research in acoustics, sociophonetics and speech and language processing. English Language and Linguistics members also have access a recording studio and multimedia labs which can be used both for research and teaching.
English Language and Linguistics is the main contributor to the Centre for Language and Linguistics. Founded in 2007, the Centre promotes interdisciplinary collaboration in linguistic research and teaching. Membership embraces not just the members of English Language and Linguistics but also other members with an interest in the study of language, as well as researchers in philosophy, computing, psychology and anthropology, reflecting the many and varied routes by which individuals come to a love of language and an interest in the various disciplines and subdisciplines of linguistics.
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Postgraduate work in English Language and Linguistics prepares you for a range of careers where an in-depth understanding of how language functions is essential. These include speech and language theory, audiology, teaching, publishing, advertising, journalism, public relations, company training, broadcasting, forensic and computational work, and the civil or diplomatic services.
Our students benefit from training by enthusiastic and dedicated staff with expertise in a variety of areas of linguistics, from formal to quantitative and experimental fields.
ELL students also benefit from excellent library facilities and a linguistics laboratory equipped for research in speech acoustics (recording equipment, studio, software for speech analysis), speech and language processing and acquisition (including eye-tracking, DMDX and E-prime), and general data analysis (MS Office Suite, Statistica, R, and Matlab running on both PCs and Macs).
The Department organises seminars with local and invited speakers that take place throughout the year. Additionally the Centre for Language and Linguistics also organises various events from talks to symposia. In addition, postgraduates can attend any one of three reading groups: the Experimental Reading Group; the Stylistics Reading Group; and the Syntax Reading Group. These groups provide a space where staff, final-year undergraduates and postgraduate students have the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn more about current research issues in their area of interest. All three groups meet regularly to discuss recent research papers as well as draft research papers written by individual members of each group.
Although ELL is a new department, the study of linguistics has a long tradition at Kent and the Templeman Library is well stocked in all areas, particularly those in which we specialise, including sociolinguistics, phonetics, acquisition, language processing, language teaching and stylistics.
The School also provides high-quality IT facilities, including state-of-the-art media laboratories, dedicated technical staff and designated areas for postgraduate study. Other facilities include all-purpose teaching rooms, two networked multimedia laboratories equipped for teaching in phonetics and psycholinguistics and a streamed film library. Experienced technicians can provide support with computing, sound recording and digital media.
In addition to one-to-one meetings with their supervisor, our research students benefit from many additional events that are either specifically designed for them or provide them with opportunities to liaise with all staff.
These events include:
For those who wish to gain in-depth understanding of syntax, semantics and phonology additional training is provided through the Advanced Core Training in Linguistics (ACTL) of which Kent is a member along with Cambridge, Essex, Oxford, Queen Mary, University of London, SOAS and UCL. ACTL classes are offered in the autumn and summer and are open to all postgraduates.
All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.
Learn more about the application process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.
You will be able to choose your preferred year of entry once you have started your application. You can also save and return to your application at any time.