Student Profiles

Undergraduates

Paige Gibbons, Philosophy and Linguistics, 1st year

Why did you choose Oxford?
As well as the academic reputation of the university as a whole, the linguistics department offered one of the widest selections of topics out of most universities I looked at. I found that several linguistic departments were very specialised, limiting what you can study. As there wasn’t one area of linguistics I was particularly interested, it was important to me that there was a wide variety of linguistic topics on offer — a box that Oxford ticked!

What aspects of your studies have you enjoyed the most?
Linguistics is a completely new subject to anything studied at A-level, so I’ve loved learning something completely new. I particularly enjoyed the first term of Phonetics and Phonology, as it was fascinating looking into how something we completely take for granted — speech — is produced in the mouth.

Do you have any advice for students thinking of applying to study at Oxford?
I’d say the most important characteristics of any successful Oxford applicant is enthusiasm and a passion for their subject. Terms are so intense that you literally live and breathe your subject — If you don’t have this passion, you’re not going to enjoy the term unfortunately. Don’t apply just because it’s Oxford, apply because you love the subject!

What lectures and classes have you followed in your first year of study?
You don’t get any choice in what you study in first year, so you study everything — Phonetics and Phonology, Syntax and Morphology, Historical Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, Psycholinguistics, Semantics and Pragmatics.

What do you plan to study after your first year?
General Linguistics, Semantics, Sociolinguistics, The Genetic Basis of Language and I will probably do a thesis as well.

Sairah Rees, French and Linguistics, 1st year

Why did you choose Oxford?
Because it offered me the chance to do a modern language with linguistics whereas Cambridge only offered linguistics sole or 2 languages.

What aspects of your studies have you enjoyed the most?
Definitely phonetics and phonology. It’s so diverse because it has applied, descriptive and theoretical aspects and the type of work we do is very varied: it’s not just essay after essay.

Do you have any advice for students thinking of applying to study at Oxford?
Make sure you’re truly passionate about the subject you’re applying for. Enthusiasm is the best motivation when the workload is as much as it is here.

What lectures and classes have you followed in your first year of study?

  • grammar, which looks at syntax and morphology
  • general linguistics which looks at all sorts from psycholinguistics to historical linguistics
  • phonetics and phonology which looks at articulatory and acoustic phonetics along with phonology.

Maddy Herbert, French and Linguistics, 2nd Year

Why did you choose Oxford?
I chose Oxford because the linguistics department is so well-renowned, I like the city and I really liked the look of the Modern Languages and Linguistics course. I liked the idea of a course which combines the arts with science and theory.

What aspects of your studies have you enjoyed the most?
I really like phonetics — it has been so fascinating learning about how I produce language, when it is something that I do everyday without thinking about it. I really enjoyed learning to use the phonetic alphabet last year; it felt so great to gain a tangible skill from my degree course. This year this skill has been invaluable in other linguistic disciplines, and has also been built upon in further transcription exercises.

This year, I have also really enjoyed the aspects of my course which combine French with linguistics. It is nice to have some clear cohesion between the two halves of my degree.

Which advanced Linguistics options have you chosen?
Paper XIII General Linguistics — Morphology and Semantics (so far!), Paper IV History of French, Paper V French Linguistics, Paper 12 Phonetics and Phonology and Linguistics Project.

Do you have any advice for students thinking of applying to study at Oxford?
I would just suggest reading as much as possible — there are loads of pop culture linguistics books which are not too theory heavy or difficult to understand, but will get you thinking about it and interested in it. (e.g. David Crystal, Steven Pinker)

Graduate Students

DPhil students

Dan Trott (DPhil 2014)

What is your research project?
I’m looking at tense and aspect in Old Japanese (eighth century), particularly the interaction between lexical aspect and grammatical aspect.

Why did you choose to do research at Oxford?
Having done my undergraduate degree here, I knew the resources for my area of study were excellent. I also knew that it was a great place to be a student: quirky traditions, a good mixture of people, lots going on, and easy access to London.

What aspects of your research have you enjoyed the most?
I’ve enjoyed the collaborative aspects of my research. I work in the Research Centre for Japanese Language and Linguistics, where I’ve been able to receive daily input from a variety of people, including my supervisor. I’d heard a lot about the solitary life of a doctoral student, but I haven’t had to experience much of that!

Do you have any advice for students thinking of applying to do research at Oxford?
Make sure that there’s someone here who will be an effective supervisor for you. And produce a good research proposal to submit with your application: everyone knows that you might deviate from it, but you need to show that you understand what a plausible research project looks like.

Bozhil Hristov (DPhil 2012)

What is your research project?
I have been working on agreement, case assignment and nominal coordination, mainly focusing on data from English, Bulgarian and Serbian/Croatian.

Why did you choose to do research at Oxford?
I picked Oxford because of its international reputation for academic excellence and the wealth of research resources. The MSt course I completed here before I embarked on my doctoral studies had a very clear structure and could be tailored to everyone’s individual needs and interests, making for a smooth transition between a taught degree and a purely research degree.

What aspects of your research have you enjoyed the most?
Although research is often a solitary pursuit, I really enjoyed the stimulating discussions I had with faculty members and fellow students. There was plenty of opportunity for that during supervisions and seminar talks and this significantly improved my project. I also came to appreciate how much knowledge of the general area you gain from reading around the subject, learning about things you never suspected or discovering surprising facts about languages you thought you were quite familiar with.

Do you have any advice for students thinking of applying to do research at Oxford?
Oxford does live up to the expectations of scholarly rigour, but I also found it to be a welcoming home away from home with a friendly, close-knit community. Faculty members are among the most distinguished experts in the field, but they are equally dedicated and approachable. The tutorial system ensures that everyone gets a lot of personalised attention and guidance, so that the potential anxiety caused by any sense of lack of direction or feeling lost in a sea of information is quickly dispelled. Care is also taken to provide help and advice on graduate students’ future career paths.

John Lowe (DPhil 2012)

What was your research project?
I have been researching the syntax and semantics of participles in Rgvedic Sanskrit, from both a synchronic and diachronic perspective. I have combined more traditional philological work with formal linguistic analysis, on the latter side working in Lexical-Functional Grammar to model syntax and semantics.

Why did you choose to do research at Oxford?
I was an undergraduate at Oxford, so naturally I was happy to return; but more important was that the department of Linguistics here contains specialists in Classical philology and Indo-Iranian philology as well as pure linguistics, a combination rarely found. This is reflected in the MPhil, which I took before moving on to the DPhil, where I was able to study Indo-Iranian and Germanic philology alongside linguistics, which proved an ideal base for my DPhil research.

What aspects of your research have you enjoyed the most?
I have particularly enjoyed the many opportunities to learn about a wide range of ancient languages, both as part of my course and alongside: in my time as a graduate student I have studied Avestan, Old Persian, Old Icelandic and Gothic; and I have attended lecture and seminar courses on Armenian, Lydian, Etruscan, Old Church Slavonic, Hittite, Sabellic, Middle Persian and Aramaic.

Do you have any advice for students thinking of applying to do research at Oxford?
You have to work hard and be self-motivated: terms are short and packed, while it’s in the vacations that you have time to do your own research. But there are so many different opportunities here that you not only need but want to work hard to make the most of them all.

MPhil students

Benjamin Molineaux (MPhil completed)

What is your research project?
My research project is in English Historical Phonology, more specifically, on the evolution of Old English prefixes in Middle English.

Why did you choose to do research at Oxford?
I applied to Oxford because the Faculty possesses solid background both in philology and contemporary linguistic theory. It straddles the traditional and the innovative quite well.

What aspects of your research have you enjoyed the most?
The most enjoyable part of my research has been the amount of individualized attention I have received from the faculty, as well as the support from a very friendly, active graduate community.

Do you have any advice for students thinking of applying to do research at Oxford?
Through coursework and general examinations, the MPhil provides levelling in the core areas of linguistic theory. Through the writing of a thesis, it also requires a good deal of independent work on one major are of specialization. Students must be both willing to explore a variety of topics and views, and to have the determination and self-reliance to conduct individualized research.

Jeannique Darby (MPhil completed)

What is your research project?
I am studying periphrastic ‘do’ in Early Modern English correspondence.

Why did you choose to do research at Oxford?
I liked the idea of the tutorial system, and the libraries are very good.

What aspects of your research have you enjoyed the most?
I liked learning how to use a corpus and learning about everyday life in 17th century England.

Do you have any advice for students thinking of applying to do research at Oxford?
The most important things are to be willing to work hard and to enjoy what you do.

Holly Winterton (MPhil completed)

What was your research project?
My research project (which formed my MPhil thesis) was change in Breton morphosyntax, with a particular focus on word order, and I will be continuing and expanding this subject for my DPhil.

Why did you choose to do research at Oxford?
I chose the course at Oxford partly because I did my undergraduate degree here, and so felt settled here already, but mainly because the course structure appealed to me. The combination of taught and thesis elements was a helpful transition from a taught undergraduate degree to research.

What aspects of your research have you enjoyed the most?
As part of my research, I conducted fieldwork in Brittany, where I interviewed native speakers and collected my own data, and this was both a valuable and enjoyable experience. Reading about research can make it seem very abstract, and going through the process of collecting data myself made me aware of how complex data can be, and appreciate the wealth of knowledge that native speakers have.

Do you have any advice for students thinking of applying to do research at Oxford?
The biggest problems I encountered doing the fieldwork for my research were relating to the organisation — finding informants, arranging a convenient time to see them, obtaining ethical clearance, and booking my travel and accommodation took far more time than I had anticipated. I would start organising the fieldwork trip much further in advance if I were to do the same thing again — and therefore make decisions about my research project much earlier on in the course.

Subscribe to Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics