Before you apply

Finding out about linguistics

Q: Are there any introductory books on linguistics you would recommend?

A: Some suggestions for reading to be done before the degree course can be found here: http://www.ling-phil.ox.ac.uk/reading_prelims


Undergraduate Admissions

Courses available including linguistics

Q: Which undergraduate degrees at Oxford involve linguistics?

A: There are two main courses that involve linguistics: the Modern Languages & Linguistics (MLL) degree and the Psychology, Philosophy & Linguistics (PPL) degree.

The Modern Languages & Linguistics (MLL) degree involves studying a modern European language (French, German, Italian, Modern Greek, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish) and Linguistics.

The Psychology, Philosophy & Linguistics (PPL) degree involves taking two of these three elements in the first part of the course (alongside one further module, typically statistics), and then in the remainder of the degree, students can continue to follow a bipartite degree (Psychology and Philosophy, Psychology and Linguistics, or Philosophy and Linguistics) or, subject to their college’s approval, a tripartite degree (Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics).


Q: Can you study linguistics on its own at Oxford?

A: At undergraduate level at Oxford, linguistics is only available in combination with other subjects.



Q: Do I need to be taking English Literature or English Language A-level (or equivalent) to apply for a degree that includes linguistics?

A: English Language, or any other language, may be useful for some elements of the course, but this is not a requirement for admission.


Q: Do I need to be taking A-level Maths (or equivalent) to apply for the Modern Languages & Linguistics degree?

A: Maths, a science, English Language or any other language may be useful for some elements of the course, but they are not required for admission.


Q: How about for the Psychology, Philosophy & Linguistics degree?

A: For Psychology, it is highly recommended for candidates to have studied one or more science subjects or Mathematics to A-level (or equivalent).

For Philosophy and Linguistics, it is helpful for candidates to have studied English Language, Mathematics, a science or any other language.


Q: Do I need to speak more than one language to apply for a degree involving linguistics?

A: Not necessarily. It depends on exactly which degree you are applying for:

Modern Language & Linguistics degree

You can study linguistics with a Modern Language that you already speak, in which case you would usually be expected to have the Modern Language to A-level (or another academic equivalent), provided the language in question is one of the following: French, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish.

Alternatively you can study linguistics with one of the following Modern Languages that you will learn from scratch (ab initio): Beginners’ Modern Greek, Beginners’ Italian, Beginners’ Portuguese. (Please note that while it is possible within the Modern Languages degree to learn German or Russian from scratch at Oxford, this is not possible within the MLL degree.)

Psychology, Philosophy & Linguistics degree

It is not necessary to speak more than one language in order to apply for the degree in Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics.

For Philosophy and Linguistics, it is helpful to have studied English Language or any other language, but this is not a requirement for admission.


Applying and the admissions process

Q: What are you looking for in applicants?

A: Both MLL and PPL are highly demanding courses, like all Oxford undergraduate degrees, and tutors are looking for the applicants with the highest potential to take advantage of these courses.

In linguistics, tutors are looking for a combination of high levels of motivation and commitment to the applicant’s chosen course and evidence of aptitude for the work that the course involves, such as analysing data precisely and accurately, and communicating effectively both orally and in writing. Applicants are not expected to have studied linguistics before, but tutors may expect applicants to have acquired a general idea of at least some of the broad aims and range of linguistics as a discipline.

Because all successful applicants are admitted for a course jointly with another subject, they need to satisfy the requirements for that subject too. (There are significant overlaps in the general academic aptitude and motivation expected.)

Application is a highly competitive process and candidates should expect tutors to place equal weight on both sides of the application: the competitive nature of the process means that strength on one side may not compensate for weakness on the other.


Q: What evidence is taken into account when reaching decisions about offers?

A: Tutors have a variety of evidence available. The UCAS application (which includes predicted and/or attained examination results, personal statement, and school reference) is supplemented by candidate’s performance in the admissions tests (the TSA for PPL and the relevant language test for MLL), along with interviews. Candidates for the MLL degree are also required to submit some written work.


Q: How should I choose written work to submit? Does it matter if it’s not about languages?

A: Written work only forms part of the admissions process for MLL and it is not part of the admissions process for PPL.


There are no specific requirements regarding the written work to be submitted for evaluation with respect to linguistics. However, it would be a good idea to submit work that deals with some aspect of language OR shows evidence of analytical thinking. For linguistics, your written work ought not to be a piece of translation or an essay in a language other than English.


Q: What can I do to prepare for an interview about linguistics when I haven’t studied it at school?

A: One of the aims of admissions interviews is to give you an opportunity to explain why you to want to study the subject you have chosen. Another key aim is to explore your aptitude for studying a subject. We appreciate that linguistics is not taught at school so we do not expect detailed knowledge of the subject, but you may like to think about what has excited your interest in any languages that you know, including the patterns that exist and how these might be explained.

You may find it helpful to consult some introductory books on linguistics. Many are available. Some possibilities are listed as introductory readings here: http://www.ling-phil.ox.ac.uk/reading_prelims


Q: Is it okay to apply for an ab initio language (a language that I have not studied previously) with linguistics even though it means I would be starting two new subjects at university?

A: It is possible to apply to study a language ab initio with linguistics provided the language is Modern Greek, Italian or Portuguese.


Q: Can I apply for both MLL and PPL? If I don’t get offered a place for one, can I be considered for the other?

A: It is only possible to apply for one of these courses in a single application cycle. If your application for your chosen course is unsuccessful, you would still be able to apply again later either for the same course or for another one. Your previous application would not be taken into account.


Course content


Q: Which Papers are there in the Linguistics course?

A: Like all undergraduate courses in Oxford, both MLL and PPL are divided into two parts. The first part, preparing for exams called Prelims, lasts either two terms (for PPL) or three (for MLL). The second part, preparing for the final exams at the end of course (‘Final Honours School’ or FHS), follows this. You can find out more about the linguistics courses for Prelims and FHS here:


http://www.ling-phil.ox.ac.uk/fhs_mll (Modern Language & Linguistics degree)

http://www.ling-phil.ox.ac.uk/fhs_ppl (Psychology, Philosophy & Linguistics degree)


Q: How much overlap is there between linguistics and the other subject(s) that can be studied with it?

A: Many subjects within the MLL and PPL courses will be mutually reinforcing. Indeed in MLL, for instance, study of the structure and the history of the Modern Language are compulsory in the FHS course. However, students in both MLL and PPL also have some flexibility to choose options which belong more clearly to just one side of their course (for instance, phonetics or literature).


Q: Which areas are covered in the undergraduate Linguistics course?

A: The first year of the Linguistics course includes the following:

  • Language change: the study of the history and development of languages
  • Morphology: the study of the internal structure of words
  • Phonetics: the study of the production of speech sounds by humans
  • Phonology: the study of how sounds are organized and used
  • Pragmatics: the study of meaning in context
  • Psycholinguistics: the study of the relation between language and cognition
  • Semantics: the study of meaning
  • Sociolinguistics: the study of language in relation to social phenomena (e.g. class, gender, regional, and ethnic divisions)
  • Syntax: the study of relations between words and other units within a sentence

After the first year, a range of different options are available.

For further information, see: http://www.ling-phil.ox.ac.uk/ugrad_intro


Modern Language and Linguistics degree

Q: Does taking linguistics limit the options that are available to me for the Modern Languages part of the course? (For example, could I still take a course in cinema?)

A: Yes and no. The principal limitation of MLL is that students only take one language. The study of linguistics in MLL takes the place of some things that a Modern Language student, whether taking one or two languages, would study, i.e. the second language or additional papers within a single language. In general, an MLL student can select additional papers on the language that they are studying from the same range of options that are available to a Modern Language student taking that language.

The precise combinations of options that are possible within each course are more complex than it is practical to describe here. If you would like to know more about specific combinations, you can contact the relevant tutors at any college that admits for the subject(s) in which you are interested with your questions.


Q: Does taking linguistics affect what I’ll be able to do on my year abroad?

A: Not at all. In fact, it opens up some different possibilities. For instance, some students use their year abroad as an opportunity to collect data for a Linguistic Project (http://www.ling-phil.ox.ac.uk/ling_project). These data may be examples from the language that they are studying or a different language spoken in the country that they are visiting, for instance Breton in France, Basque in Spain, or Brazilian Portuguese. (Note that if you are interested in offering a Linguistic Project you are not required to collect such data – some students have chosen to write on English, for instance.)


During the degree

Q: I’ve never studied linguistics before. What happens if I don’t enjoy the course (if I get in)? What happens if I don’t enjoy the other part of my course? If I’m offered a place for or start on the PPL course, can I switch to MLL, or vice versa?

A: The vast majority of our students enjoy the course they have chosen. While every student will find some parts of their course of greater interest than others, the balance of compulsory and chosen elements enables most students to pursue their particular linguistic interests and gain a broad general knowledge of the field. We of course encourage all potential applicants to find out as much as they can about linguistics and the other parts of the MLL or PPL degree before applying so that they can make an informed choice about which course is right for them.

However, we appreciate that students’ interests can change. Students are admitted by a college for a particular course and as a result there is no automatic right to switch to another course. Colleges have the discretion to allow a student to switch to another course but this is a very rare occurrence. Successful applicants are expected to have considered as fully as possible the commitment they are making to their chosen course when accepting their place.


After the degree

Q: What are the employability/further study options for someone with a linguistics degree?

A: Linguistics graduates are employed in a wide range of fields including (but not limited to) publishing, journalism, I.T., speech therapy, teaching, the civil service, the intelligence service, management consultancy and technical writing.

At the postgraduate level, Oxford offers one year (MSt) and two-year (MPhil) Masters courses in General Linguistics and Comparative Philology. Beyond the Masters level, there is the possibility to study for a DPhil in Comparative Philology and General Linguistics.

The Prospects website provides further information: https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/what-can-i-do-with-my-degree/linguistics


Graduate Admissions

On-line application problems

Q: I can’t get the system to accept my application. What shall I do?

A: If you have any technical problems with your application, see the University’s Technical Help for step-by-step instructions to fix common issues.


General questions

Q: Can I apply for the M St / M Phil if my first degree is not in Linguistics?

A: Please see the Graduate Admissions website for entry requirements to our M.St. and M.Phil. courses.


Q: Please send me a prospectus.

A: We do not publish a printed prospectus. All the information you need is on-line here at http://www.ling-phil.ox.ac.uk


Q: What is the deadline for applications?

A: Application deadlines are HERE

For Master’s courses, applications must be submitted for either the November or the January deadline. No Master’s applications can be considered after the January deadline.

For the D.Phil., applications must be submitted by the November, January, or March deadline. Depending on availability of places, D.Phil. applications may also be considered after the March deadline.

Studentship applications for all degrees must be submitted by the January deadline.


Q: Are there any courses in English Language?

A: No, the Faculty does NOT teach English for learners of the language. There are many reputable English Language schools in Oxford.

See http://www.englishuk.com/en for help in choosing a school.

The Oxford University Language Centre runs courses in the use of English for academic purposes, and intensive improvers’ courses in August, for students entering in October. We recommend students take advantage of these opportunities, where appropriate.


Q: Are there any short courses or summer courses?

A: No.


Q: Can I do the M.St / M.Phil part-time, by distance learning?

A: No. You must be resident in Oxford and attend the lectures.


Q: Please send me an application form.

A: The Faculty does not send out application forms: application must be made to the Oxford Graduate Admissions Office.


Q: Shall I send my application to you in the Centre for Linguistics and Philology?

A: No. It must be submitted on-line to the Graduate Admissions Office. See the University’s Application Guide for graduates.


Q: Which college shall I choose? I don’t understand which college offers the best Linguistics course.

A: The colleges do not provide the teaching for our courses. The teaching is done in the faculty. Everyone who studies at Oxford has to be linked to a college for administrative reasons. See: Advice for graduates


Q: When will I hear if my application has been successful?

A: You will receive a letter from the Graduate Studies Administrator some weeks after the closing date.


Q: If I am offered a place, can I defer my entry for a year?

A: Not normally. You must take up the place for the year of the offer. See the University’s Application Guide on Accepting your offer for help with this question.


Q: What is PRS?

A: A PRS student is a Probationary Research Student, who will later be confirmed as a D.Phil student, if all goes well.


Q: Can you consider an application after the final deadline?

A: ALL APPLICATIONS must come through the route described above, following the deadline dates given. No one can be given priority or preference. For the M.St and M.Phil courses, there is only one starting date – October – for which the latest application date is mid-January. For the D.Phil only, in exceptional circumstances and if places remain, it may be possible to consider an application after March.


Q: Can I study Applied Linguistics? Second language acquisition?

A: You cannot study Applied Linguistics in this faculty. The Department of Education works in this field and offers an M. Sc. degree in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition.


International students

Q: Do I need to take a test for my English?

A: Please see here for English Language Requirements.


Q: Do you have any scholarships for international students to help finance my studies?

A: Colleges, the University and the International Office have sources of funding as detailed here.

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