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Programme description

Joining the world-leading Centre for Language Evolution (CLE), you will investigate the origins and evolution of human language, tackling questions such as ‘what is it that makes us human?’, ‘how did our brains evolve?’ and ‘what are the origins of human language?’

The CLE is at the cutting edge of research in this area and one of the world’s biggest research groups working on language evolution. You will have the opportunity to become involved with the unit’s research effort, and to make your own contribution to this dynamic field through your dissertation.

The programme focuses on a treatment of language as a dynamic evolving system, bringing together origins, acquisition and change.

It provides a broad introduction to the field of language evolution and can form the basis for further (typically PhD) study for those wishing to continue their research.

The programme draws on many disciplines in the University, including archaeology, biology, linguistics, neuroscience, informatics, philosophy and psychology.

Programme structure

The programme involves two taught semesters and your own research dissertation. Compulsory courses (in addition to the dissertation) provide a solid foundation, while optional courses allow you to explore your own areas of interest.

The taught element is delivered through a mix of lectures, tutorials, seminars and practical sessions. Assessment is by written/project work and examination.

Compulsory courses:

  • Current Issues in Language Evolution
  • Foundations of Evolution
  • Origins and Evolution of Language
  • Simulating Language
  • Language Evolution in the Lab

Option courses may include:

  • Universals of Language
  • Computer Programming for Speech and Language Processing
  • Diachronic Linguistics
  • Dialogue
  • First Language Acquisition
  • Human Evolution
  • Introduction to Phonology and Phonetics
  • Sociolinguistic Research Design
  • Introduction to Syntax
  • Language Behaviours, Brains and Cognition: Principles and Approaches
  • Psychology of Language Learning
  • Univariate Statistics and Methodology Using R

You may also be able to take a course from other degree programmes in the School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences, and in some cases from elsewhere in the University, with permission of the Programme Director.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this programme, you will have gained:

  • a comprehensive synthesis of the most recent scientific findings relating to the origins and evolution of human language
  • a firm basis for subsequent advanced specialised research
  • a broad awareness of issues and findings in the evolution of language and cognitive evolution across participating single-subject disciplines
  • This programme provides solid grounding in the scientific study of human behaviour, which provides the ideal basis for further research in many associated areas, including linguistics, cognitive science and human evolution.

Career opportunities

Recent graduates have gone on to roles in teaching (following further training), journalism and translation services for companies such as Pearson Education, BPD Training and ITWeb.

Visit the Evolution of Language & Cognition (MSc) page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!




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