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Course content

Modern linguistics is the scientific study of all aspects of the world’s languages from their sound systems and grammatical structure through to the interaction of language with culture, the study of meaning in language, and the use of language in modern technology. Linguists try to establish what types of structures are shared by different languages and the extent to which language may differ from each other.

MA Linguistics at SOAS is a modular programme which combines the intensive study of the core areas of formal linguistics - phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics - with a choice of options in different areas of the discipline. The programme is run on a modular basis to suit the needs of the following four categories of students: 

  • Those with a degree in linguistics who wish to pursue more regional and language-based study;
  • Those with a degree in linguistics who wish to pursue more research-oriented topics before proceeding to a research degree;
  • Those with little or no previous training in linguistics who wish to acquire a knowledge of the discipline;
  • Those with little or no previous training in linguistics who wish to take the degree as a conversion course before; proceeding to a research degree.

The programme can be taken full time over one calendar year or part time over two or three years (daytime only.) The taught part of the programme consists of core lectures which introduce basic concepts, theory and methodology; and additional seminars which extend the core material into other areas. A 10,000-word dissertation written over the summer offers students the opportunity to develop original research in an area of special interest. 

MA Linguistics is for students who would like to acquire general postgraduate-level training in formal linguistics (perhaps as preparation for further training or research).

Structure

Students on the MA Linguistics take 180 credits, 60 of which are a dissertation and a 120 from taught modules. Students should follow the programme structure set out below.

Students also attend the Research Foundations Seminar. Students may choose 30 credits from the list of approved language open options.

Teaching & Learning

Knowledge

  • Acquiring a solid foundation in the ‘core’ areas of theoretical linguistics, syntax, phonology and semantics.
  • Familiarity with the basic concepts and assumptions of different theoretical frameworks in the discipline, and the ability to critically question and evaluate these assumptions.
  • Familiarity with the relevant conventions and methodology applicable to work with both raw linguistic data and linguistic descriptions.
  • Opportunity to specialise in the area of interest.
  • The student will have the opportunity of gaining knowledge or further knowledge of one or more Asian, Middle Eastern and African languages.

Intellectual (thinking) skills

  • The ability to formulate appropriate linguistic problems, propose and evaluate analyses and present evidence (for and/or against) these analyses.
  • Knowledge of how to assess data and evidence critically from the literature and original sources, how to formulate analyses and arguments within the system of concepts and assumptions in the discipline, how to solve problems of conflicting sources and conflicting interpretations.

Subject-based practical skills

  • Practising research techniques in specialised research libraries and through consultant work.
  • Retrieving and selecting information from a variety of linguistic sources such as specialised papers and reference grammars.
  • Student will have strong practical language skills which will help them in any context where the language is used and which will also be of benefit if they need to learn another language in the future.

Transferrable skills

  • Training in locating materials and using research sources (library holdings, ‘raw’ language data, periodicals, internet).
  • Structuring and communicating ideas effectively in writing
  • Questioning, understanding and evaluating competing proposals

Employment

An MA in Linguistics from SOAS equips students with essential skills such as competency in language skills and intercultural awareness and understanding. Postgraduate students gain linguistic and cultural expertise enabling them to continue in the field of research or to seek professional and management careers.

MA Linguistics graduates leave SOAS with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek, including written and oral communication skills; attention to detail; analytical and problem solving skills; and the ability to research, amass and order information from a variety of sources. A postgraduate degree is a valuable experience that provides students with a body of work and a diverse range of skills that they can use to market themselves with when they graduate.

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.


Visit the Linguistics - MA page on the SOAS University of London website for more details!

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