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Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Age - MA

Course Description

Why do languages change? Why does your mobile device suggest funny completions for words you are typing? How did it happen that Finnish is spoken mostly in Finland, but its linguistic relatives are scattered over a larger area? How can you study a language that does not have a standard orthography? Why can you sometimes tell where other people come from just by their accent? Why do some people stick to their dialect, but others give it up when they move to the city? Should you try to support language diversity? Can we save languages that are spoken by a very small number of people? How can computer-synthesised speech be made to sound more human? Why do some languages seem so much more difficult to learn - are they inherently more complex?

This Master's programme will provide you with an understanding of the nature and diversity of human language and with the theoretical tools for working with language material. If you are interested in languages but are unable to decide which of them you want to study, this Master's programme offers several fields of specialisation. One of them might be just perfect for you.

During your studies, you will:
-Gain an in-depth understanding of the basic structure of language, its subsystems (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics) and their mutual relationships.
-Learn the fundamentals of linguistic analysis and language description.
-Familiarize yourself with linguistic concepts, theories, descriptive models and the associated research methods.
-Learn how language is related to cognition, speech and interaction as well as to social structures, culture and society.
-Learn to use various methods and technical tools in order to manage and analyze language data.
-Gain a good understanding of linguistic variation and diversity: what is common to the world's languages and how they differ, how language changes through time, how languages influence one another, how individuals cope with multilingual situations and how communities speaking endangered languages can be supported.

After completing your studies, you will be able to work independently in various fields that require multidisciplinary expertise in linguistic sciences. You will have the theoretical knowledge and skills that are required for postgraduate studies in the doctoral programme in language studies.

The University of Helsinki will introduce annual tuition fees to foreign-language Master’s programmes starting on August 1, 2017 or later. The fee ranges from 13 000-18 000 euros. Citizens of non-EU/EEA countries, who do not have a permanent residence status in the area, are liable to these fees. You can check this FAQ at the Studyinfo website whether or not you are required to pay tuition fees: https://studyinfo.fi/wp2/en/higher-education/higher-education-institutions-will-introduce-tuition-fees-in-autumn-2017/am-i-required-to-pay-tuition-fees/

Programme Contents

Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Age is an integrated international programme that offers you a comprehensive view of all subfields of the science of language. As a student in the programme you will be able to choose among four specialist options: (1) General Linguistics, (2) Phonetics, (3) Language Technology, and (4) Diversity Linguistics.

General Linguistics
Gives you comprehensive in-depth training in a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches to language structure and language in use. Special emphasis is put on language typology in a global perspective as well as the documentation and description of endangered and previously undocumented and under-documented forms of speech.

Introduces you to the tools for working with the articulatory, acoustic and perceptional aspects of human speech from a multidisciplinary perspective. At the more advanced level, you will become acquainted with the methods of experimental phonetics.

Language Technology
Combines linguistics with digital technology in an interdisciplinary approach with close links to computer science. The focus areas include natural language processing (NLP) for morphologically rich languages, cross-lingual NLP and language technology in the humanities.

Diversity Linguistics
Encompasses all aspects of linguistic diversity in time and space, including historical linguistics as well as the extralinguistic context of languages: ethnicities, cultures and environ­ments. The areal foci in Diversity Linguistics are Eurasia and Africa.

These four specialist options interact at all levels. There is a study module common to all students in the programme regardless of the specialist option they choose. The integration of these four perspectives into one programme is unique - no similar programme exists anywhere else.

In the context of “Humanities”, the programme has the closest relationship to natural sciences, and many subfields of the programme involve methods directly linked to laboratory sciences, including digital technology and neurosciences.

The teaching in the programme includes lectures and seminars, practical exercise sessions, reading circles, fieldwork excursions, as well as work practice (internship). The broad spectrum of teaching methods guarantees optimal support for your learning processes.

Programme Structure

The scope of the Master of Arts degree is 120 credits. The degree contains the following studies:
-Studies common to all students in the programme (30 credits)
-Advanced studies in the specialist option (at least 60 credits)
-Other studies (up to 30 credits)

The target duration of full-time studies leading to an MA degree is two years.

All students in the programme take the same courses during the autumn semester of the first year.

Then you will focus on your specialist option (general linguistics, phonetics, language technology, or diversity linguistics). This block of studies consists of courses (at least 30 credits) and of the final project, which is your Master's thesis (30 credits).

Additionally, you choose other studies: modules offered either by the other specialist options within this Master's programme or by other programmes within the University of Helsinki. The size of such optional study modules is typically 15, 25 or 30 credits. Courses offered by other universities can also be included here.

The studies in your own specialist option as well as the other studies may also include an internationalization period (e.g. student exchange) and work practice or other working life oriented study units. Working life and career development perspectives are integrated in many courses in the programme.

You will complete your studies systematically. At the beginning of your Master’s studies, you will prepare your first personal study plan (PSP). In this, you will receive support especially from the staff of the Master's programme. Guidance is also given at the Faculty level.

Career Prospects

After graduation, students of the programme find employment in a wide variety of positions, in which special knowledge of language is required.

One path prepares you for a research career, and many graduates work as researchers in Finland and abroad. You can also work in the political, diplomatic, and educational sectors, as well as research administration. Further potential employers are found in the publishing industry, media and journalism, public relations and communications of business and public administration, as well as NGOs.

If you choose a technological orientation, you may work in language technology firms or more generally in the IT sector. Big international companies are in constant need of experts in speech and language technology. Additionally, there is a vibrant field of domestic companies, some established ones and many promising start-ups. Some students have founded their own companies and become entrepreneurs.

Note that it is not possible to graduate as a (subject) teacher in the LingDA Master's programme.

In honour of the University of Helsinki's 375th anniversary, the Faculty of Arts presented 375 humanists during year 2015. Get to know the humanists! http://375humanistia.helsinki.fi/


Linguistics is by definition an international field. Language capacity is a feature common to all human beings, and the objective of linguistics as a science is to study both the universal background of language as a phenomenon and the global diversity of languages as expressions of social and cultural heritage.

In the LingDA programme, internationalization is present in several forms and at several levels:
-The programme functions in English and accepts international students from all countries.
-The programme recruits students representing a variety of linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
-The students are encouraged to study and master many languages from both the practical and the theoretical points of view.
-The students are encouraged early on to get engaged in documentational and typological field work among speakers of little documented languages in various parts of the world.
-The students are encouraged to use the opportunities of international exchange that the university offers.

The programme has a high international profile and all teachers have wide international contact networks. At the university of Helsinki, linguistics was internationalized as early as the 19th century. Finland is a country where, in particular, ethnolinguistics and field linguistics were developed and practised much earlier than in most other European countries. Some of the regions where Finnish ethnolinguists have been active include North and Central Eurasia, the Near and Middle East, East Asia, South Asia, and Africa. This tradition of field-work-oriented linguistics is today carried on by the HALS (Helsinki Area and Linguistic Studies) research community. At the same time, the more recent fields of linguistics, including phonetics, language technology, and typology, have developed their own international profiles.

Research Focus

The MA programme Diversity Linguistics in the Digital Age combines several research fields in which the University of Helsinki has long been a global leader. Language research in Helsinki has always maintained its strong commitment to a better understanding of cultural areas and their history. Situated in an ideal place for the study of language history and contact linguistics of various Eurasian language families, the study of Uralic languages has a long tradition in Helsinki. Our interest in the culturally and historically informed study of language reaches well beyond that, though, spanning Asia, Europe and Africa.

Our language research is empirically driven and informed by linguistic typology. The question of linguistic complexity, its significance for language and cultural history, and its intersection with ecological models is a hallmark of the Helsinki School of Linguistics. We explore new horizons in area and language studies by combining cutting edge research in linguistic typology with field work based descriptive linguistics and linguistic anthropology.

A unique asset at the University of Helsinki is the presence of various language technology initiatives at the forefront of the digital humanities. The study of morphologically complex languages plays a great role here, and special attention is paid to lesser researched languages.

Each of the four study lines of our MA programme thus corresponds to a University of Helsinki focus area. Our language-related research is typically multidisciplinary and involves more than one linguistic specialty. This is also a crucial feature in our MA programme. Students receive theoretical, thematic and methodological training for research or other professional careers that require problem-solving skills in order to maintain linguistic diversity and to support people’s linguistic well-being.

Visit the Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Age - MA page on the University of Helsinki website for more details!

Entry Requirements

For the latest admission requirements, see the website: View Website

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