Linguistics is the systematic, scientific study of human language, its structure, and its uses.

Linguists study many different aspects of language including sounds, words, sentence structure, and meaning. A linguist’s work may be concerned with language in general or the features of a particular language or group of languages. 

The Course

At the undergraduate level, Linguistics can be studied in combination with a modern language (often referred to as Modern Languages & Linguistics, a four-year course including a year in the country or countries where your language is spoken) or in conjunction with Psychology and Philosophy in a three-year course often referred to as PPL (Psychology, Philosophy & Linguistics).

The MLL degree gives you the opportunity to study Linguistics with a Modern Language that you already know, in which case you would usually be expected to have studied the language to A-level or another academic equivalent. Somerville currently admits students for MLL degrees in French and Linguistics, German and Linguistics, Italian and Linguistics, Russian and Linguistics and Spanish and Linguistics. You can also study Beginners’ Italian and Linguistics at Somerville.

For the PPL degree, students apply to read Philosophy and Linguistics or Psychology and Linguistics. The range of topics in Linguistics for PPL is not substantially different from that in the MLL degree, except that PPL students are not required to study the Linguistics of a specific language.

Linguistics isn’t a subject that you are likely to have studied at school and we don’t expect any applicant to have prior training in Linguistics. When selecting our students, we look for evidence of aptitude for the work that the course involves, such as analysing data precisely and accurately. We also expect you to have familiarity with some of the broad aims of Linguistics and the different perspectives which can be taken when studying language, its structure, and its uses.

Teaching

Somerville currently has two Fellows in Linguistics, as well as a Senior Research Fellow and a Lecturer in Linguistics. Their research interests include syntax, morphology, phonology, phonetics, historical linguistics, psycholinguistics, typology, and language contact. They work with data from a wide range of languages such as Bengali, Dutch, English, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, and Latin.

Our Tutor in Linguistics is Associate Professor Louise Mycock, whose research focuses on how syntax interfaces with other aspects of linguistic structure. Recent projects include using the complete works of Shakespeare to study the pronoun tag construction. She won the Oxford University Student Union Teaching Award for Most Acclaimed Lecturer (Humanities) in 2014, and has been shortlisted for this award three times.

In the first year, you will mostly be taught Linguistics by your College tutor, either in classes of 4-6 students or in tutorials of 2–3 students. You will also attend lectures given by members of the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics. Beyond the first year, you will be matched with the University’s experts in your chose subjects regardless of the college at which they are based.

The College library is a very valuable resource, with its own Linguistics collection which is constantly being updated. The buildings which house the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics, the Department of Experimental Psychology, the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, and the Faculty of Philosophy are all very close to Somerville, as is the Taylor Institution Library, which is home to the University’s Linguistics collection.

Community

Somerville’s Linguistics community includes undergraduates, postgraduates, and academics from diverse backgrounds studying language from a range of perspectives. In a typical year, we admit two MLL undergraduate students and four PPL students, of which two study Philosophy and Linguistics and two study Psychology and Linguistics. 

Having a group of students who study Linguistics in combination with a modern language, philosophy, or psychology makes for a lively community in College. Together, we approach the study of language from multiple perspectives, which makes for stimulating discussion in classes and at tutorials. We also consider data from a diverse range of languages: those that students may currently be studying or have studied in the past, the language or languages that they may speak at home, and languages to which they have never been exposed before. 

Our Professorial Fellow Aditi Lahiri was the founding chair of the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics and the first Indian woman to hold a faculty chair at Oxford University. Many other brilliant Linguists have been at Somerville as either students or academics, including the former President of the Philological Society Rebecca Posner and Sawiris Cultural Award winner Reem Bassiouney.

Next Steps

As well as language-related employment, Oxford Linguistics graduates go on to careers in management consultancy, publishing, teaching, journalism, speech therapy, the civil service, the intelligence service, brand management, marketing research, and more. 

For more information, please visit the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetic’s website.

The Philosophy and Linguistics course is an excellent one. It allows me to explore my two passions in great depth, giving me a greater insight into important linguistic and philosophical topics as well as showing the ways in which these two subjects frequently overlap and interlink. I would highly recommend the course to anyone interested in either Philosophy or Linguistics. 

Migara Kumarasinghe (2019, Philosophy & Linguistics)

Fellows and Lecturers
  • Richard Ashdowne

    Lecturer in Linguistics
  • Hanne Eckhoff

    College Lecturer
  • Kinga Kozminska

    Fulford Junior Research Fellow; Departmental Lecturer in Sociolinguistics with Phonetics
  • Aditi Lahiri CBE

    Professorial Fellow; Professor of Linguistics
  • Catherine Mary MacRobert

    Senior Research Fellow; Former University Lecturer in Russian Philology and Comparative Slavonic Philology
  • Anita Mehta

    Academic Visitor and Consultant
  • Louise Mycock

    Fellow & Tutor in Linguistics; Associate Professor in Linguistics
  • Frans Plank

    Senior Research Fellow in Linguistics; Professor of Linguistics and English Language, University of Konstanz
Where Next?