About the course
The DPhil is an advanced research degree for qualified students who are ready to begin thesis work in the field of general linguistics (including phonetics but not applied linguistics), in historical and comparative philology and linguistics, or in the linguistics of a specific language.
The DPhil in General Linguistics and Comparative Philology is an advanced research degree, awarded on the basis of a thesis and an oral examination. The thesis will be based on extensive original research and engagement with current scholarship. You are expected to submit your thesis three, or at most four, years from the date of admission.
You will be supported by a supervisor or supervisors who will help you develop a programme of research and writing. You will also benefit from the advice and support of other members of the faculty and can draw on the expertise of scholars and colleagues throughout the faculty and University.
You are encouraged to attend and to contribute to the wide range of research seminars, conferences and workshops organized by the faculty. You will also have access to specialist training courses offered by the Advanced Core Training in Linguistics programme (ACTL), Bodleian Library, Language Centre and IT services.
Linguistics at Oxford is an interdisciplinary subject, with most areas of general linguistics as well as Indo-European, Romance and Slavic historical and comparative linguistics being represented by one or several members of staff.
Current research falls into seven main areas:
- linguistic theory (morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics and their interfaces)
- Indo-European comparative philology (especially Greek, Italic/Latin, Indo-Iranian, Anatolian, Celtic, Slavic and Tocharian)
- phonetics and phonology (especially phonetics/phonology interface, speech perception, language comprehension)
- Romance philology (Research Centre on Romance Linguistics, especially diachronic morphology, syntax of Italo-Romance and phonetics of French)
- sociolinguistics (language variation and change, language and gender)
- ancient grammatical thought in the Greco-Roman tradition.
Graduates follow career paths that include academia and higher education, research services, research and development, secondary and further education, industry and the civil service.
- DPhil in Classical Languages and Literature
- DPhil in English
- DPhil in Medieval and Modern Languages
- DPhil in Oriental Studies
- DPhil in Experimental Psychology
- DPhil in Education
- DPhil in Computer Science
- DPhil in Ancient History
Changes to the course
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.
Entry requirements for entry in 2018-19
Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:
1. Academic ability
Proven and potential academic excellence
Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in a relevant subject.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
A master's degree in a relevant subject is also required. Applicants are expected to have a background in linguistics comparable to Oxford's MPhil degree in General Linguistics and Comparative Philology and to be predicted to achieve or to have achieved a very good result or a result close to distinction level in their master's degree.
If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).
Under exceptional circumstances substantial professional experience maybe considered a substitute.
Applicants should already have the knowledge and skills necessary to begin work on their chosen topic. This may include knowledge of the language to be studied, or for a computational thesis, relevant programming skills.
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other appropriate indicators will include:
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview(s)
Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.
The faculty receives comparatively large numbers of applications for a small number of places. Therefore, only those candidates who have scored highly in the paper-based assessment are invited for interview. Interviews are generally conducted by telephone or Skype, or in person if the candidate finds that convenient. There will be a minimum of two interviewers.
Applicants are not expected to have publications already, but if they happen to have publications in a relevant area they are encouraged to submit them as their written work.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
In the case of mature students/intended career changes professional experience in cognate areas may compensate for shortcomings in the formal academic record.
2. English language requirement
Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.
3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places
The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- The ability of the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work.
- Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.
The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:
- The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.
- Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.
4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties
Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.
Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.
Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
6. Other information
Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.
Teaching and research in linguistic subjects is centred around the Centre for Linguistics and Philology, which occupies part of the former Clarendon Press Institute on Walton Street. Facilities for graduate students include a common room, individual lockers, computer workstations and printers and a photocopier. Most graduate courses in linguistics and philology are held in the building, which as a whole is shared with the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.
The Phonetics Laboratory has excellent provision for research in speech physiology and acoustics, and outstanding computing facilities. The experimental area consists of a recording studio, an acoustics and speech processing laboratory, a physiological laboratory and a speech perception laboratory. Hardware for physiological study, available to students and staff, includes electroglottography, labial electromyography, oral/nasal aerometry (measurement of air pressures and flow) and ultrasound tongue imaging.
The studios, for recording and for running experiments, are equipped with high-quality microphones and digital recording equipment, and computer systems for the presentation of visual and/or auditory stimuli.
Currently, the Phonetics Laboratory's main priorities for research are: prosody in child language acquisition, functional phylogenetic reconstruction of speech from the past, and acoustic-phonetic variation in English and Modern Greek.
Language and Brain Laboratory
The Language and Brain Laboratory contains 15 rooms including graduate student desk spaces, a meeting room, and several rooms fitted with specialised equipment for running practical experiments to help us understand how the brain processes language. It is an active research laboratory covering all aspects of linguistics, including phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics.
The experimental area includes a sound-proofed audiology booth for recording speech and running speech production and eye-tracking experiments, and a behavioural testing suite containing individual workstations for running up to ten participants simultaneously. There are also two state-of-the-art electrically shielded, sound-proofed and climate controlled EEG booths for recording brain waves. All testing rooms have an associated control room to monitor the experiments and computers to analyse the results.
Oxford's library provision in linguistics is one of the largest in the country. Oxford's libraries are superbly provided with material on theoretical linguistics, the structure and history of European languages (including specialist libraries in Romance and Slavic linguistics), ancient Indo-European languages, and non-Indo-European as well as Indo-European languages of Asia.
There are over 1,100 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.
The Ertegun Scholarship Programme and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) each provide a number of awards every year, to support graduate students across a range of disciplines. To be considered for these studentships you must apply by the relevant January admissions deadline.
Annual fees for entry in 2018-19
Total annual fees
The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.
Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).
Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.
For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.
The faculty makes available some funding for language training, where relevant, and for conducting experiments or carrying out fieldwork, where required by the students research activities. There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2018-19 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between c. £1,015 and £1,555 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.
The following colleges accept students on the DPhil in Comparative Philology and General Linguistics:
- Balliol College
- Campion Hall
- Christ Church
- Jesus College
- Kellogg College
- Lady Margaret Hall
- Linacre College
- Magdalen College
- New College
- Regent's Park College
- St Anne's College
- St Benet's Hall
- St Catherine's College
- St Cross College
- St Edmund Hall
- St Hilda's College
- St Hugh's College
- Somerville College
- Trinity College
- Wolfson College
- Worcester College
How to apply
You are not required to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply, but if you already have a potential supervisor in mind then you are invited to state this in your application.
The faculty assigns a supervisor (or in some cases, two supervisors) to each successful applicant. If you suggest a supervisor when you apply, this will be taken into account when a supervisor is assigned, but for various reasons the assigned supervisor will not always be the one proposed in your application.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
Up to four pages
The research proposal should be written in English and the overall page count should include any bibliography. It should include information about your background in linguistics and degree of preparation already achieved for the research, as well as an outline of your thesis and of the research you plan to conduct.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying
- the coherence of the proposal
- the originality of the project
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- the ability to present a reasoned case in English
- the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course (a maximum of four years)
- commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
- preliminary knowledge of research techniques
- capacity for sustained and intense work
- reasoning ability
- ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.
It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.
Your statement should focus on the research itself rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.
Two essays of 2,000 words each
Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible.
The written work should demonstrate your competence in the proposed area of study. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
This will be assessed for comprehensive understanding of the subject area; understanding of problems in the area; ability to construct and defend an argument; powers of analysis; and powers of expression in English.
References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
All references should generally be academic. However, in the case of mature students or intended career changes, a professional reference may be submitted instead of one of the academic references.
If you are a current master’s student or have completed a master’s course, one of your referees should be your supervisor or course director from this course. If you do not provide a reference of the kind, the department will usually ask you to do so before completing the assessment of your application.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and ability to work in a group.