About the course
The MPhil in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics is a taught course offering a range of options for graduates seeking a higher academic qualification in language studies and wishing to specialise in general linguistics (including phonetics but not applied linguistics), in historical and comparative linguistics, or in the linguistics of a specific language.
After the MPhil, students who are readmitted to continue as confirmed DPhil students may submit a DPhil thesis for examination after one, or more typically, two further years of work, and the MPhil thesis may be revised and included as part of the DPhil thesis. In this way, a pathway to the DPhil in little more than three years can be offered.
In addition to a compulsory paper in linguistic theory, you will specialise in general linguistics (B), Indo-European historical and comparative philology and linguistics (C) or in the linguistics of one or two selected languages (D).
Three exam papers are chosen from the following range of topics:
- Phonetics and Phonology
- Historical and Comparative Linguistics
- Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics
- History and Structure of a Language
- Experimental Phonetics.
You may also ask for one option in another subject in general linguistics; approval will be subject to the availability of proper instruction and provision for examination. For students with prior training in the subject, it is also possible to choose Computational Linguistics as an option.
You will select two ancient Indo-European languages or language groups (eg Greek, Italic, Celtic, Anatolian, Indo-Iranian, Slavic etc). Three exam papers cover the comparative grammar, the historical grammar, and a number of set texts for linguistic commentary in the two languages or language groups.
You may select either ancient (eg Latin, Sanskrit) or modern languages (eg French, Italian, German, Slavic languages).
There will be three examination papers:
- (i) the history of one language, or of two historically related languages;
- (ii) the structure of the language or languages chosen; and
- (iiia) translation from, and/or linguistic comment on, texts in the language or languages chosen, or (iiib) a project on an aspect of the structure or history of the language, or family of related languages, studied.
Subject (iii) may be replaced with any of the modules listed under option B, except for the history and structure of a language.
Alongside attending tutorials, lectures and seminars, you'll be expected to spend around 40% of your time on self-directed learning. This will increase to 60% as the course progresses.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology & 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. All students will meet with their course supervisor at the beginning and end of each term to receive advice about useful lectures and seminars and review the progress made.
The compulsory paper in linguistic theory will be examined at the end of the first year. Three other exams (corresponding to the options you have chosen) will take place at the end of the second year.
MPhil students also write a thesis, which is submitted in the final term of the second year.
Some MPhil students proceed to doctoral work at Oxford; others continue academic study at other institutions. Other career destinations include publishing, secondary and further education, finance, and IT.
Changes to this course and your supervision
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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
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 illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
Courses suggested by the faculty
Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics MSt
Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition MSc
Modern Languages MPhil
Slavonic Studies MPhil
Greek and/or Latin Languages and Literature MSt
Oriental Studies MSt
Computer Science MSc
Cuneiform Studies MPhil
Psychological Research MSc
Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a relevant subject, for example in modern languages, Classics, computer science, philosophy or mathematics.
However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a first-class degree or the equivalent.
While some applicants may have a background in linguistics or philology, few will have taken a full undergraduate course in these subjects. The backgrounds of entering students vary considerably, and the first-year curriculum is designed to bring every student to a general understanding of linguistic research, while not hindering progress in fields of special interest.
Students wishing to pursue option C should have studied at least one of their chosen ancient Indo-European languages to degree level (though they need not have studied the linguistics of the language before). Students wishing to pursue option D or paper B vi (History and structure of a language) should have a good grammatical knowledge of the language(s) they wish to pursue.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
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.
- 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.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
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.
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 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: temporal coordination of consonant clusters (production and perception); prosody and consonant timing in child language acquisition and child-directed speech; prosodic variation in Indian English; 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.
The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the faculty's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2023-24
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course 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 course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
Depending on the students choice of options, and especially the choice of thesis project, some fieldwork or experimental work may be required. Some thesis options will require laboratory experiments, for which a budget of £75 is available to pay participants. Some may require overseas fieldwork, for which the faculty has a budget of £500 towards travel and subsistence costs. The Faculty makes available some funding for language training, where relevant.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).
For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges.
The following colleges accept students on the MPhil in General Linguistics and Comparative Philology:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. We recommend that you submit your application well in advance - two or three weeks earlier.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Contacting the department
You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Three overall, academic preferred
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 degree, one of your referees should be your supervisor or course director on the master’s programme. If you do not provide a reference from your master’s supervisor or course director, 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.
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.
Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A minimum of 500 words to a maximum of 1,500 words
Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- the ability to present a reasoned case in English
- commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
- capacity for sustained and intense work
- reasoning ability
- ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.
Your statement should focus on your background in linguistics (where relevant) and study aims rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.
Two essays, a maximum 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 need not relate closely to the proposed area of study, but applicants with prior experience of study in linguistics are encouraged to submit work on linguistic topics.
The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for comprehensive understanding of the subject area of the essay, understanding of problems in the subject area of the essay, ability to construct and defend an argument, powers of analysis, and powers of effective expression in English.