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.
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.
The compulsory paper in linguistic theory will be examined at the end of the first year. Three other exams will take place at the end of the second year. Of these three other exams, one or more can be replaced by a written submission, subject to approval by the Director of Graduate Studies. Exams are three hours in length.
You will also write 25,000-word thesis.
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 2021-22
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:
- 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.
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.
English language requirement
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 (Institution code: 0490)||110||Listening: 22|
*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.
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
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
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.
After an offer is made
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will 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, 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 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 up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. 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 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 college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the faculty's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2021-22
Annual Course fees
|Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,|
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
|Overseas (including EU)||£27,460|
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 likely increases 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 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
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:
How to apply
You are not required to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.
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.
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.
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 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.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.
Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.
Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.
Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.
Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).