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MSt in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics

About the course

The MSt in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics is a nine-month taught course offering a range of options for those seeking a graduate 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. 

Course strands

Students are admitted to the MSt in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics via one of two strands. The balance of taught and self-directed learning varies between strands and options. 

Research Preparation strand (TS_CPK6A2)

The Research Preparation strand is designed for applicants who have studied linguistics as undergraduates to a more advanced level and who thus already have a solid background in all core areas of general linguistics; they will typically have a degree in which linguistics forms at least 50% of the teaching and assessment, or who can otherwise demonstrate that they have studied linguistics to an equivalent level. In order to be admitted to this programme, applicants will already have to have identified, by means of a detailed research proposal, a topic on which they will want to write a master’s thesis.

Students will be working on their master’s thesis from their first term. They will attend the Faculty’s training in research methods and in addition, they may attend some more advanced classes that are of relevance to their thesis work.

Advanced Study strand (TS_CPK6B2)

The Advanced Study strand is designed for applicants who have previously studied linguistics at an introductory level and are keen to familiarise themselves further with the discipline, but who have not studied linguistics to a more advanced level during their undergraduate degree.

During their first term and into their second term, students will follow a Foundation Course in Linguistic Theory. This is a course of lectures and practical classes with extensive sets of compulsory exercises covering the main areas of linguistics and providing an overview of the field.

Option papers common to both strands

Students on both strands will also study for two option papers that are of particular interest to them. Options are chosen from those listed in Option B, Option C, or in Option D below. Those intending to study options chosen from C or D below should normally have, and may be required to demonstrate, some knowledge of the chosen (group of) language(s), and those intending to offer options chosen from C will normally be expected to be able to read secondary literature in French and German.

If students would like to specialise fully in Indo-European comparative philology via Option C, they are strongly encouraged to apply for the MPhil in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics instead. There is also scope for some work in historical and comparative linguistics in the MSt via the module in Historical and Comparative Linguistics under Option B, and via options in the history and structure of specific languages.

Please note that not all options may be offered every year, depending on the availability of teaching.

Option B

You will select two options from the following range:

  • Phonetics and Phonology
  • Syntax
  • Semantics
  • Historical and Comparative Linguistics
  • Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics 
  • History and Structure of a Language.

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. There are two other Option B papers, which are not normally available to MSt students unless they have substantial training in that subject sufficient to begin work on these options from their first term on the course:

  • Experimental Phonetics 
  • Computational Linguistics. 

Option C

You will select two options from the following three subjects:

  • The comparative grammar of Indo-European languages
  • The historical grammar of Indo-European languages
  • Translation from, and linguistic comment upon, texts in Indo-European languages.

Option D

You may select either ancient (eg Latin, Sanskrit) or modern languages (eg French, Italian, German, Slavic languages), for two of the following:

  • The history of one language, or of two historically related languages
  • The structure of the language or languages chosen 
  • One of the following:
    • translation from, and/or linguistic comment upon, texts in the language or languages chosen
    • any paper from B (above) except History and Structure of a Language
    • a project on an aspect of the structure or history of the language, or family of related languages, studied.


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 to review the progress made.


Research Preparation strand

If you choose to undertake this strand, you will produce a thesis which needs to be submitted in the final term of your course. In addition, assessment of your two option papers in the final term of your course.

Advanced Study strand

If you choose to undertake this strand, assessment will take place in the final term of your course. One of these assessments will be a compulsory general linguistics exam. The two other assessments, which will be exams and/or submissions will be for the options that you have chosen.  

Graduate destinations

Research Preparation strand

It is anticipated that some MSt students in the Research Preparation strand will proceed to doctoral work at Oxford, while others will continue academic study at other institutions. Alternative career destinations may include publishing, secondary and further education, finance, and IT.

Advanced Study strand

It is anticipated that career destinations for MSt students in the Advanced Study strand may include publishing, secondary and further education, finance, and IT. The Advanced Study strand is not intended to lead on to doctoral study at Oxford, though it is possible to apply to be considered for readmission as a Probationer Research Student, and it may be a suitable foundation for further postgraduate study at other institutions. Applicants who are hoping to pursue doctoral study following the master's are advised to consider applying for the MPhil in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics or the Research Preparation strand of the MSt instead. 

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, 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.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25

Proven and potential academic excellence

The requirements described below are specific to this course and apply only in the year of entry that is shown. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.

Please be aware that any studentships that are linked to this course may have different or additional requirements and you should read any studentship information carefully before applying. 

Degree-level qualifications

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.

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

  • 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.
  • In the case of mature students/intended career changes, professional experience in cognate areas may compensate for shortcomings in the formal academic record. 

Further guidance

Requirements specific to the Research Preparation strand

Applicants will have studied linguistics as undergraduates to a more advanced level and will already have a solid background in all core areas of general linguistics, phonetics, phonology, syntax, and semantics. In order to be admitted to this strand, applicants will already have to have identified, by means of a detailed research proposal submitted as part of their application, a topic on which they will want to write a master’s thesis.

Requirements specific to the Advanced Study strand

Applicants will have previously studied linguistics at an introductory level, but not to a more advanced level, during their undergraduate degree. They will not already have a solid background in all core areas of general linguistics, phonetics, phonology, syntax, and semantics.

Requirements common to both strands

Some modules require background knowledge that is difficult to acquire in a single year, and MSt students are advised to choose these modules only if they already have substantial previous training in relevant background subjects, such as experimental phonetics and computational linguistics.

In order to take options in the history and structure of a particular language, students will need to have a good grasp of the relevant language itself, even if they are new to linguistic study of the language. Option C is normally not feasible in the MSt.

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.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*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.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application. 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 described 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. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

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.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

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:

Financial Declaration

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, computer workstations and printers and a photocopier. Most graduate courses in linguistics and philology are held in the building.

Phonetics Laboratory

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 areas of research are: prosody and speech timing, especially: contact phonetics and prosody; geolinguistic variation; multimodal analysis of gesture and prosody; functional phylogenetic and other statistical-computational methods of reconstructing speech from the past. Languages of particular interest in our research projects are: Indian English and other languages in India and the diaspora; Italo Romance (especially Venetan); languages of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Language and Brain Laboratory

The language and Brain Laboratory offers research staff and students bespoke facilities and specialist equipment to conduct a wide variety of behavioural, eye-tracking and neurolinguistics experiments. Our research covers all aspects of linguistics, including phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics.
In the lab we have offices for Postdoctoral researchers, Research Assistants and DPhil students working in Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics under the supervision of Prof. Aditi Lahiri and Prof. Matt Husband. Our common room is used for tutorials and meetings.

The laboratory has separate spaces for Neurolinguistics, Eye-Tracking, Production, and Behavioural studies. We have two electronically shielded sound-proofed climate-controlled EEG booths for recording brain waves. EEG recordings are made using high-impedance (300 Mohms) active electrode systems: we are currently conducting experiments on two systems: BioSemi and Brain Vision. An additional soundproof room is used for high quality audio recordings and eye-tracking studies. Our state-of-the-art SR Research Eyelink1000 eye tracker can be used on its own, or in combination with our EEG equipment.

One of our largest spaces is our Behavioural Lab, where we have bespoke equipment and software to run experiments such as lexical decision tasks or timed forced choice experiments. We can currently run 8 participants simultaneously at individually screened desks, or up to 16 participants with a projector setup. All of our testing rooms have an associated control room to monitor the experiments and analyse the results.

Library provision

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, ancient Indo-European languages, and non-Indo-European as well as Indo-European languages of Asia.

Linguistics, Philology & Phonetics

Linguistics is the study of language in all its aspects. In British English, the word ‘philology’ denotes the historical study of language. Phonetics is the study of speech.

A hallmark of the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics at Oxford is the marriage of theory with data, drawing on historical, philological and comparative linguistic data from ancient and modern languages, and on psycholinguistic and phonetic experimental data.

The faculty will provide you with an environment where a strong philological tradition is sustained while all core areas of linguistic theory are supported (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics), from both synchronic and diachronic perspectives.

The faculty also has a strong profile in teaching and research on psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics.


The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. 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 2024-25

Fee status

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.

Where can I find further information about fees?

The Fees and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability.

Additional information

Depending on the student’s 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.

Living costs

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 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 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 current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

College preference

Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs). 

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. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.

The colleges accepting students on the MSt in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics may vary according to your specialism:

MSt in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics (Research Preparation) - TS_CPK6A2

MSt in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics (Advanced Study) - TS_CPK6B2

Before you apply

Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.

If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines and when to apply in our Application Guide.

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.

Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?

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.

Students are admitted to this course via one of two strands, so you must decide which strand you would like to follow and select it when you choose your 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.

For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application.

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 faculty 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.

Official transcript(s)

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.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 500 words

The statement should be written in English and be as specific as possible about your background in linguistics and study aims.

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.

Research proposal:
Required only for the Research Preparation strand (TS_CPK6A2)
A maximum of 1,000 words

Your research proposal should be appended to your personal statement and uploaded as one file during the application process.

The research proposal should be written in English. The overall word count does not need to include any bibliography or footnotes. 

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • the coherence of your proposal
  • the fit of your research interests with those represented in the faculty
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • your ability to present a reasoned case in proficient English
  • the feasibility of successfully completing your project in the time available for the course
  • your preliminary knowledge of research techniques
  • your capacity for sustained independent work.

Written work:
Two essays, a maximum of 2,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples written in English are required. These should be from your most recent qualification where possible. 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 or related subjects are encouraged to submit work in those areas.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

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.

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide

Students are admitted to this course via one of two strands, so you must decide which strand you would like to follow:

MSt in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics (Advanced Study) - TS_CPK6B2


MSt in Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics (Research Preparation) - TS_CPK6A2


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