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The MA programme in Linguistics covers one academic year (60 ECTS).

In the first semester, students who start the programme in September, choose courses worth a total of 30 ECTS, including at least two Advanced courses. In the second semester they choose courses worth a total of 10 ECTS and write their Master’s thesis (20 ECTS).

Students who start the programme in February, choose courses from the offer available in the respective semester. The following September, they choose one Advanced course.

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

First semester

Choose courses, worth 30 ECTS, two of which should be advanced:

Advanced Phonetics 10
Advanced Phonology 10
Advanced Semantics 10
Advanced Syntax 10
Elective: Analysis, Registration and Synthesis of Speech 5
Elective: Meaning between algebra and culture 10
History of Linguistics 5
Experimental Phonetics: Production, acoustics and perception of speech 5
Topics in Linguistics 1 10
Topics in Linguistics 2 10

Second semester

Choose from among of the following:

Corpus Lexicography 10
Elective: Cognitive Neuroscience of Language 10
Elective: Microvariation: Phonology and Syntax 10
Elective: Language Modeling: Exploiting Logical Form 10
Elective: Morphological Theory 10
Elective: Statistics 5
Elective: Topics in Syntax-semantics 10
Topics in Linguistics 3 10
Topics in Linguistics 4 10
MA Thesis Linguistics 20

More info

Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation


The master’s programme Linguistics aims to strengthen and deepen the knowledge acquired in the course of the bachelor’s programme. Students are presented with theoretical, computational, clinical and experimental linguistics at a high level. The programme prepares students for professions in the fields of linguistic research, language and speech technology, clinical applications, education, or language counselling. In addition, the programme is suitable for those who wish to pursue an academic career in the field of linguistics.

Graduates in Linguistics are able to:

  • compare linguistic data making use of advanced theoretical tools;
  • apply formal methods in constructing models and researching various phenomena in language and speech;
  • use theoretical tools in order to analyse the biological, neurological and psychological dimensions of language and speech. The programme aims to raise students to a level of knowledge and skills that allows them to proceed to PhD research. Alternatively, graduates qualify for positions outside the university that require an academic level of thinking.


The master’s programme in Linguistics offers a large selection of courses in various linguistic disciplines. In addition to theoretical linguistics, the programme focuses on experimental, clinical and computational aspects of linguistics. The strong link between education and research plays an important role in this programme. Depending on their field of interest, students choose to specialise in one of the following subjects:

  • Clinical and Experimental Linguistics
  • Theoretical Linguistics

The master’s programme covers one academic year (60 ECTS, consisting of four courses of 10 ECTS each including a master’s thesis of 20 ECTS). The “Advanced theory” courses emphasize the theoretical background. The “Elective” courses focus on applications of linguistic research. Students may also take linguistic courses of their choice from other programmes. Proposals to this end must be submitted to the Board of Examiners.

An overview of linguistic courses offered by various departments of Leiden University, organized according to the area of expertise, can be found on the e-prospectus (e-Studiegids) pages of
MA in Linguistics (Research): Structure & Variation in the Languages of the World
Tab: Tracks

Master’s thesis and requirements for graduation

In order to graduate, students must have completed courses worth a total of 40 ECTS and have written the master’s thesis, consisting of approximately 17,000 words. The thesis is written under the supervision of a lecturer affiliated with the LUCL (Leiden University Centre for Linguistics) and evaluated by the supervisor and a second reader (selected by the supervisor). Students are free to choose their supervisor and suggest a thesis topic.

Aim of the Master’s Thesis

A thesis is an academic essay, written by the student in consultation with two supervisors. The thesis must show that the student is capable of summarizing and analysing existing literature in a critical manner, formulating one or more well-defined and motivated research questions and of conducting independent research. Moreover, this process must be recorded in an academically sound report.

Choosing a Topic

Generally speaking, students are encouraged to select the topic of their thesis themselves, based on a Master’s course that they followed. In case of doubt, students can always consult the coordinator of studies. Students should approach a lecturer and discuss with him/her the chosen topic and potential research question(s). The supervisor, also known as ‘first reader’, will be able to point to relevant literature. A second reader is chosen by the supervisor. At this point, clear agreements should be made concerning the supervision procedure.

At the heart of a Master’s thesis lies a research question, together with the answer to that question. Before a motivated research question can be formulated, the student first has to do preparatory reading. The student then suggests an approach to arrive at possible answers (‘hypotheses’) to the research question. The research can be done by comparing views found in the literature and/or by collecting and analyzing primary (e.g. corpus analysis) and secondary (e.g. intuitions) linguistic data. Controlled experiments (when conducted) and statistical data analysis should be state of the art. The thesis ends with a conclusion chapter in which the research questions are answered. Answers should logically follow from the results presented.

Handing in the thesis

It is advisable to hand in the chapters of the thesis one by one and solicit comments from the supervisors. Once the thesis is approved by both supervisors, the final version can be printed (one copy for each supervisor, one archive copy for administration) and (optionally) published on the web as a PDF. Check with your supervisor(s) for guidelines regarding format of thesis lay-out and style of bibliographic references.


In assessing the quality of the thesis, the following aspects play an important role:
• Formulating and analysing the research question;
• Structure of the thesis;
• Integration of secondary literature into the argument;
• Good formulation of student’s own arguments;
• Style, use of language and lay-out.

A document is available that details the criteria on which theses will be judged (see colomn on the right of this page below “Bestanden”).

Also see: Teaching and Examination Regulations