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Linguistics (research)

The Leiden University Research Master’s programme in Linguistics provides intensive and comprehensive training covering the entire range of present-day linguistic research. Students need to earn 120 EC in total, including a thesis of 30 EC. The basic programme consists of two compulsory core courses, each worth 10 EC.

The remaining credits can be obtained in several ways:

  • The students can choose courses from among the courses offered by all the specialisations within the MA Linguistics. See the Tab Electives.

  • The students can take short, current-research-oriented courses from the series of Topics in Linguistics, offered by the ResMA Linguistics. The content of these courses changes every year and is announced shortly before the start of the semester.

  • The second-year students can take courses offered within LOT Summer/Winter Schools.

  • The students can also select other linguistic courses within other MA programmes in Leiden. You may search for such courses in the electronic prospectus, on the web pages and timetables of various departments. Such courses need to have at least the 500 level and are subject to prior approval by the Board of Examiners of ResMA Linguistics. Participation in courses of a lower level upgraded by means of additional advanced-level assignments/papers may also be an option. Please discuss it in advance with Tim Sanders, the Coordinator of Studies.

  • It is also possible for students to organize tutorials, small-scale classes worth 5 or 10 EC (subject to prior approval by the Board of Examiners). Please discuss the possibilities with the expert lecturers and consult the coordinator Tim Sanders.

  • The students who would like to take some courses at another university in the Netherlands or abroad need to acquire the approval from the Board of Examiners in advance. The usual limits are max. 15 EC at another Dutch university and max. 30 EC abroad.)

First year

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Obligatory courses

Core: History of Linguistics 10
Core: Samples of Linguistic Structure I: Analysis 10


Students choose a total of 40 EC from the following courses or from any of the track courses in the MA Linguistics (see tab Electives)

Topics in Linguistics A 5
Topics in Linguistics C: The phonetics and phonology of tone accent systems: synchronic and diachronic typology 5
Topics in Linguistics D: Code-Switching 5
Corpus Lexicography 10

Second year

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2


In the second year students write their ResMA thesis and they choose a total of 30 EC from the following courses or from any of the courses in the MA Linguistics (see tab Electives)

Topics in Linguistics A 5
Topics in Linguistics C: The phonetics and phonology of tone accent systems: synchronic and diachronic typology 5
Topics in Linguistics D: Code-Switching 5
Corpus Lexicography 10
LOT Summer School/Winter School 3.0/5.0/10
ResMA Linguistics Thesis 30


Students can choose from courses of the following tracks of the MA Linguistics:

Linguistics: Chinese Linguistics
Linguistics: Comparative Indo-European Linguistics
Linguistics: English Language and Linguistics
Linguistics: French Language and Linguistics
Linguistics: German Language and Linguistics
Linguistics: Italian Language and Linguistics
Linguistics: Language and Communication
Linguistics: Language Diversity of Africa, Asia and Native America
Linguistics: Theoretical Linguistics and Cognition
Linguistics: Translation in Theory and Practice

More info

Requirements for graduation


The Leiden University research master’s programme in Linguistics provides intensive and comprehensive training covering the entire range of present-day linguistic research. The end of the 20th century witnessed a return of the interest in the diversity of human languages in virtually all existing approaches to linguistics. While descriptive, historical, and anthropological linguists have traditionally emphasised the variability of languages, scholars working in structuralist traditions aiming to uncover specific linguistic universal themes have also recognised the challenge posed by the immense variation between and within languages, and have started to develop theories and methods in attempts to meet it. Students in the Research Master’s Linguistics programme receive education and training that introduces them to and prepares them for innovative research at the front line of present-day linguistic investigation along the lines presented above.

Completion of a Research Master’s degree in Linguistics qualifies graduates for the pursuit of a PhD research project. At the same time, graduates will have acquired good credentials for working as a consultant or employee for an international or governmental agency, multinational business enterprise or non-governmental organisation. Because of the unique curriculum of the programme and the research experience accrued, graduates are an asset to any undertaking in the areas of sustainable development, investigative journalism, social engineering, education planning, and human resource management in a multicultural and multilingual context.
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The Research Master in Linguistics is a specialised research-based programme offered at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL). This two-year programme is designed to prepare students for a career in research, for example as a PhD student. The programme is based on the expertise present within LUCL, specifically in the areas of language diversity and the languages of the world.

The students need to earn 120 EC in total. The programme consists of obligatory and elective courses, worth in total 90 EC. In the first year, all students of the Research MA follow two core courses. The first course is History of Linguistics, in which the focus is on the development of linguistic ideas, from Panini to more recent times. This course gives you the tools to reflect critically about theories of language. In the course Samples of Linguistic Structure, you get an overview of the grammar of typically 4 or 5 languages from different language families. This course gives you a broad overview of language variation – the focus point of linguistic research in Leiden.

You can choose the remaining 40 EC in the first year from a list of various courses on topics ranging from approaches to language variation and language change to more disciplinary courses in syntax, phonology, semantics and phonetics or courses about the linguistics of individual languages. In addition, numerous conferences, workshops and lecture series are organised by LUCL, and all students are encouraged to attend.

In the third semester, you are encouraged to take further courses from this broad range, and are further expected to follow (at least) two or three short research seminars in which researchers talk about their current research. In the fourth and last semester you write a thesis under supervision of one of the LUCL Professors, who can also guide you towards a submission for a PhD Position, if that is what you want.


  • A BA-degree with a relevant specialisation and good results from a recognised university;

  • IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL 600/250 for non-native speakers of English.

Selection takes place by considering not only the final mark for the Bachelor’s thesis and the level of command of the English language, but several other aspects as well. Important factors are motivation and eagerness to carry out scientific research, as should be demonstrated in the documents required for the admission procedure and/or interview with the candidate.


All students admitted to the programme participate in a common set of courses providing them with the necessary foundations for further training and research, through confrontation with research methods and results in different approaches to linguistic diversity, presented by specialists in the field. By choosing a particular composition of courses within this common framework, a student may opt for an established or personalised study track, also aimed at a specific type of career. Tracks may also be characterised by special emphasis on the combination of studied languages.

Requirements for Graduation

In order to graduate, students must have completed 90 EC worth of courses and have written a Research Master’s thesis. The thesis needs to be 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). It must show that the student is capable of analysing existing literature in a critical manner, and of conducting independent research. Moreover, this process must be recorded in an academically sound report. A research master’s thesis is worth 30 EC. It should consist of max. 30,000 words.

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