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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; two Topics courses, each worth 5 EC, these short, current-research-oriented courses change every year; 10 EC worth of LOT credits and two courses from the list below with an extra requirement, see Tab Extra Requirement

The remaining credits can be obtained in several ways:

  • The students can choose courses from among the courses offered by all the specialisations within Linguistics MA (NB: Course admission requirements must be met). See the Tab Electives

  • Students can take courses offered within LOT Summer/Winter Schools.

  • The students can also select other linguistic courses within other Master's programmes in Leiden. You may search for such courses in this e-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 Linguistics (research). Participation in courses of a lower level, upgraded by means of additional advanced-level assignments/papers, may also be an option. Please discuss this in advance with the Coordinator of Studies Else van Dijk.

  • 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 of Studies Else van Dijk.

  • 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.

  • Another option is to follow an internship (10 or 20 EC). For more information, please contact the Coordinator of Studies Else van Dijk.

First year

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2
Core: Research Methods in Linguistics 10
Core: Samples of Linguistic Structure 10

Obligatory courses

Topics in Linguistics

Select two courses:

Topics in Linguistics A: Sign Linguistics 5
Topics in Linguistics B: Academic Skills for Linguists 5
Topics in Linguistics C: Code Switching 5
Topics in Linguistics D: Introduction to quantitative analysis and programming in R for linguists 5

Research school electives: select from 10 EC courses offered by LOT

LOT Summer School/Winter School 10

Electives: Select courses from any of the track courses in the MA Linguistics (see tab Electives)

and/or select the following course:

Corpus Lexicography 10

Second year

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Thesis and Courses

In the second year students write their Linguistics (research) Thesis and they choose from the following courses or from any of the track courses in Linguistics MA (see tab Electives)

Topics in Linguistics

Topics in Linguistics A: Sign Linguistics 5
Topics in Linguistics B: Academic Skills for Linguists 5
Topics in Linguistics C: Code Switching 5
Topics in Linguistics D: Introduction to quantitative analysis and programming in R for linguists 5

Research school electives: select from 10 EC courses offered by LOT

LOT Summer School/Winter School 10

Electives: Select courses from any of the track courses in the MA Linguistics (see tab Electives)

and/or select the following course:

Linguistics (research) Thesis 30
Corpus Lexicography 10


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 and Experimental Linguistics
Linguistics: Translation in Theory and Practice

Extra Requirement

Extra requirement research master Linguistics


Since the academic year 2014-2015 there has been an extra requirement for research master students in Linguistics. The goal of this extra requirement is twofold:
(i) To distinguish the programme of the research master from the programme of the regular (one-year) master.
(ii) To train the research master students in academic skills, more particularly writing an academic paper and reflecting on research methodology.

What is the extra requirement?

Each student has to follow two linguistics courses of each 10 EC (20 EC in total) from the regular (one year) Master's Linguistics Programme within Leiden, or from other regular (one year) Master's programmes at the Faculty of Humanities in Leiden that offer linguistics courses (Russian Studies, Asian Studies, etc.) with an extra requirement:

The first extra requirement is that the student writes a final paper in the form of an academic article (including the number of pages/words that is customary within the field). The form of the article will be determined by the lecturer of the class, who will use the format of an academic article of his/her own linguistic subdiscipline.
A possible structure could be:

  • Title

  • Abstract

  • Key words

  • Introduction (with research question)

  • Literature review (or: Background, Theoretical framework)

  • Methods/methodology

  • Results

  • Conclusion

  • References

The second extra requirement is that the student pays extra attention to methodology of the research. This means, for example, that the student should reflect on why a particular methodology is chosen instead of another one, and what the implications are of choosing for a particular methodology.

What is the procedure?

  • The student is responsible for choosing two ‘upgraded’ courses during the course of his/her study.

  • Courses where there is no final paper but another type of examination (for example a written exam or an oral exam) are not eligible for an ‘upgrade’.

  • In normal cases the student follows these two courses in the first year of his/her programme.

  • At the beginning of the class the student lets the lecturer know that he/she want to follow the course with an extra requirement.

  • The lecturer will let the student know how the extra requirement should be interpreted for the course in question (for example the format of an academic article).

  • In grading the paper, the lecturer takes into account whether the extra requirement has been met and in what way.

  • After the paper is graded, the lecturer notifies the Education Administration Office van Wijkplaats ( about whether the student has passed the exam and about the grade (for this, the office uses is a separate uSis-code).

Course exemption

  • Exemption for the extra requirement is only possible in the case of a course for the same amount of EC that is specifically designed for research master students in linguistics (for example a course from another research master linguistics in the Netherlands).

  • The student asks the Board of Examiners in advance whether he/she is eligible for exemption.

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.


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 Linguistics (research) follow two core courses. The first core course is Research Methods in Linguistics.
In the core course Samples of Linguistic Structure, you get an overview of the grammar of typically four or five languages from different language families. This course gives you a broad overview of language variation – the focus point of linguistic research in Leiden. All students should take two Topics courses during their programme and are advised to take at least one, preferably two of these courses in their first year.

You can choose the remaining 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. Two of the courses taken during the programme have an extra requirement, to be discussed with the lecturer for the course. In addition, numerous conferences, workshops and lecture series are organised by LUCL and all students are encouraged to attend. Students should also do 10 EC worth of courses from the LOT summer/winter schools.

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 this is what you wish.


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

  • Good grades comparable with an average mark of at least 7.5 (Dutch grading system) for the entire bachelor’s programme, and a grade for the bachelor’s thesis of an 8 or higher;

  • Sufficient command of English (IELTS 7.0, TOEFL 100 (internet-based) or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE); for the ‘speaking’ and ‘writing’ components a minimum score of IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL22 is required)

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.

Also see: Course and Examination Regulations (OER)