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MPhil in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics

Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics

 

MPhil in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics by Advanced Study

University of Cambridge

The MPhil by Advanced Study programme is for students who already hold a BA degree in Linguistics (or at least whose undergraduate degree includes a significant element of linguistics) and who would like to further their knowledge of the subject by pursuing an advanced course in areas of their choice, with a substantial element of independent research. The balance of the course changes through the year from taught courses to research-based work. It allows great flexibility in combining areas and approaches. It provides for tailored combinations of work in any of the areas of theoretical, applied, historical, and descriptive linguistics, ranging for instance from formal semantics to experimental phonetics and phonology, from language acquisition to computational linguistics, and from Welsh syntax to the history of linguistics in France. A piece of work may have as its focus, for example, the development of an argument in syntactic or semantic theory, the description of some aspect of a language or its use, the psycholinguistic testing of alternative linguistic analyses, the application of linguistic theory to the history of a language or languages, or the acoustic description of sound systems. The various pieces of work may relate to any language or combination of languages subject to adequate advice and facilities being available for the topic in question. Some students may wish to specialise and opt for a 'Pathway' relating to a particular subject area, language, or language family.

Applicants may find it useful to look at the staff research interests, and at those of others in the Faculty with interests in linguistics, to find out more about potential supervisors in their fields of interest.

Although the MPhil by Advanced Study contains a taught component in the first term of the course, it is intended for students who already have an extensive background in Linguistics. It is not intended as a conversion course. Beginners in linguistics are advised not to apply. Occasionally students with a degree in a neighbouring discipline (for example psychology or philosophy) are considered for acceptance but they have to demonstrate familiarity with concepts, problems and theories in theoretical and applied linguistics that makes them eligible on a par with other applicants.

Note that this is a nine-month course, lasting from October until June, and as a result it is quite intensive. Therefore there is no time or provision for improving one’s proficiency in English. We only accept candidates whose command of English is already excellent at the time of application in order to ensure that students can follow advanced lectures, often using specialist terminology, and formulate well-expressed, sophisticated arguments in their written work. The language test requirements stated in the eligibility criteria are the absolute minimum and are not negotiable. They must be met in full before admission to the course.

Michaelmas Term

In the first two months (Michaelmas Term - October to December) there is instruction through lectures. In addition to a minimum of four selected introductory taught courses, all students are required to participate in a General Linguistics Seminar and follow a course in research methods (including  a statistics course) to acquire skills needed for research as well as  'transferable' skills. Beyond that, each student will follow their own 'study plan' which allows for the development of the student’s individual interests, needs, and strengths. At the start of the course the student, with advice if needed from the Director of the MPhil and subject specialists, draws up a study plan for the Michaelmas and Lent Terms (October to March) which is approved by the MPhil director.

Assessment essays are written in Michaelmas Term and over the Christmas vacation, based on the Michaelmas taught courses.

By default, the Course Director will initially act as supervisor, but once a thesis topic has been chosen in the Lent Term, a subject specialist will be appointed.

Lent Term

In the Lent Term students participate in a minimum of two research seminars. Usually the Lent Term seminars build on courses which have been followed in Michaelmas Term. 

One of the Lent research seminars will normally relate to the thesis, and the other is assessed by an oral presentation (which provides an opportunity to develop communication skills). A proposed title and summary for the 20,000 word thesis, formulated in discussion with the supervisor, must be submitted in mid-February, and this will be subject to approval by the Linguistics Section, the supervisor, and the Faculty's Degree Committee. 

 

Easter Term

Because seminars finish at the end of Lent Term, students can then devote themselves full-time to research for the thesis during the Easter vacation and the Easter Term (April to June). The thesis demands independent study under the guidance of the supervisor and will involve a substantial piece of original research, understood as either empirical work (for example corpus-based, involving creation of databases, designing and carrying out experiments, and so on) or developing a theoretical argument or a combination of the two. The thesis is submitted on the seventh Thursday of Easter Full Term (early June), and about two to three weeks later there may be an oral examination on the thesis at the discretion of the examiners.

 

 

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