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Linguistics study options

03 November 2023

Linguistics studies focus on the structure, functions, and contexts of the use of English. UC students learn about the sound systems and grammatical systems of English, and how English varies in different historical, geographical, and social contexts. Check out linguistics study options at UC.


Linguistics is not taught in schools, so no specific background is needed. The main requirements are curiosity and a desire to improve one's ability to think and express oneself clearly. Some knowledge of a language or languages other than English is desirable but not essential.

The Certificate in Arts (CertArts) is designed for you if you want to study at university level without having to commit to several years of study. It is also an option if you want to take a few courses for interest or study part-time.

To find out more see the Qualifications webpages, or contact one of our staff members.

By the end of a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics you will have acquired knowledge of the structure, functions and contexts of use of English. You will know about the sound systems and grammatical systems of English, and you will understand how English varies in different historical, geographical and social contexts.

Skill development

Linguistics provides a foundation for careers which require advanced communication skills and/or a detailed understanding of how English works, such as teaching, management, marketing, the media, and publishing.

The goals of the major in Linguistics are to equip students with knowledge of:

  • The structure of the English Language, including its sound systems and its grammatical systems.
  • The history of English, including the linguistic changes that took place in the transition from Old English to Middle English to Modern English.
  • The history of English in New Zealand, including knowledge of what early New Zealand English was like, and how it has changed over time.
  • The social contexts of English across the world, including how it varies according to different geographical and social settings.


Find out more about structuring your major in Linguistics, or read about our BA specialisation in Language, Brain and Behaviour


The Graduate Diploma in Arts offers people who hold a bachelors degree in a major in an unrelated area the opportunity to study arts in-depth, choosing from over 30 subjects.

The GradDipArts is designed for graduates seeking to qualify for entry to postgraduate qualifications in arts, to change career direction, or to extend or upgrade their existing qualifications.

Find out more about the Graduate Diploma in Arts on our Qualifications webpages or contact a staff member for advice.

Honours is intended for people who already have a bachelor’s degree with a major in Linguistics. It is an extension of undergraduate study and an introduction to more advanced research.


Size and duration

90 points of 400/600 level courses, 30 points research project; 2 semesters full time. Part time study is also available.


Course details

The Linguistics Honours year is a taught programme with a research focus. It connects to and extends the work covered in Linguistics classes at undergraduate level. You will discuss the latest research in the field, and you will plan and carry out your own research in a small project, both by working individually and in collaboration with staff and other students.

Honours students are a very important part of the research culture of our department, and can often be found in our labs even when out of classes, working on their honours research and also on other projects. Honours students are regularly employed as research assistants on a wide range of projects, and so get the opportunity to enhance their research skills and get paid while doing so.

During your honours year, you will work on an individual research project (which we call LING480: Research Essay). After some classes focusing on research design and methodology, you will work closely with a supervisor or a small supervisory team and produce a research report on a linguistics topic of your choosing. As well as this, you choose three out of the four taught courses listed below:

Find out more about Honours in Linguistics.

If you have questions about Honours in Linguistics please contact the Linguistics Subject Coordinator.


Master of Linguistics (MLING)

The Master of Linguistics (MLING) is intended for people who already have a bachelor’s degree with a major in Linguistics (or who have a bachelor’s degree in a different subject and who have completed a qualifying paper in Linguistics). The MLING is a one-year Masters level qualification in which students extend their undergraduate study and carry out a substantial research project. Size and duration: 90 points of 400/600 level courses, 90 points research project; 12 months full time. Part time study is also available.

Find out more about the Master of Linguistics degree.


Master of Arts

The MA Thesis LING690 is intended for people who already have BA (Honours) in Linguistics. Students carry out a substantial research project with guidance from a supervisor. There are no taught courses on this programme. Size and duration: 120 points research project; 1-2 years full time. Candidates can start at any time throughout the year.


Entry requirements

The prerequisite for enrolment for an MA in Linguistics is a BA(Hons) in Linguistics. A first-class or upper second-class Honours grade will normally be required.


Course structure

The Masters thesis is an original research project, normally not more than 40,000 words in length. Full-time enrolment for a Masters by thesis is for a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years. Candidates in Linguistics are encouraged to plan to complete the thesis within two years.


Identifying a topic

Prospective Masters and PhD candidates should identify a thesis topic in consultation with the prospective supervisor and prepare a preliminary research proposal. The proposal should identify the issue to be addressed, with a brief statement of how the proposed research relates to existing findings, outline the proposed research method, including an indication of the timetable for the project, and include a select bibliography.

Linguistics staff have internationally recognised expertise in syntax and lexis, word formation, oral formulaic theory, morphology, language change, the origin and evolution of language, discourse analysis, grammaticalisation, sociolinguistic theory, sociophonetics, laboratory phonology, and semantics.

For further details, see the pages of the individual staff members and their UC Research Profile.

The proposal should then be submitted to the Head of Department for approval prior to enrolment.

Masters in Linguistics

Download (application/pdf, 150 KB)


Linguistics MA students' research profiles


Linguistics PhD students' research profiles
  • Mohammed Dagamseh - Language maintenance, Shift and Variation among Arabic Jordanian Immigrants in Christchurch/ New Zealand
  • Ahmad S. Haider - Corpus Based Critical Discourse Analysis of “Arab Spring” in Media.
  • Hasliza Abd Halim
  • Matthias Heyne - The Influence of First Language on playing Brass Instruments
  • Dan Jiao - Non-canonical uses of personal pronouns in modern Chinese and New Zealand English.
  • Jacqui Nokes
  • Ryan G. Podlubny - A cross-dialectal exploration of cue weighting in speech perception and production: Contrasting western Canadian English and New Zealand Pākehā English
  • Darcy Rose - Effects of morphological predictability on the acoustics of short morphemes
  • Mineko Shirakawa - The impact of language internal and external factors on simultaneous bilingual acquisition of Japanese in Japanese-Brazilian Portuguese bilingual children.
  • Keyi Sun - Language embodiment and language in body movement: testing temporal metaphor across different language speakers.
  • Xuan Wang - A Sociophonetic Account of L-words in Chinese Jin Dialect
  • Theses from past students

A number of scholarships are available to students of Linguistics.

Please visit the UC Scholarships homepage to search the scholarships database and to find the support you're eligible for.

University of Canterbury Scholarships for Masters and Doctoral candidates

The University awards scholarships for Masters and Doctoral candidates. The scholarships are awarded on a competitive basis in two rounds per year, with application deadlines in mid-May and mid-October.

To provide departmental endorsement of an application for a scholarship, the Head of Department requires a brief outline of the intended research topic and approval of the topic from the main supervisor. Please get in touch with individual staff members who might be able to supervise your topic to pursue this further. See the staff page for further information about research interests.


Other sources of funding

The New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour occasionally has PhD scholarship vacancies. Check the NZILBB website for further details.

More information

Explore the full list of courses offered in Linguistics

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