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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

PhD programme

Our PhD programme in Linguistics attracts outstanding scholars, and competition for places and for funding is at the highest level. PhD students work closely with academic staff at the very forefront of the discipline and are part of a well-resourced, intellectually stimulating, friendly and supportive environment.

In order to register your interest in our PhD Programme, and ensure we offer you the best advice about supervisory possibilities, and funding opportunities, please complete our Applicant Query Form. We'll then know to look out for your application, and be able to coordinate our decision making. Applicants to the PhD Programme who don't engage early with the Applicant Query Process are rarely successful in obtaining an offer.

Structure of PhD Programme

The programme is normally a 3-year research only PhD programme (i.e., there is no mandatory coursework component). A few ESRC-funded students will pursue a 1+3 programme, which includes an MRes training year. All students are expected to participate in regular training and research activities organised by the department. Students also have the opportunity to present their ongoing research to the department in a variety of both formal and informal settings. Our research students are an integral part of our research culture. We currently have 28 PhD students who help to make QMUL Linguistics a vibrant research community.

Some of our regular research and training events include:

    • Advanced Core Training in Linguistics – graduate-level coursework in generative linguistics offered in conjunction with UCL, Cambridge, Oxford, Kent and SOAS
    • Cross-London Sociolinguistics Seminar – graduate-level training workshop in sociolinguistics offered in conjunction with King's, Birkbeck and the UCL Institute of Education
    • London Interdisciplinary Social Science Core and Advanced Research Training – graduate-level coursework and training workshops organised via our ESRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership
    • Bi-weekly readings groups - in sociolinguistics, laboratory linguistics, and syntax/semantics
    • Postgraduate Mini-Conferences – half-day events during the year where current PhD students present their ongoing research
    • Departmental Seminar series – world-leading researchers are invited to give talks and meet with students 6 times a year
    • Linglunches – an informal talk series held throughout the year for QMUL staff, students and visitors to present their work-in-progress
    • In-house training events and workshops - jointly organised and run by students and staff, we offer workshops on topics including using software tools (LaTeX, R, PsychoPy), research methods (corpus linguistics, ELAN), academic skills (abstract writing, publishing) and advanced research topics (e.g. DP-structure, prosody). Have a look at our events page to keep track of offered training sessions.

Students can also take advantage of professional training events offered by the QMUL Academic Development Unit.

The Linguistics Research Centre provides dedicated working space for PhD Students and Post-Docs. It is situated in the third floor of the Queen's Building. For a full map including a legend, click here.

Application procedure

Before submitting a formal application, potential applicants are very strongly advised to complete the Applicant Query Form. Generally, only applicants who have completed the Query Form, and thus have documented their engagement with potential supervisors, are offered places in the PhD Program. The form also helps to determine whether there are any funding awards that may be suitable for you.

All applicants, regardless of funding prospects, must apply  for their place at QMUL via the online portal.   Please check the portal for application requirements and this year’s deadline.

Funding Competitions and Deadlines

Applicants to our PhD programmes may be eligible for competitive funding awards managed by the university. If you wish to be considered for one of our funded studentships, you must apply before the end of January for admission the following September. For September entry, the application deadline for most awards is mid January. Students hoping to be competitive for funding awards should allow time to substantially revise their initial proposals following feedback from their potential supervisor(s). This means initial contact should be made before December of the year preceding the intended start date.

Applicants are eligible to compete for the following QMUL-managed awards:

  • QMUL Principal's Postgraduate Research Studentships: 3 years full fees + living stipend, open to residents/nationals of all countries.

  • Economic and Social Research Council Studentship (as part of the London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership): either 3 years full fees + living stipend (PhD only) or 4 years full fees + living stipend (MRes + PhD), nationality and residency restrictions apply (contact department for details).

    Note that applicants for this award must apply both to the department for acceptance and to the LISS-DTP for the studentship competition by the deadline.

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council Studentship (as part of the London Arts and Humanities Partnership): 3 years full fees + living stipend (PhD only) nationality and residency restrictions apply (contact department for details).

    Note that applicants for this award must apply both to the department for acceptance and to the LAHP for the studentship competition by the deadline.

  • QMUL Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholarships (as part of the Mobile People programme): 3 years full fees + living stipend, open to nationals of all countries.

  • China Scholarship Council Scholarships: 4 years full fees + living stipend, nationality and sponsorship restrictions apply (contact department for details)

    Note that applicants must first apply to the department for acceptance and nomination for a CSC award. If successful, applicants then apply directly to the CSC in March/April.

In addition to the competitions named above, students may also be eligible for external PhD funding competitions (including Commonwealth Scholarships and those offered by other national funding agencies. See here for further information). 

Entry requirements

Minimum entry requirements for our PhD programmes are:

  • a Bachelor's degree (or international equivalent) in Linguistics or a related subject, with a minimum final degree classification of 2.1 (or international equivalent)
  • a Master's degree (or international equivalent) in Linguistics or a related subject, with a minimum final degree classification of Merit (or international equivalent)
  • proof of proficiency in academic English (e.g., minimum IELTS 7.0, with a minimum of 7.0 in writing), where applicable
  • a compelling research proposal that closely aligns with the research interests and expertise of staff in the department
  • capacity to conduct independent and original PhD-level research (as evidenced by a statement of purpose and letters of reference)

Minimum entry requirements for the combined MRes and PhD programme are:

  • either a Bachelor's degree (or international equivalent) in Linguistics with a final degree classification of 1 (or international equivalent) or a Master's degree (or international equivalent) in Linguistics or a related subject with a minimum final degree classification of Merit (or international equivalent)
  • other requirements as for the PhD programme above

For questions about whether your qualifications match our requirements, contact Dr Linnaea Stockall, Director of Postgraduate Studies for Linguistics.


It is essential to contact a potential supervisor to discuss your proposed PhD project before you apply for admission. We normally do not accept students who have not yet secured agreement from a potential supervisor. If you are unsure who may be an appropriate supervisor for your project, have a look at the available supervisors below and/or contact

Staff currently available to supervise PhD students include:

  • Professor David Adger
    Syntactic theory, interfaces in grammar, syntactic variation
  • Professor Hagit Borer
    comparative syntax, morphosyntax and language acquisition
  • Dr Adam Chong
    Phonology, phonetics, prosody, phonological learning
  • Dr Colleen Cotter
    Sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, discourse analysis, language of news media, endangered languages
  • Professor Daniel Harbour
    morphosemantics, endangered languages, writing systems, evolution of language, number systems, formal features
  • Dr Sophie Holmes-Elliott
    Language variation and change, sociophonetics, child language, language and gender, stance and style, bidialectalism
  • Dr Esther de Leeuw
    Multilingualism, bilingualism, L1 attrition, L2 acquisition, executive control, phonetics, phonology, sociophonetics, prosody
  • Dr Agnieszka Lyons
    discursive construction of identity and physicality, electronically mediated communication, multimodal discourse analysis, mediated discourse analysis, researcher reflexivity, ethics in social media research
  • Dr Luisa Martí
    Semantics and its interfaces with morpho-syntax and pragmatics
  • Dr Kathleen McCarthy
    Phonetics, multilingualism, language acquisition, speech processing, neurolinguistics
  • Professor Leigh Oakes
    Language policy and planning; language and nationalism/national identity; language ideologies; language attitudes; French sociolinguistics
  • Dr Hazel Pearson
    Formal and experimental semantics and pragmatics; philosophy of language
  • Professor Devyani Sharma 
    Sociolinguistics, new Englishes, bilingualism; syntactic variation; syntax and typology
  • Dr Linnaea Stockall
    Psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, morphology, event semantics
  • Dr Coppe van Urk
    syntax, understudied languages

The application

How to Apply

Formal application is made via the QMUL online system. All application forms are available at this page. Please scroll down the list of buttons to find the relevant PhD in Linguistics form for your application. 

Once you have applied online, we also encourage applicants to send a complete zip archive of their application dossier to the Director of Graduate Studies for Linguistics. This helps to ensure that applications are processed in as timely a fashion as possible.

Further information

If you have questions about the content of our PhD programme please contact:

Dr Sophie Holmes-Elliott

Director of Postgraduate Studies for Linguistics


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