Linguistics PhD

Surrey offers an exceptional environment for postgraduates to carry out linguistic research alongside academics who are world-leaders in their fields.

Scott Collier PhD Linguistics

Why choose this course?

Research in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics at the University of Surrey focuses on the consequences linguistic diversity has for developing theories of language structure and use.

The languages and linguistic settings researched cover the entire globe, with specialists documenting and describing the structure and use of familiar and less familiar languages spoken in the Pacific, Asia, the Caucasus, Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Two main streams of postgraduate research in Linguistics are conducted with the School of Literature and Languages. These are characterised by their focus on the grammatical structure of languages (Theoretical, Descriptive and Typological Linguistics) or the ways in which language-related research can have practical applications (Applied Linguistics).

What you will study

Theoretical, Descriptive and Typological Linguistics

Postgraduates studying Theoretical, Descriptive and Typological Linguistics benefit from membership of a community of researchers in the Surrey Morphology Group working on a variety of topics related to linguistic diversity and its consequences for the analysis of grammatical systems.

Regular presentations are made by Group members, including PhD students, for the purposes of feedback on work in progress or conference preparation.

We regularly organise workshops and conferences linked to research projects undertaken in the Group, providing opportunities for you to network with a wide range of scholars and be exposed to a variety of empirically motivated approaches to linguistics.

Key research areas include:

  • Theoretical morphology (including Network Morphology and Paradigm Function Morphology)
  • Morphological interfaces
  • Linguistic typology (including Canonical Typology)
  • Language Documentation and Description (including Austronesian, Nakh-Daghestanian, Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan, Oto-Manguean, Papuan, Slavonic, Tibeto-Burman languages)
Applied linguistics

The research environment in Applied Linguistics provides postgraduate students with the skills and opportunities to explore how linguistic research can be applied in commercial and non-commercial settings, through examination of communication in contemporary communicative contexts resulting from globalisation and new technologies.

Research in this domain has concentrated on the enactment and challenges of intercultural communication in contemporary for profit commercial settings resulting from globalisation, with a view to illuminating best business practices.

The main impact from research conducted in such environments has translated into a tailor-made consultancy and the subsequent re-evaluation and re-deployment of (human) resources by international companies.

Key research areas in Applied Linguistics include:

  • Intercultural communication in commercial and non-commercial settings
  • Interlanguage intercultural pragmatics
  • Face management and (im)politeness
  • Ethnolinguistic minorities
  • Language ideologies and practices in transnational areas
  • Corpora and language learning
  • Corpus-based lexicography

Programme Structure

At the core of our PhD programmes are the regular meetings that you will have with your supervisors. For us, writing is key to understanding and developing new perspectives: you will be submitting written work from the very start.

In the first year, you will – with the guidance and support of your supervisors– lay the foundations of your research by refining your research proposal, engaging with the literature and planning the structure of your work, based on an agreed timetable.

Throughout your studies, we are committed to thinking about your long-term career as well as your time at the University.

Key to the planning of your work is training in transferable skills (for example, giving presentations and managing your time). You will gradually learn to work more independently as you progress into your second and third years, or the equivalent for part-time students. Your supervisors will guide you on how to present at conferences and the process of getting published.

Surrey Morphology Group

The Surrey Morphology Group (SMG) is a world-renowned linguistic research centre dedicated to the typological, theoretical and descriptive analysis of grammatical systems. The Group provides a vibrant, supportive setting for PhD research as part of a wider research network.

This is demonstrated by:

  • The string of ‘outstanding’ evaluations of our projects
  • The regular flow of international visiting academics
  • The inspiring mix of established academics and talented postdoctoral researchers at various stages in their careers
  • Bright postgraduate students, writing theses on topics related to the research projects

SMG research focuses on the consequences linguistic diversity has for developing theories of language and the role this plays in understanding the human mind.

Much of our work concerns the morphological component of grammar; the rules and restrictions that constrain what makes a possible word, the complex relationships between forms of the same word and the ways in which morphology interfaces with other components of grammar.


Funding for PhD research in Linguistics or Applied Linguistics in the School of Literature and Languages is available from two main UK sources: the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Studentships.

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Studentships (maintenance and fees for 3 years for a full-time student or 5 years for a part-time student) are available for UK students through the TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership.

Overseas students are not eligible for TECHNE Scholarships, and EU students are eligible for fees but not maintenance.

The Faculty Studentship Programme fully funds a number of three-year studentships for top-quality students, covering tuition fees at the Home/EU rate and maintenance at current research-council rates for full-time or part-time study.

Please see the Faculty studentships webpage for further information.

Related research areas

Related departments/schools

Course facts

Qualification Study mode Course length Start date
PhD Full-time 30-48 months October, January, April, July
PhD Part-time 60–96 months October, January, April, July

Entry Requirements

A good first degree (a minimum 2.1 or equivalent) and an MA in a topic relevant to Linguistics or Applied Linguistics. In exceptional cases, students with a good first degree will be considered. Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, are subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

Non-native speakers of English will normally be required to have IELTS 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category and at least 7.0 in the writing component. Please note, applications will only be considered once they have met this requirement. 

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.


Study mode UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time £4195 £16,000
Part-time £2100 £8,000

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2017/18 only. All fees are subject to annual review.

Overseas students applying for 2017 entry should please note that annual fees will rise by four per cent (rounded up to the nearest £100) for each year of study.

A complete list of all fees for our research programmes

Doctoral College

Our Doctoral College supports researcher excellence and employability across the doctoral and early career stages of the researcher journey.

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Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees.

The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).

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