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Department of Linguistics

Key Facts

  • Long and distinguished tradition in leading in-depth study of African, Asian and Middle Eastern languages and the contexts in which they are used
  • Complementary thematic and regional expertise among staff, leading to the potential of original research synergies
  • We offer a BA programme with a wide range of joint degrees, five postgraduate taught MAs with several pathways, and the PhD in Linguistics

Linguistics Department in UK top 10 for research of world-leading quality

18 December 2014: The Department is now in the top ten nationally for its research output of world-leading quality and for the vitality of its research environment. Find out more...

Our strengths

The department is a centre for linguistic study in an unparalleled range of languages, many of which we are documenting for the first time. They include languages of Africa, the Near and Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia, Central Asia, Australia, the Pacific, and Siberia. The department has close academic ties to the rest of our faculty, the Departments of Africa, China and Inner Asia, Japan and Korea, the Near and Middle East, South Asia, and South East Asia, as well as the Language Centre.

The research interests of members of staff cover a wide range of theoretical and applied aspects of linguistics, including syntax, phonology, semantics, information structure, sociolinguistics, historical linguistics, linguistic typology, language documentation and description, language contact and multilingualism, language support and revitalisation, language archiving, lexicography, language pedagogy, translation studies, and the studies of individual languages and language families.

Facts and Figures

  • 91% satisfaction for teaching (NSS 2012/13).
  • Excellent staff/student ratio and small class sizes
  • Currently 52 UG students and 63 Masters students
  • 10 to 12 research students from various parts of the world join the department each year
  • Top ten nationally for our research output of world-leading quality and for the vitality of our research environment (REF 2014)
  • A seminar series, frequent workshops and regular conferences with high-calibre international participation
  • Several research and reading groups for students and staff, collaborative activities with other linguistics departments in the south of England and other University of London colleges.
  • Frequent invited lectures and academic visitors, in particular from Africa and Asia
  • Easy access to excellent specialist library holdings and endangered languages archive
  • The department publishes two journals, Language Documentation and Description and SOAS Working Papers in Linguistics.

Research Student Profile

Birgul Yilmmaz

My main reason for coming to SOAS was that this was the only place where there was a specialist who could supervise my thesis. I enjoy the student atmosphere here. The Students’ Union bar and café is cozy and friendly and I’ve enjoyed getting involved in the knitting for peace club. Also I have been impressed by the array of specialists in the department of Linguistics.

Birgul Yilmmaz, PhD in Linguistics

Read Birgul's full assessment ...

Contact us

Our Head of Department says:

Irina Nikolaeva

In our languages lies our accumulated wisdom. Each language is a unique expression of the human experience of the world because it embodies information about the culture of its speakers and the knowledge acquired by previous generations. Thus, linguistic diversity constitutes one of the greatest treasures of humanity, an enormous storehouse of our cumulative knowledge of the universe. As a famous linguist once said, each time a language is lost it is “like dropping a bomb on the Louvre”.

Many scholars also believe that by studying various languages we can investigate the complexity and creative potential of the human mind. Exploring similarities and differences between languages helps us to comprehend more fully how our brain works, and ultimately what it means to be human.

The Department of Linguistics at SOAS was founded in 1932 as the first department of general linguistics in Great Britain. But we are not only the first: we are unique in this country, and perhaps internationally, because the variety of languages studied in our department is not comparable to any other linguistics department in the world. If you are fascinated by languages please do join one of our degree programmes!

Undergraduate Student Profile

Lialin Rotem-Stibbe

I found that studying linguistics at SOAS has opened my eyes to a whole world of languages which can sometimes be overlooked in a Western education. I think the variety at SOAS is one of it’s strongest aspects – simply being a student at SOAS has taught me a lot about cultures and has given me the opportunity to meet so many great people.

Lialin Rotem-Stibbe, BA Linguistics

Read Lialin's full assessment ...


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