1 year full time, 2 years part time
Starts September 2017

Applied Linguistics

Our MA focuses on the implications and applications of linguistic ideas. You’ll explore key concepts in linguistic theory and the application of these theoretical perspectives in fields such as:

  • language variation and change
  • discourse analysis concerning the language of public and private domains
  • intercultural communication.

You'll be trained in a range of current methodologies for linguistic analysis and will plan and execute original, data-driven research. You’ll become an active member of a vibrant scholarly community and attend talks and numerous events.

Our course prepares you to advance your career in a language-related profession, or to undertake a research degree.

“What stands out about my MA is the multicultural learning environment in which different languages and experiences are brought into the discussion.” Daniel Manning
Applied Linguistics MA

Key facts

  • Our research quality in English and Drama was ranked in the top 10 in the UK in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF).
  • English at Sussex is ranked in the top 15 in the UK (The Guardian University Guide 2017The Complete University Guide 2018 and The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017) and in the top 100 in the world in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017.
  • You will work with a close-knit team of active and dynamic researchers who are committed to teaching and your intellectual growth, and will study with colleagues from many parts of the world.

How will I study?

You’ll study taught modules in the autumn and spring terms. There are core modules and options, depending on your prior studies in linguistics and your interests. In the summer term, you work on your supervised dissertation.

You are assessed by:

  • term papers 
  • language analysis papers 
  • a research proposal 
  • a 10,000-word dissertation.

You might also be interested in the English Language Teaching (ELT) MA. On some modules, you may be taught together with students from this course.

Full-time and part-time study

Choose to study this course full time or part time, to fit around your work and family life. Modules for the full-time course are listed below.

For details about the part-time course, contact us at

What will I study?

  • Module list

    Core modules

    Core modules are taken by all students on the course. They give you a solid grounding in your chosen subject and prepare you to explore the topics that interest you most.

    • Researching Language in Use

      15 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      This module introduces students to the practice of linguistic research. A diverse range of issues regarding the development of a research question, methodology and argumentation are explored through the topical theme of 'language in use'. On this module, you will read works on the theme of 'language in use' that exemplify good practice in research and argumentation, and will critically reflect upon and discuss methodologies and practices used in these and other works. You will receive lectures and practical workshop training on the following:

      * accessing linguistic materials and using them appropriately
      * identifying tractable research questions
      * interpreting research findings
      * linguistic field methods (ethnographic and language structure)
      * quantitative research methods (survey & experiment design)
      * structuring a linguistic argument
      * ethical considerations in linguistic research
      * self- and peer- evaluation

      In order to put these skills into practice, you will complete assessed research exercises.

    • Research Proposal (Applied Linguistics)

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This module follows on from Researching Language in Use. In this module you will a)identify an interesting project, b)identify appropriate research questions and c)identify an appropriate methodology. By the end of the module you will have identified your dissertation topic and written a proposal, on the basis of which you will be assigned a supervisor. You will be supported by means of regular seminars, peer-group editing and support sessions, and by special skills workshops as needed (for example, on statistics, phonetics software, using MS-Word effectively), and by Study Direct discussions.

    • Dissertation (Applied Linguistics)

      30 credits
      Summer Teaching, Year 1

      For the dissertation, you will identify a particular research topic. Employing appropriate theoretical, methodological and empirical approaches from linguistics, you will investigate the phenomenon in question. The study will be written up as a 10,000 word dissertation. You will be assigned a supervisor knowledgeable in the area being investigated and work with the supervisor in tutorial sessions during the research period.


    Alongside your core modules, you can choose options to broaden your horizons and tailor your course to your interests.

    • Forensic Linguistics

      15 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      In this module we look at the interaction between linguistics and the law and more specifically we focus on the face-threatening strategies of deception, manipulation and aggression. This is a practical module in which we study the ways that linguistics can be applied in non-academic contexts. We start by examining the role of the linguist as an expert witness in the legal system and in this section we focus on the use of stylistics in investigating disputed authorship, for instance in missing person cases. We also examine and evaluate research into linguistic markers of deception.

      In the second part of the module we analyse the language used in the legal process with a particular focus on courtroom discourse and police interviews. You will visit a courtroom and report back on the language practices you observed. We will describe the norms of courtroom discourse with particular reference to the pragmatic and discourse features. Subsequently, we focus on the ways in which certain groups may be linguistically disadvantaged in that process and how they are, or could be, protected from discrimination.

      In the final part we briefly address the ways in which the law is applied to language, for instance in determining what counts as hate speech or libel.

    • Language Analysis

      30 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      On this module, you will introduced to the study of formal linguistics. The aim is to familiarise you with the main sub-branches of the discipline and relevant applications to language pedagogy. The following areas are covered:

      • sounds and sound patterns (phonetics and phonology) 
      • word and sentence structure (morphology, syntax)
      • linguistic meaning (semantics and pragmatics).

      Emphasis is placed on using the theories, methods and techniques from each of these sub-disciplines to examine real language data. You will carry out practical analysis of spoken and written texts. 

    • Language Variation

      30 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      This module provides you with an introduction to topics in and approaches to language variation, focussing primarily on regional and social variation.

      In the first part of the module discusses aspects of regional variation in terms of phonology (accents), grammar and lexicon. The second part introduces you to main aspects of social variation, namely social class, age, gender and ethnicity, and the means of analysing them. In the third part, you will cover fundamental theories of language change, both linguistic and sociolinguistic, looking at how variation within a speech community can lead to change in the following generations, and how regional variation is shaped by such change.

      While there will be a focus on variation in English, other languages will also be used for comparison and illustration, whenever appropriate.

    • Linguistic Typology

      15 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      Whaley (1997: 7) defines linguistic typology as 'the classification of languages or components of languages based on shared formal characteristics.' In this module, we investigate some of the structural similarities and differences between the languages of the world, focusing on the patterns that are found in grammar (morphology and syntax). Which features co-occur within a language? Why are some patterns common across languages and others rare? We explore the principles of research in language typology, including establishing representative language samples, and look at grammatical phenomena including basic word order, word structure, case systems, relative clauses, interrogatives and information structure.

    • Phonology

      15 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

    • Second Language Acquisition and Research

      30 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      On this module, you will compare theoretical perspectives on what is involved in language acquisition, as well as exploring some of the controversies that exist in the field and implications for second language teaching and learning. Theories of language learning and bilingualism are analysed and aspects of research methodology explored. Contemporary perspectives on SLA in relation to English as a global language in a multilingual world are also reviewed. In addition, you will take one of the Open Language Courses on offer, and reflect on your own learning processes and beliefs in connection the theoretical frameworks for SLA.

    • The Discourse of Social and Personal Identity

      15 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      The module presents the concept of identity as socially constructed, as communicatively produced and constantly negotiated and reinvented. The focus is on situated talk and especially narrative, although not exclusively, as social practice. The module is divided into two sections that aim to presents two facets of the identity issue. The first part revolves around the negotiation of personal identity in a number of different contexts, from courtroom testimony to negotiations in committee meetings (along the line of work by Gumperz and Goffman). It considers the issue of positioning of self and others especially through the use of deixis, time and space. This first section includes the consideration of some of the sociolinguistic literature on self-narratives in interaction and oral history in a number of social settings, from immigrant discourse to traumatic recollections. Discussion of some TV programmes revolving around personal stories will be included as an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the medium and the function of 'infotainment' on identity.

      The second part of the module focuses on the representation by others. It discusses the media representation of given communities and highlights the ideology that such representation construes in the readers' mind. Examples from case studies are the Islamic community in the UK press (Poole, 2002), the representation of countries at war, eg the Iraqis during the 2003 conflict (Haarman and Lombardo eds. 2008), the identity that some political parties offer to their constituency in TV interviews etc.

    • Child Language Acquisition

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      In this module, you explore how children learn their first language. 

      During the module we'll look at language data from children and their carers to investigate questions such as:

      • what processes are involved in learning language and learning to use it?
      • to what extent is language an innate faculty in humans?
      • does it matter how we talk to children or will they acquire good language skills regardless?
      • does one lose language-learning ability as one gets older?
      • is language learning dependent on general cognitive abilities or intelligence?
      • to what extent are language acquisition processes universal or language-specific?
    • Contemporary Stylistics: The discourse of film and drama

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      The module introduces you to the main issues and themes in the study of language and literature with specific reference to those narrative forms in which the viewers are actively involved as 'ratified overhearers'. These include film and drama in which the discourse reflects the typical double plane of communication between the characters in the story, on one level, and the external viewers on the other. The module revolves around the idea that theatre and film offer re-presentations of the world. In so doing they reorganise and recreate language, together with time and space, in respect of socio-cultural and media conventions and expectations. The module familiarises you with a number of approaches and practices in modern stylistics and explores such issues as characterisation, the relation between real-life and fictional talk, deixis and the construction of viewpoint and the notion of narrative. The module also discusses the concept of genre and focuses on the specific discursive representation within the confines of comedy, drama, horror and on what can be defined hybrid genres.

    • Discourse and Communication Analysis

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This courmodulese focuses on discourse analysis of spoken or written text in the widest sense. It will provide you with insight into methodological and ethical aspects of data collection. You will be introduced to observation and elicitation techniques as employed in dialectology and other branches of social linguistics, and to discourse transcription conventions.

    • Language and Culture in Intercultural Communication

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This module examines how cultural assumptions and values influence language and interactional style, and vice versa. In order to do so, we interrogate our own cultures: what do we consider to be polite or rude, natural or unnatural in communication with others? What values and habits shape our expectations of what communication is, what it is for, and what forms it should take? We are then in a position to explore the ways in which communicative behaviours can vary and be (mis)interpreted in intercultural situations.

      We consider the degree to which claims of universals in human interaction are tenable and the possibility of ‘intercultural competence’. Key areas of exploration will include linguistic relativity, individualism/communalism, context (high and low), interactional cues, face and politeness, time and relationships.

    • Language and Gender

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      In this module students explore the relationship between language and gender/ sexuality from a wide range of theoretical perspectives. Although the module mainly takes a linguistic perspective on the construct of gender by enabling students to draw on their knowledge of sociolinguistics, language change, and discourse analysis, it also provides students with an opportunity to discuss the construct of gender by exploring relevant areas of sociology, anthropology, ethnography, and fictional discourse (mainly in film and theatre). By the end of this module students will be able to draw on interdisciplinary approaches and employ traditional and modern methodologies (e.g. quantitative, interactional, and ethnographic) to critically assess key issues and controversies in language and gender studies.

    • World Englishes

      15 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      The module aims to address some of the current and significant issues concerning the growth and use of English around the world, the implications for pedagogy and teacher education. The increasingly international profile of the language, its learners and teaching contexts is reflected in the breadth of nationalities of students on the ELT course, studying, researching and working in this complex field. This area of English language teaching is attracting growing academic attention in terms of journal, book and conference publications, and raises challenging questions for both researchers and practitioners.


Postgraduate student Nicola Bloom talks about studying linguistics at Sussex

Entry requirements

An upper second-class (2.1) undergraduate honours degree or above in a linguistics, English language or modern languages degree with a significant linguistics component. Applicants from other disciplines and with relevant experience in the field of teaching will be considered but may be asked to produce/ submit a sample of academic writing (1,200-1,500 words) to prove they are able to cope with the demands of the MA.

English language requirements

Higher level (IELTS 7.0, with not less than 6.5 in each section)

Find out about other English language qualifications we accept.

English language support

Don’t have the English language level for your course? Find out more about our pre-sessional courses.

Additional information for international students

We welcome applications from all over the world. Find out about international qualifications suitable for our Masters courses.

Visas and immigration

Find out how to apply for a student visa

Fees and scholarships

How much does it cost?


Home: £7,700 per year

EU: £7,700 per year

Channel Islands and Isle of Man: £7,700 per year

Overseas: £15,100 per year

Note that your fees may be subject to an increase on an annual basis.

How can I fund my course?

Postgraduate Masters loans

Borrow up to £10,280 to contribute to your postgraduate study.

Find out more about Postgraduate Masters Loans


Our aim is to ensure that every student who wants to study with us is able to despite financial barriers, so that we continue to attract talented and unique individuals.

Chancellor’s Masters Scholarship (2017)

Open to students with a 1st class from a UK university or excellent grades from an EU university and offered a F/T place on a Sussex Masters in 2017

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Chancellor’s Masters Scholarship

Sussex Graduate Scholarship (2017)

Open to Sussex students who graduate with a first or upper second-class degree and offered a full-time place on a Sussex Masters course in 2017

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Graduate Scholarship

Sussex India Scholarships (2017)

Sussex India Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from India commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex India Scholarships

Sussex Malaysia Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Malaysia Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from Malaysia commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Malaysia Scholarships

Sussex Nigeria Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Nigeria Scholarships are worth £3,500 or £5,000 and are for overseas fee paying students from Nigeria commencing a Masters in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Nigeria Scholarships

Sussex Pakistan Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Pakistan Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from Pakistan commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Pakistan Scholarships

How Masters scholarships make studying more affordable

Living costs

Find out typical living costs for studying at Sussex.


Meet the people teaching and supervising on your course.


During your Applied Linguistics MA you develop skills in written communication, critical assessment and problem solving. Our graduates often go on to careers in education and education management, particularly relating to:

  • the teaching of primary language skills
  • English as a second or foreign language
  • bilingual education.

Others go on to further study in linguistics and related fields, such as journalism, publishing, speech therapy and advertising.

Graduate destinations

93% of students from the School of English were in work or further study six months after graduating. Our students have gone on to jobs including:

  • publications controller, Oxford University Press
  • web content developer, The British Library
  • bookshop manager, Waterstones.

(EPI, Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Survey 2015 for postgraduates)

Working while you study

Our Careers and Employability Centre can help you find part-time work while you study. Find out more about career development and part-time work

Contact us