Applied Linguistics (2015 entry)

MA, 1 year full time/2 years part time

Subject overview

  • English language and literature at Sussex is ranked in the top 100 in the world in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2014
  • The School of English at Sussex is an environment for excellence, and offers outstanding opportunities for postgraduate study of English language and linguistics. 
  • You work with active, enthusiastic and dynamic researchers who are committed to teaching and your intellectual development. 
  • Research supervision is provided for a wide range of subject areas by supervisors committed to the development of knowledge and scholarly excellence. 
  • Postgraduate courses in linguistics attract students of different nationalities, cultures and walks of life. You find yourself in a lively and dynamic research community in a cosmopolitan location. 

Global perspective

55th in the world for international outlook

Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2013-2014

Academic quality

14th in the UK
43rd in Europe
111th in the world

Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-2015

  • 1,600 km2 of South Downs
    National Park area

  • 4,600
    students live on campus

  • 700,000 books and e-books, and
    30,000 journals in the library

  • 13,800
    students study at Sussex

  • Around 4,500 full- and
    part-time jobs advertised each year
    Over 900 paid internships
    advertised in the last 18 months
    300 careers events each year

  • £500-million future investment
    in campus buildings and facilities

  • Over 95 countries across the world
    are home to Sussex graduates

  • 956 academic staff
    1,214 professional services staff

  • 140 student societies and
    over 30 sports clubs

  • 28,000-seater American
    Express Community Stadium

  • £24.7-million
    research income

  • < 9 minutes to Brighton
    < 30 minutes to Gatwick Airport
    < 60 minutes to central London
    < 90 minutes to Heathrow Airport

Programme outline

This MA focuses on the implications and applications of linguistic ideas. It explores key concepts in linguistic theory and the application of these theoretical perspectives in fields such as first- and second-language acquisition, language variation and change, and the use of language in domains of private, public and professional discourse.This course is for you if you are preparing to undertake a research course, or if you are already working in a language-related profession and wish to obtain a high-quality qualification in order to advance your career. 


The course is assessed by term papers, language analysis papers, a research proposal, and a 10,000-word dissertation.

We continue to develop and update our modules for 2015 entry to ensure you have the best student experience. In addition to the course structure below, you may find it helpful to refer to the Modules tab.

Autumn term: you take Researching Language in Use, and options such as Discourse of Social and Personal Identity • Forensic Linguistics • Intercultural Communication • Language Description and Analysis • Language Variation • Pidgins and Creoles • Second-Language Acquisition and Analysis • Syntactic Theory. 

Spring term: you take Research Proposal, and options such as Discourse and Communication Analysis • First-Language Acquisition • Language and Gender • Linguistic Typology • Modern Stylistics • Phonology • Semantics • World Englishes. 

Summer term: you work on a supervised dissertation.

Back to module list

Child Language Acquisition

15 credits
Autumn teaching, year 1

You will examine how children master their first language. Central questions include: 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? While investigating these questions, you will look at language data from real children and their caretakers.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Back to module list

Entry requirements

UK entrance requirements

A first- or upper second-class undergraduate honours degree 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

Overseas entrance requirements

Overseas qualifications

If your country is not listed below, please contact the University at E

The following table is given as a general guide for our taught postgraduate degrees requiring a first- or upper-second class undergraduate honours degree. If you have any questions, contact the University at E

CountryOverseas qualification
Australia Bachelor (Honours) degree with second-class upper division
Brazil Bacharel, Licenciado or professional title with a final mark of at least 8
Canada Bachelor degree with CGPA 3.3/4.0 (grade B+)
China Bachelor degree from a leading university with overall mark of 75%-85% depending on your university
Cyprus Bachelor degree or Ptychion with a final mark of at least 7.5
France Licence with mention bien or Maîtrise with final mark of at least 13
Germany Bachelor degree or Magister Artium with a final mark of 2.4 or better
Ghana Bachelor degree from a public university with second-class upper division
Greece Ptychion from an AEI with a final mark of at least 7
Hong Kong Bachelor (Honours) degree with second-class upper division
India Bachelor degree from a leading institution with overall mark of at least 60% or equivalent
Iran Bachelor degree (Licence or Karshenasi) with a final mark of at least 15
Italy Diploma di Laurea with an overall mark of at least 105
Japan Bachelor degree from a leading university with a minimum C/GPA of at least 3.0/4.0 or equivalent
Malaysia Bachelor degree with CGPA of at least 3.3/4.0 or B+
Mexico Licenciado with a final mark of at least 8
Nigeria Bachelor degree with second-class upper division or CGPA of at least 3.5/5.0
Pakistan Four-year bachelor degree, normally with a GPA of at least 3.3
Russia Magistr or Specialist Diploma with a minimum average mark of at least 4
South Africa Bachelor (Honours) degree or Bachelor degree in Technology with an overall mark of at least 70%
Saudi Arabia Bachelor degree with an overall mark of at least 70% or CGPA 3.5/5.0 or equivalent
South Korea Bachelor degree from a leading university with CGPA of at least 3.5/4.0 or equivalent
Spain Licenciado with a final mark of at least 2/4
Taiwan Bachelor degree with overall mark of 70%-85% depending on your university
Thailand Bachelor degree with CGPA of at least 3.0/4.0 or equivalent
Turkey Lisans Diplomasi with CGPA of at least 3.0/4.0 or equivalent depending on your university
United Arab Emirates Bachelor degree with CGPA of at least 3.0/4.0 or equivalent
USA Bachelor degree with CGPA 3.3-3.5/4.0 depending on your university
Vietnam Masters degree with CGPA of at least 3.5/4.0 or equivalent

If you have any questions about your qualifications after consulting our overseas qualifications, contact the University at E

English language requirements

IELTS 7.0, with not less than 6.5 in each section.

For more information, refer to What qualifications do I need?

Visas and immigration

Find out more about Visas and immigration.

For more information about the admissions process at Sussex

For pre-application enquiries:

Student Recruitment Services
T +44 (0)1273 876787

For post-application enquiries:

Postgraduate Admissions,
University of Sussex,
Sussex House, Falmer,
Brighton BN1 9RH, UK
T +44 (0)1273 877773
F +44 (0)1273 678545

Fees and funding


Fees for studying on courses available on a part-time basis will be charged at 50 per cent of the full-time fees listed below.

Home UK/EU students: £6,060 per year1
Channel Island and Isle of Man students: £6,060 per year2
Overseas students: £14,450 per year3

1 The fee shown is for the academic year 2015.
2 The fee shown is for the academic year 2015.
3 The fee shown is for the academic year 2015.

For more information on fee status, visit Fees

Visit Living costs


The funding sources listed below are for the subject area you are viewing and may not apply to all degrees listed within it. Please check the description of the individual funding source to make sure it is relevant to your chosen degree.

Visit Postgraduate taught scholarships 2015

Visit Career development and part-time work

We are in the process of updating funding sources for postgraduate study in the academic year 2015/16. For general information, visit Postgraduate taught scholarships 2015.

For more information on scholarships go to the Scholarships web pages.

Faculty interests

Visit School of English

Visit Sussex Centre for Language Studies

Dr Andrew Blair
Senior Teaching Fellow

View profile

Dr Lynne Cahill
Lecturer In English Language And Linguistics

Research interests: Phonology

View profile

Dr Melanie Green
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and English Language

Research interests: African languages, Creole English, Grammar, Linguistics, Pidgin English, Syntax

View profile

Dr Lynne Murphy
Reader in Linguistics

Research interests: American English, British English, Communication, Dictionaries, English, Inter-cultural Communication, Intercultural communication, Language, Lexicon, Linguistic Theory, Linguistics, Politeness, Vocabulary

View profile

Dr Roberta Piazza
Senior Lecturer In English Language AndLinguistics

Research interests: Discourse

View profile

Dr Justyna Robinson
Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics

Research interests: Language, Linguistic Theory

View profile

Dr Charlotte Taylor
Lecturer In English Language And Linguistics

Research interests: Computational/Corpus Linguistics, impoliteness, Linguistics, Press reporting, Research design and methodology, sarcasm, Semantics And Pragmatics

View profile

Dr Simon Williams
Tutorial Fellow in English Language Teaching

View profile

Dr Jules Winchester
Senior Teaching Fellow

View profile

Careers and profiles

Most of our graduates have gone on to careers in education and education management, particularly relating to the teaching of primary language skills, English as a second or foreign language or bilingual education. Some go on to further study in linguistics and related fields. 

Marianna's career perspective

Marianna Kyriakou

‘I chose Sussex because of the University’s proven research credentials and the excellent academic reputation of the School of English.

‘During the MA in Applied Linguistics I developed my writing and reading skills, and the seminars and oral presentations helped improve my communication skills. The MA also gave me the opportunity to hone my research skills, which was particularly important when working on term papers and the final dissertation.

‘I really feel that the Sussex MA has equipped me with the necessary skills, confidence and knowledge to begin my professional career. After graduating, I taught English as a foreign language and translated and proofread papers. I’ve also participated in educational projects where I was able to apply the skills I gained during my MA. One of these projects involved working for two years on the E-content Project in Cyprus, which was working towards creating digital educational content for secondary education.

‘Having completed three years of work in my home country, I decided to return to Sussex to do a PhD in sociolinguistics (specifically on language attitudes and identity), which is an area that began to interest me during my MA.’

Marianna Kyriakou
Former Instructional Designer and Quality Assurance
E-content project

To find out more, visit Careers and alumni

School and contacts

Contact us

School of English,
University of Sussex, Falmer,
Brighton, BN1 9QN, UK
T +44 (0)1273 877303 

Visit the School of English

Discover Postgraduate Study information sessions

If you cannot make it to our Postgraduate Open Day, you are welcome to attend one of our Discover Postgraduate Study information sessions. These are held in autumn, spring and early summer and enable you to find out more about postgraduate study and the opportunities Sussex has to offer.

Book your place on one of our Discover Postgraduate Study information sessions

Other ways to visit Sussex

We run weekly guided campus tours year round.

Book your place on one of our guided campus tours

You are also welcome to visit the University independently without any pre-arrangement.

Our online campus tour can also give you an excellent introduction to the University.

Take our online campus tour

Overseas visits

Meet with Sussex staff in your country at exhibitions, visits to schools and universities, and at a wide range of other events. Forthcoming visits are planned all over the world:

Bahrain • Brazil • Brunei • Canada • China • Colombia • France • Germany • Ghana • Greece • Hong Kong • India • Indonesia • Iraq • Italy • Japan • Kenya • Kuwait • Malaysia • Mexico • Nigeria • Norway • Pakistan • Qatar • Saudi Arabia • Singapore • South Korea • Spain • Sri Lanka • Taiwan • Thailand • Turkey • UAE • USA • Vietnam.

In-country representatives

In the International Office, we manage a network of overseas representatives who have been trained to support international students with their application to study at the University. Services representatives provide can include pre-departure information, support in submitting your housing application and advice regarding applying for a UK Student Visa.

Find out more about our overseas visits and in-country representatives


Terms and conditions