If you’re curious about language – and attracted by a subject that combines physical sciences, humanities, social sciences, maths and computer science – Linguistics is for you. It seeks to understand human language and animal communication in all forms: spoken, signed, gestured, written, whistled and drummed. And that means any language: from English to Euskara, Spanish to Sanskrit, and Norwegian to Ntlaka’pamux.
- Why Study Linguistics at Christ's?
- Course content and structure
- What do our students think?
- How to apply
- Helpful resources
- Open Days and Online Events
- Want to know more?
Why Study Linguistics at Christ's?
Perhaps more than any other Cambridge college, Christ’s has been a hotbed of linguistic activity and boasts quite a number of alumni with linguistic interests:
- Charles Darwin, our most famous alumnus, engaged in a legendary debate with Max Müller over the evolution of language (see summary and the exchange of letters)
- Quentin Skinner, the prominent historian and former Fellow is known for (among other things) his work on speech act theory and rhetoric
- Richard Clarke, Laurence Chaderton and Francis Dillingham were among those commissioned by King James to translate the Bible into Modern English
- Sir Ernest Alfred Wallis Budge, notorious Egyptologist
- Sir John Lyons, author of a famous book on Noam Chomsky, and master of Trinity Hall
- Walter William Skeat, author of the landmark Etymological English Dictionary and the definitive edition of Chaucer’s works
- Sir Ralph Turner, leading Indologist, author of the great Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan Languages, and Director of the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) at University of London
- Thomas Burrow, Boden Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Oxford and author of classic The Sanskrit Language
- Alfred Cort Haddon, one of the founders of modern British anthropology, famous for his study of life in the Torres Strait Islands
This course gives you broad interdisciplinary training, teaching you to analyse quantitative data, construct grammatical models and test hypotheses. As a result, you emerge with the kind of transferable intellectual skills employers are keen to see.
Graduates go on to careers in speech therapy, teaching (especially languages), speech and language technology and even forensic linguistics. Familiarity with the range of human languages is a huge advantage in careers where you might need to master a new tongue quickly, such as the Diplomatic Service.
The Linguistics course (or ‘tripos’) is a three-year degree. Please visit the University website for full details of the Linguistics course content and structure.
As well as lectures organised by the University’s Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, you have weekly ‘supervisions’ at the College. These small-group tutorial sessions (1-to-1 or in pairs) give you personally-tailored tuition and support – one of the advantages of a Cambridge education. Christ’s Director of Studies in Linguistics Matthew Tyler arranges these for you and can offer guidance whenever you need it.
What do our students think?
Imogen and Arthur both studied Linguistics here at Christ's College. They have written about their experiences in their student profiles:
Visit How to Apply for full details and a timeline of the application process. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds and school types, all over the world. If you're applying from outside the UK, please read our international students section.
If you are applying this year for October 2022 (or deferred Oct 23) please go to the information in the current applicants section.
Subjects: what do you need?
As linguistics is interdisciplinary, we don’t need you to take specific subjects – we welcome applicants with an outstanding academic profile in the sciences or the arts. However, it is helpful to do some formal language study by learning languages or taking English Language A-level (or equivalent).
- Have you ever been struck by a language that puts verbs in a different position in the sentence?
- Or wondered why languages change over time – making Chaucer hard to understand, for instance?
- Or felt puzzled when speech recognition software gets a perfectly clear word wrong?
- Basically, if you’ve ever found yourself asking Why? or How? in relation to language, Linguistics is for you.
If we invite you for interviews, these usually take place in early December. Those invited for Cambridge interviews are normally interviewed for 35-50 minutes in total. At Christ’s, we usually split the time into two interviews with academics in Linguistics.
Read the information and watch the short films on Cambridge admissions interviews for an idea of what to expect when you come. We also hold interviews in various locations overseas for international students.
If we call you for interview, we ask you to take an Admissions Assessment. For interviews in Cambridge, this is usually on the same day. We arrange your assessment automatically automatically so you don’t need to register. You do the same assessment regardless of which college you apply to. For students who are interviewed overseas, the Admissions Assessment will be organised for you by the overseas interview team, who will send you details.
The Linguistics Admissions Assessment lasts one hour and you don’t need to have any prior knowledge or do any special preparation to sit it.
Read more about the assessment, including sample papers and subject content, on the University Admissions website (available from March each year).
We define the terms of each offer individually, but the typical conditional offer is:
- A*AA at A-level
- 42 points overall in the International Baccalaureate with 7,7,6 in relevant Higher Level subjects
If you’re taking another qualification, we expect you to be working at or close to the top of the mark range i.e.
- Option Internationale du Baccalauréat: at least 17/20 overall, with 17 or 18 in relevant subjects
- European Baccalaureate: at least 85% overall, with 9/10 in relevant subjects
If you will have finished school when you apply, please read about post-qualification applications.
|Reading suggestions||Suggestions to help you find out more about Linguistics and develop your interests|
|British accents and dialects||Online resources from the British Library|
Change and stability in the native language of migrants
|Blog||The Language Log (also available as a Twitter feed).|
|Essay competitions||Entering an essay competition is a good way to explore a relevant topic and get some extra practice in writing a convincing and well-structured essay. Examples: Trinity Linguistics Prize; Babel Young Writers' Competition|
|National Linguistics Olympiads||
These are competitions where you solve linguistics problems. See for example UK Olympiad (and their useful set of past problems). Other countries often have similar resources pages e.g. Australia, Ireland, USA to give a few examples from anglophone countries.
|The Linguist List||Website forum with discussion of linguistic issues. About the Linguist List|
|Podcasts||All Things Linguistic has a list of linguistics and languages podcasts.|
|HE+ Linguistics||Website for secondary school students who would like to explore Linguistics|
|Language learning||Memrise features films of native speakers.|
|CamGuides||Introducing the academic and information skills that you will need during your studies, as well as how and where you be working.|
Online events: Our open days and events page advertises online opportunities as well as events you can attend in Cambridge.
If you want to get a feel for what it's like to study here, come to a Christ's College Open Day. You'll have the opportunity to discuss the Linguistics course with current students and staff in person.
Want to know more?
For a fuller picture of what the course involves, read Undergraduate Linguistics admissions on the University website. You should also look at the information for prospective students on the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics site.
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