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General Linguistics

Study programme

The Master's in General Linguistics is a one-year programme in which you explore the many ways in which human language works. In the first semester, you compare as many language systems as possible, while in the second you will specialise in one of four sub-areas: phonetics & phonology, syntax & semantics, language acquisition & disorders, or sign linguistics.

Programme structure

The Master's programme in General Linguistics comprises 60 ECTS credits:

  • 24 credits for core courses
  • 6 credits for a specialisation course
  • 6 credits for a term paper
  • 6 credits for the statistics course
  • 18 credits for your Master's thesis

Additional activities: you attend 6 lectures in the Language Matters series over the course of the year.

Core courses

In the first semester, you will explore how human language works by comparing as many language systems as possible, including spoken languages from all continents, sign languages, child language and language as used by people with a developmental or acquired disorder. Drawing on evidence from language observation, behavioural and neuro-imaging experiments, and explicit modelling, you will learn how language is structured and how language users produce, comprehend and acquire the phonetics, phonology, syntax and semantics of their language(s).

Phonetics and Phonology I

In this course, you will become acquainted with the experimental literature on the phonetic and phonological elements of many spoken languages, while at the same time coming to understand human sound comprehension and production with tools such as Optimality Theory and neural network modelling.

Syntax and Semantics I

In this course, you will focus on how phenomena of sentence structure and sentence meaning in the world’s languages are handled in two theories, namely Generative Grammar and Functional Discourse Grammar.

Language Acquisition and Disorders I

This course examines how typical language users acquire the different subcomponents (from phonetics to pragmatics) of their language, how this is different for people with a developmental language disorder such as dyslexia or Specific Language Impairment, and how language production and comprehension is different for people who acquire a disorder later in life (aphasia).

Sign Linguistics I

In this course, you will investigate a wide variety of linguistic topics from the perspective of natural sign languages. An important question guiding the discussion is whether the use of different articulators results in differences between spoken and signed languages with respect to their grammatical structure, acquisition, and processing.

Specialisation Course

In the first block of the second semester, you will follow up the first semester’s core courses by specialising in one of the four linguistic sub-areas and taking one of the following courses:

  • Phonetics & Phonology II
  • Syntax & Semantics II
  • Language Acquisition & Disorders II (mandatory choice for future Clinical Linguists)
  • Sign Linguistics II

The choice of specialisation corresponds to the subject for your Master's thesis, which you will write in the second and third blocks of the second semester.

Becoming a clinical linguist

At the end of the first semester, you have the opportunity to specialise as a 'Clinical Linguist'. If you opt to take this route, you will spend January taking the Language Assessment course, in which you will evaluate existing language assessment tests and design a new one, culminating in the presentation of a poster.

Learn more about becoming a clinical linguist at:

Term paper

Students who opt to follow the regular General Linguistics track will work on a term paper based on their own interests. Having acquired a broad knowledge base in the first four months, you will devote January to studying a subject in-depth, writing a paper about this subject, and presenting a poster about your paper at the Poster Festival at the end of January.

Statistics in Linguistics

Statistics in Linguistics is the final course of the General Linguistics programme. In this course, you will learn about the most common statistical methods in linguistics (such as mixed-effects models). You will also apply these methods to possible research questions associated with the subject of your thesis.


The final blocks of the second semester are dedicated to writing your Master’s Thesis in the area of your specialisation. If you have chosen to specialise as a Clinical Linguist and speak Dutch, you will also have the opportunity to do an internship at a health institution or school. At the end of June, you will present the results of your research during the Thesis Festival. There is a good chance that by then you will have contributed to our understanding of how language works.


For more information about available internships and the experiences of other student interns, please follow the link.

Detailed course information

For detailed course information, please see the UvA Course Catalogue (link below).

Credit transfer

If, after the first semester you have a strong interest for linguistic research and wish to pursue an exciting life in academia, you have the opportunity to switch to the two-year Research Master’s in Linguistics. Once students are admitted to the research programme, they can transfer earned credits towards their Research Master's degree. The Examinations Board determines which courses qualify for transfer.