Universiteit Leiden

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Linguistics (BA)

There is not a day without language: we use it to read, to write, to communicate. But do you ever wonder how you learned to speak your own language when you were a child? And how, as an adult, do you learn new languages? Linguistics has the answer to those questions. In the BA Linguistics at Leiden University you get to explore all aspects of this discipline. You will compare languages, study languages that are almost extinct and learn about language rules and structure.

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Why study Linguistics?

How do children acquire their native language? Why are some politicians better at convincing the electorate than others? How have Germanic languages developed over the centuries? How and why do languages differ from one another? These are the kind of questions linguists seek to answer. In this programme you will explore many different aspects of language. In your first year you will obtain a broad knowledge base. In your second and third year you will focus on the specialisation of your choice.

The Linguistics department at Leiden University is an internationally renowned academic institute. We offer exciting and interactive lectures, a broad curriculum that covers almost every corner of the globe and the most intriguing topics, as well as the flexibility to define your own educational experience. With the freedom to follow your own interests and support from our lecturers, the BA in Linguistics will give you the edge to succeed in the career of your choice.

Isaac Eaton


Isaac Eaton

"Linguistics is a very broad field. If you have a passion for language, there will be a part of linguistics that you find interesting. In high school I already knew I wanted to study linguistics, since I was always good with languages. Because I wanted an extra challenge, I decided to study abroad. The Netherlands seemed like the perfect place to get to know a new culture that is still similar enough to what I was used to. Leiden is also the only place where you can study Descriptive and Comparative Linguistics on the Bachelor's level, two subjects that I'm very much interested in."

Alwin Kloekhorst

University Lecturer

Alwin Kloekhorst

“Linguistics at Leiden is a very broad programme. Anyone who is interested in language, who questions where words come from, or how Geert Wilders manages to wind people up with his pronouncements, will be fascinated by the curriculum. If you are not yet sure which area interests you most, don’t worry: you will be introduced to the different specialisations during the programme. By the time you graduate you will understand every type of linguistic expression – sentences, words, and sounds – inside out.”

The difference between Linguistics and a language programme

Linguistics differs from academic language programmes. In a language programme, students learn how to speak, read, and write a specific language. Also, they focus on the relevant history, literature, and society. As a Linguistics student, you delve deeply into language structure, sounds and syntax. In our bachelor’s programme we offer specialisations where you do learn one or more new languages, like Hittite or Leti. The main purpose of learning these languages, however, is to enable you to analyse their structure and to compare various languages with one another.

Four specialisations

  • Descriptive Linguistics (taught in English)
  • Language and Cognition (taught in English)
  • Comparative Indo-European Linguistics (taught in English)
  • Taal in gebruik (taught in Dutch)

The city centre of Leiden is covered in them: wall poems. When roaming around, you come across poetry written in the Latin alphabet, but also in scripts that might be more difficult to understand for the average person visiting Leiden. In a new series of videos, linguist Tijmen Pronk talks more about this. Continue reading.

The contribution of Linguistics

Linguistic research contributes to a better understanding of human communication. This discipline studies all aspects of language, which means that its research has many practical applications. Some examples: solutions for people suffering from speech disorders, the development of language software, or the description of nearly forgotten languages in order to preserve them.

Multifaceted programme

Linguistics touches upon many other disciplines, including sociology, communication science, anthropology, history, and archaeology, as well as biology, psychology, neuroscience, and computer science. Depending on your chosen specialisation, you will have the chance to develop your own experimental research, which may involve such disciplines as neuroscience and computer science. You will carry out your research projects in one of our four language labs: the Babylab, the EEG lab, Phonetics lab or the Eye-tracking lab.

Why Linguistics at Leiden University?

  • Join a university where over 60 languages are taught and researched. Leiden University is one of a handful of universities in the world with such a concentration of language specialists.
  • Specialise in what interests you most. With four separate study tracks and a wide range of electives and additional educational opportunities, you can customise your degree to meet your goals.
  • Learn in small classes where you can enjoy regular, quality interaction with your teachers and fellow students.
  • Our lecturers belong to the top of their field, and their current research is reflected in their teaching.
  • We have excellent facilities in Leiden, including four language labs.
  • You will be part of a lively international community of students and teachers.
  • Get the best start to your career. A linguistics qualification from top-ranking Leiden University is respected by organisations worldwide.

Is Linguistics for you?

For this programme you need to have a good command of English, and if you wish to pursue our Dutch-taught track, a good command of Dutch as well. However, you do not need to speak and write any other languages when starting this programme. It is, however, very important that you are deeply interested in language as a phenomenon. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you like to immerse yourself in language?
  • Do you like to explore and solve complicated questions?
  • Do you like the challenge of reading complex scientific papers?
  • Do you consider yourself curious, persistent, self-disciplined?
  • Do you enjoy studying in an international environment?

If your answer is 'yes', Linguistics is the programme for you!

Note: Linguistics is a Humanities programme. At the same time, it has a strong science-oriented component, which means that this bachelor is also a very good choice for students interested in science.

Check out the Linguistics programme.

Online Experience Linguistics

Do you want to know if this is the right study for you? Check out our online experience and find out more. This experience consists of online mini-courses with several assignments.

Take the online experience!

Chat with a student

Do you have a question about student life in Leiden, studying at Leiden University or do you want more information about this course? Get in contact with a student from the Linguistics bachelor's programme directly!

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