The research master’s programme in Linguistics at Leiden University combines leading expertise with a flexible programme format.
Study the linguistic subfields that interest you
During this two-year research master’s programme you will be able to choose from the largest selection of languages offered in Europe and an exceptional range of linguistic approaches including historical, descriptive, formal, cognitive, sociolinguistic, experimental and corpus-based studies. You will be able to explore sub-fields including phonetics, phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax, discourse, or pragmatics.
Develop your research skills
An important aspect of this programme is developing your ability to conduct original and innovative research. You will have to opportunity to attend conferences, workshops and lecture series organised in Leiden, all of which will help you forge an outstanding start to your career. Small classes ensure that you have plenty of direct contact with your lecturers and a high level of guidance and support throughout your studies.
Learn from experts
Academics from the renowned Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL) teach in the master’s programme in Linguistics (research). During your studies, you will have access to a breadth and depth of expertise that is almost unmatched in Europe, as well as exceptional resources such as the famous collections at the Leiden University Library. The courses are taught by a diverse group of scholars, all of whom are engaged in international research, which is also part of the teaching syllabus. Their expertise incorporates the latest theoretical knowledge and practice-based skills, such as translation or text analysis.
Why Leiden University
Leiden University offers ambitious students the latest knowledge and the freedom to develop their own area of expertise.
A top-ranked university
Leiden University's Humanities department consistently ranks in the top 30 Humanities faculties in the THE World University Rankings. At Leiden University, the oldest university in the Netherlands, learning incorporates the latest research and resources found nowhere else in the world, such as those of the famous Leiden University Library and its collections of original manuscripts and periodicals.
Benefit from an international academic environment
You will also gain access to the internationally renowned research programmes led by Leiden University’s senior researchers – and the opportunity to join international peers from around the world at conferences, summer and winter schools, workshops and lecture series, connecting you to the leading minds in the field as well the latest academic developments.
Create your own specialisation
We encourage original and innovative research. You will have the opportunity to develop your own academic path in an environment that is both international and inspiring. Our research master's programme in Linguistics allows you to study specific areas of interest many of which are not available in research master programmes elsewhere in the Netherlands, for example descriptive and historical linguistics. You will have the freedom to pick 50 EC worth of Linguistics courses on a vast range of languages and sub-fields, follow courses at another university, or conduct field research abroad.
An excellent start to your career
Your qualification from Leiden University is respected by organisations worldwide. But that's not the only advantage of studying at Leiden. We challenge you to question established wisdom, consider new perspectives, and apply what you learn to real-world situations. Our students learn how to become critical thinkers – a quality that will ensure they stand out in any future career.
The Leiden Experience
About the programme
The two-year research master in Linguistics will provide you with in-depth and specialised knowledge within the field of linguistics.
You will gain advanced academic skills in the interpretation of texts and you will learn to independently conduct high-quality scientific research.
The two-year research master’s programme in Linguistics consists of core courses, short topics courses, electives and an academic thesis.
During your studies you will take:
Two core courses: one will introduce you to the cutting-edge research of leading scholars in linguistic sub-disciplines present at Leiden University, and the research methods employed in them, while the other provides overviews of the structure of five non-European languages by experts working on languages all over the world.
Two short topics courses taught by experienced researchers on recent developments in the field.
Electives from any of the specialisations within the Master's in Linguistics programme with a worth of 50 EC (of the 120 EC). You may also replace an elective course with an internship in a research project or at an organisation.
A thesis based on original research.
Peer feedback and assessment
Essays, reports and final thesis
For a detailed programme, see the e-Prospectus. Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.
Researcher and University Lecturer
"All students who choose Leiden's Linguistics (research) are passionate and curious about the enormous communicative and linguistic diversity in the world and benefit from the wide range of languages and linguistic approaches on offer in Leiden. Students critically reflect on the key role of the languages sciences in understanding human nature, and addressing contemporary socio-cultural challenges."
"Studying linguistics always involves critical assessment: do the data confirm my hypothesis, what kind of data are necessary to distinguish between competing theories, what is the best way to set up an experiment that will provide informative data? How solid are the arguments presented in the existing literature? It really sharpens the mind!"
Mirjam de Baar
“Time has taught us that solutions to social problems do not lie in technology, but in human potential. Technological solutions are essential, but so is the significance people attribute to this information through culture or language. Experience shows us that research within the humanities and social sciences often provides these solutions. This is why the research conducted by our humanities faculty is so highly relevant and important. I am very proud of the fact that Leiden University’s Faculty of Humanities is one of the world’s leading faculties in the field.”
Broad and relevant research:
“One of this faculty’s strengths is how incredibly broad it is. We conduct a wealth of relevant research in so many different fields and disciplines. We have egyptologists working on excavation sites in Saqqara and the Dakhla Oasis. We have linguists who are documenting, for the first time, languages that are spoken by vast numbers of people in the world today; others creating computer simulations of language acquisition by the brain. The extent and variety of the activity going on is tremendous.”
A stimulating environment
“When you join Leiden’s Faculty of Humanities you are joining a community of passionate, stimulated and ambitious students and staff from all over the world. Our academic environment is known for being conducive to interaction between individuals of all standing: at Leiden even the most junior researcher is treated as a valuable member of the community with important opinions to share. You also gain access to truly unique resources found nowhere else in the world, such as our famous collections at the University Library. Our lecturers and support staff are committed to your success, both now and in the future, and offer you the tools needed to develop into a critically-minded professional who can truly make a difference to the world.”
Get the most out of your studies at Leiden University by taking part in our extracurricular activities.
Throughout the year activities are organised by the programme and the study association to encourage community building. The teaching generally takes the form of small-scale seminars and tutorials, in which lively and engaging discussions are encouraged. The small class sizes give you a high degree of contact with both your lecturers and fellow students.
During your studies you will have the option to take a Masterlanguage course. Masterlanguage is a Dutch network of courses for language master's students. The courses are offered country-wide providing you with a unique opportunity to study with like-minded students from other universities.
Leiden Leadership Programme
Are you interested in developing your leadership potential? The Leiden Leadership Programme (LLP) is an Honours Programme specifically developed for ambitious master's students at Leiden University and the Delft University of Technology who recognise the importance of leadership abilities. The LLP offers in-depth training sessions, assessments, seminars, and the creation of a Personal Leadership Roadmap – a five-year plan for reaching and developing your leadership potential.
Study at the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts
The Academy of the Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA) is a research institute and part of the Faculty of Humanities. The ACPA offers education such as electives, and talent programmes such as the Practicum Artium (PA), which gives you the opportunity to study Photography, Graphic Design or Drawing, and the Practicum Musicae at the Royal Conservatoire The Hague, where you can study classical music, singing, early music or jazz. Find out more about ACPA.
Create a world of opportunities with a master's degree from Leiden University.
What our graduates do
Our graduates pursue careers at research agencies or in the research departments of companies or government organisations. Many enter PhD programmes at Leiden or another university, both in the Netherlands or abroad.
Outside of research, your knowledge of linguistics and advanced analytical and problem-solving skills can be applied within a range of vocations, from publishing and translating to teaching.
Examples of the roles of our graduates include:
PhD Candidate at universities in the Netherlands or abroad, such as the US, the UK, Sweden, France and Germany
Junior advisor at an institute for linguistic research and language teaching
Editor at a publishing house
Consular officer at a ministry of foreign affairs
Content manager, editor, translator at NGO's
Translator within EU organisations
Author of digital educational materials
Research assistant at an university in Canada
Project manager at a translation agency
Teacher at a secondary school
Graduated in Linguistics (Research MA Linguistics)
"During my bachelor’s degree I was particularly interested in language, so I chose to do a masters in Linguistics. I did fieldwork in Botswana and South Africa and was also student assistant on a research project. I worked on a new database, taught students and advised them on their projects. I would advise anyone to be active during their studies."
"I got my current job through my involvement in the programme and the network that I consequently built. A lecturer told me that a research job was coming up in Ghent in the area of African Linguistics. An unbelievable opportunity. They had 23 applicants, but were looking for someone with teaching experience. And that is exactly what I had. My research proposal appealed to them, too."
All that I learned has proved relevant to my work
"My research is about Sifwe, an undocumented language that is spoken in Zambia and Namibia. All that I learned during my degree has proved relevant to my work: from subject knowledge to planning and motivating myself. I need to have finished my PhD thesis in two years’ time. That’s mainly a question of starting in good time and being disciplined about it. And afterwards? I want to carry on in research and teaching!"
Graduated in Italian Language and Linguistics (MA) and Linguistics (Research Master)
“My masters in Leiden have given me the opportunity to explore my interests in many ways: I combined the master in Italian with the Research Master in Linguistics in order to follow my interests in both Italian dialectology, and theoretical and historical syntax.”
A wide variety of courses
“Both programmes offer a wide variety of courses, which you can combine exactly as you see fit: whether you wish to dive into one specific subfield or combine various interests. All courses are taught by specialists in the field, who are not only very knowledgeable, but also extremely helpful and enthusiastic.”
An excellent preparation
“At the moment I am studying for my PhD in comparative Romance syntax at the University of Cambridge. Apart from doing research, I also teach undergraduates during supervisions (something comparable to small ‘werkcolleges’). My masters in Leiden have been an excellent preparation for this next step, because they combined theory with ongoing research – part of which you will have to do yourself, during the courses and later for your thesis. It is this aspect of the masters which in my opinion is the most valuable, especially if you wish to continue in academia.”
A Leiden University degree
Leiden University master's graduates are sought-after employees at (inter)national organisations. Our graduates are known for their combination of robust academic training, in-depth and relevant knowledge, and critical, multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving.
In which sector do students find jobs?
8.0 %Government and semi-government organisations
8.0 %Publishing and the book industry
3.0 %Culture, sports and recreation
How successful are they in finding a job?
68.0 %found a job within two months
79.0 %found their first job at academic level
89.0 %held a position at academic level when the study was carried out
Our goal is to prepare you to make a difference in your future career.
Knowledge and skills
The development of in-depth knowledge in the field, and the ability to think critically and analytically are key goals of this programme. The research master in Linguistics will introduce you to the history, basic concepts, research methods, and recent developments in linguistics, including historical, descriptive, theoretical, experimental and corpus-based studies. You will learn to use linguistic concepts and approaches in researching and analysing data. Your thesis work will give you the opportunity to apply these methods in your own research.
We also provide opportunities for you to broaden your experience and professional skills in preparation to excel in a career inside as well as outside of academics.
During your studies you have the opportunity to gain experience studying, working, or conducting research at an organisation or institution. Some of our students choose to do an internship during their study. Internships are a great way to gain invaluable first-hand experience in your area of interest before you decide on making it a career.
Humanities Career Service
Our staff can help you identify both the career that is right for you, and the necessary steps to get you there. Our team at Humanities Career Service provide all Leiden University humanities students with professional advice and guidance on everything from internships and career planning to job applications. Humanities Career Service also organises regular workshops on topics such as effective interview skills and creating a successful CV.
Humanities Career Event
Each year, the Faculty of Humanities organises a Humanities Careers Event. This all-day event is your chance to learn everything you can about how to find the job you want and successfully attain it. The event includes workshops on a wide range of topics as well as opportunities to network with alumni and potential employers and attain tips, information and potential job leads.
Check out the video of the Humanities Career Event 2017!
Admission and application
Do you want to apply for this master’s programme at Leiden University? Please check our admission and application information.
Along with your application, you will need to submit the documents below.
A bachelor’s degree from a university, equivalent to the level of a Dutch academic bachelor’s degree, in Linguistics, a language and culture programme or a comparable degree with a relevant specialisation.
Good grades comparable with an average mark of at least 7.5 (Dutch grading system) for the entire bachelor’s programme, and a grade for the bachelor’s thesis of an 8 or higher.
The following qualities regarding knowledge, understanding and skills:
The ability to understand basic linguistic analyses and read linguistic literature (in English) at the appropriate (handbook) level.
The ability to collect linguistic data and discover patterns in those.
A demonstrable interest in and talent for linguistic research.
No direct admission, all students need to submit an online application.
Applicants with a degree from a Dutch University of Applied Sciences (HBO) are not eligible for admission.
Sufficient command of English (IELTS 7.0, TOEFL 100 (internet-based) or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE); for the ‘speaking’ and ‘writing’ components a minimum score of IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL22 is required). For a list of exceptions, see the website on language requirements.
You completed your secondary or higher education in the USA, the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia or Canada (except French-taught programmes in Canada).
At the discretion of the Board of Admissions, you are a Dutch student with pre-university education (VWO) level English.
In exceptional cases, students who otherwise qualify for an exemption but whose application documents cast doubt on their English proficiency may be asked to sit an English exam.
Submitting your exam results
All English exam results must be uploaded to the online application system.
Your English exam results must be checked for authenticity by the Admissions Office before the deadline for applying for a visa/residence permit (if applicable), or before the start date of your programme. To make this possible, please do the following:
TOEFL exam: tell ETS to send your original results report to Leiden University Admissions Office – institution code 0504.
Cambridge certificate: send your ID number and your “secret number” (check the Candidate Results Online service) to the Leiden University Admissions Office.
IELTS: a scanned exam result is sufficient - no further steps will be required.
Along with your application, you will need to submit the documents below.
Required application documents
Please upload a copy of the passport page(s) with your personal details and photograph. If you come from the EU/EER, you may also send a copy of your identity card.
If you are already staying in the Netherlands with a Dutch residence permit for study or for another purpose, please upload a copy of both sides of your Dutch residence permit.
Your CV must be written in English. Other than this, no standardised format or template is required. Your CV should clearly outline your educational and professional history up until the present date, as well as basic personal facts.
A personal statement must be submitted explaining why you want to follow the programme, why you have chosen to do so at Leiden University, and what makes you think you are a good candidate. The statement should be between 700 and 1,500 words.
Digital copies are required initially. Once you have been admitted, we will tell you how to submit certified copies to the Admissions Office.
Documents must be in the original language and accompanied by official translations if they are not in English, Dutch, German or French. If you have not yet completed your study programme, state your expected graduation date and submit copies of all transcripts obtained to date.
If you are applying for an LLM Advanced Studies programme: all documents must be available in English (or translated into English).
You can apply to a programme before you obtain the results of your language exam (if you already have your results you can upload them directly in our online portal). If you are admitted, it will be on the condition that these results will meet the required levels specified.
Always check first if your programme requires you to send in letters of recommendation. If you need to submit more than one letter, at least one letter must be from an academic staff member.
The letter must be printed on letterhead paper, signed and bearing the full contact details of the referee (for verification purposes).
Your referee should describe your skills, qualities and competencies.
Recommendation letters - submission information
Letters of recommendation can be scanned and uploaded as part of your online application. Alternatively, your referee can send them directly to us, making sure your name and application number are clearly indicated.
By post: Leiden University Admissions Office
“Gravensteen” Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden
Additionally please complete the attached format and upload this in your application.
If you have any further questions, you can look them up at the Student FAQ page.
Application and deadlines
If you would like to apply for this programme, please check the guidelines below.
All applicants will need to submit an online application. Please check the application prodecure for more information.
Starting in September
If you need a visa, residence permit or accommodation via the Leiden University Housing Office, the deadline is 1 April 2018.
If you do not need a visa, residence permit or accommodation via the Leiden University Housing Office, the deadline is 15 June 2018.
Starting in February
If you need a visa, residence permit or accommodation via the Leiden University Housing Office, the deadline is 15 October 2017.
If you do not need a visa, residence permit or accommodation via the Leiden University Housing Office, the deadline is 1 December 2017.
If you are required to take an additional entrance exam or submit additional documentation, you should apply as early as possible. If you apply at the last minute, you risk missing deadlines, such as those for accommodation or visa applications. Late applications will only be considered in exceptional cases, and at the discretion of the faculty Board of Admissions.
The tuition fee for a programme depends on a number of factors. Your nationality, study programme and previous Dutch higher education qualifications determine the tuition fees you are required to pay.
The tuition fees for the academic year 2017-2018 are:
Dutch, EU/EEA, Swiss and Surinamese students: €2,006 per year
Non-EU/EEA students €16,600 per year
Second Dutch master’s programme: €14,900 per year
More information about tuition fees
The tuition fee for this programme is €2,006 for the academic year 2017-2018 (statutory fee).
This tuition fee applies if this is not your second master’s programme and you are a national of the Netherlands, or one of the following countries:
The fee applies for both full-time and part-time study.
The tuition fee for this programme is €16,600 for the academic year 2017-2018 (institutional tuition fee).
If you are not a national of an EEA country, Suriname or Switzerland you must generally pay an institutional tuition fee. However if, on the basis of your Dutch residence permit, you are eligible for student finance from the Dutch education agency (DUO), you are entitled to pay a statutory tuition fee. Information on qualifying residence permits can be found in the DUO nationality chart.
This fee applies for both full and part-time study.
Please note: If you study at Leiden University via a cooperation agreement the fees stated in the agreement apply.
The tuition fee for this programme is €14,900 for the academic year 2017-2018 (institutional tuition fee).
If you would like to enroll in a second Dutch master’s programme, you will generally have to pay an institutional tuition fee.
This tuition fee also applies if you obtained a Dutch Bachelor’s, doctoraal, ingenieurs or HBO (Bachelor’s in professional education) diploma after 1991, and you are a national of the Netherlands or another EEA country:
Did you commence a bachelor’s programme at Leiden University before 2010, and will you continue directly onto a second master’s programme in the year you complete your bachelor’s programme, or during the following year? If so, you are entitled to pay the statutory tuition fee in accordance with a transitional ruling (also see ‘Exceptions’).
Please note! Other fees apply for students who are not nationals of an EEA country, Suriname or Switzerland. Please refer to the information in the section ‘Non-EU/EEA nationals’.
In some cases, nationals of EEA countries, Suriname or Switzerland may be permitted to pay tuition fees set at the same amount as the statutory tuition fee for their second degree programme.
If your second degree programme is in the field of healthcare or teacher training you are entitled to pay tuition fees set at the same amount as the statutory tuition fee.
If you begin your second bachelor’s or master’s programme whilst you are still studying your first bachelor's or master’s programme you may pay tuition fees set at the same amount as the statutory tuition fee for your second degree programme – on condition that you remain continuously registered as a student.
If you start a second bachelor’s or master's programme at Leiden University in the academic year directly following the year in which you obtained your first bachelor’s or master's degree at Leiden University you may pay institutional tuition fees set at the same amount as the statutory tuition fee.
Less than 45 EC
If you plan to study a pre-master or conversion programme after completing a bachelor’s programme, you must pay €33,- per study credit (EC) if the programme is less than 45 ECs.
45 EC or more
For programmes of more than 45 ECs you must pay the statutory tuition fee. If the pre-master or conversion programme is more than 60 ECs – and therefore longer than one year – or if you will study courses that are not part of your conversion programme, you must pay the institutional tuition fee for the programme in question (see ‘Second Dutch master’s programme’). These fees apply to students of all nationalities.
Your time at Leiden is about more than just studying. Some of your best experiences will stem from being a part of our lively and diverse student community, as well as from life in the beautiful city of Leiden.
Life in Leiden
Picturesque and the perfect size, Leiden is the ideal place to spend your university days. The Faculty of Humanities is located within the heart of the city, where dozens of cafes, shops and bars line its historic laneways and leafy canals. Small enough to run into familiar faces, but big enough to keep offering surprises – you will treasure your time at Leiden. And for adventures further afield, the major cities of The Hague and Amsterdam are a short train ride away, along with Schiphol Airport, which is just half an hour away by train.
Our study and student associations organise a huge variety of social, cultural, and study events to keep you busy all year round. You can also join the University Sports Centre, which offers scheduled group sports and fitness classes, amongst other activities.
Welcome and orientation programme
In August and February each year, Leiden University hosts the English-language Orientation Week Leiden (OWL), which welcomes both international and Dutch students. The OWL is an excellent way to get to know Leiden University, the city, and other students.
Leiden University’s Faculty of Humanities has a number of study associations run by students and related to a particular department or programme. Study associations organise social activities such as informal gatherings, sports events, and parties, as well as study-related activities such as excursions and study trips.
The study associations related to Linguistics are:
Leiden has several student organisations that specifically cater for international students. These associations organise regular social events and activities that help create the strong sense of community that exists within our international student body. The main two organisations are:
International Student Network (ISN) ISN Leiden is an international student organisation which hosts a range of activities and programmes. They also have a buddy programme which provides new students with the right support to assimilate into Leiden and the university.
AEGEE Leiden AEGEE is a leading European student association with sister organisations in over 40 countries across Europe. AEGEE organises many activities in Leiden, from dinners and pool nights to boat trips and guest lectures.
The Humanities Master’s Buddy Programme has been set up by the Faculty of Humanities to help all students who are new to the university to integrate quickly and easily into university life. Through the programme you will learn everything you need to know about the university, the student community, and the practical side of life in Leiden.
Come and meet us at the Leiden University Master’s Open Day!
About our Master’s Open Day
Are you thinking about joining a master’s programme at Leiden University? Come and visit our Master’s Open Day! This event is your opportunity to learn everything you need to know about our master’s programmes and how they can help you reach your goals. Attend presentations, meet our lecturers, learn about the careers of our alumni and hear first-hand the experiences of students and graduates on life at Leiden University.
If you have a question, there are various ways to get in touch with us.