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Linguistics at Cambridge

We learn languages to communicate as language is central to our human nature. The subject matter of Linguistics is language (not any particular language) as a human activity. Linguistics is the scientific study of human language and its structure, including the study of morphology, syntax, phonetics, and semantics. It deals with both the structure of the language (what language is - Competence) and with the way it functions in different settings (how language works - Performance) as well as the way it relates to social organisation and changes over time. In other words, what to say (how a sentence is structured) and how to say it (which words, grammar, tone of voice – even – to choose according to a particular setting) in any language is at the core of Linguistics, and, as such, explains why Linguistics has links with different subject matters such as Psychology or Sociology.

The Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics came top of the league table for Modern Languages and Linguistics in the University Guide 2018 published by The Guardian newspaper. The Department pursues an interdisciplinary approach to theoretical and applied Linguistics, and its staff includes many internationally known experts in their respective fields.

Full details are provided on the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics website, and summarised in the University Undergraduate Prospectus:

Linguistics at Churchill

It's not essential to have studied a language-related subject at A Level (such as Modern or Oriental Languages, Classics, or English) to start your degree course in Linguistics. However, having an interest in the workings of language, and some knowledge of one or more languages other than English (if this is your mother tongue) is an advantage.


Subject pre-requisites

Essential Highly desirable/useful
No specific subjects A Level / IB Higher Level English Language and/or a foreign language are useful

For details about potential A Level and IB offer conditions in your target degree, see our Typical Offers webpage and select your course from the University's Course Listing homepage then check out the "Subject Requirements and Typical Offers" link in the Entry Requirements tab.

For other qualifications, see our Typical Offers page.

Admissions assessment

Cambridge University uses a system of common format admissions assessments, specifically tailored to each subject. These give us valuable additional evidence of your academic ability, knowledge base, and potential to succeed at Cambridge. For more information about the admissions assessment in this subject, click on:

Admissions assessment

Written work

We will ask you to submit two examples of teacher-marked written work, ideally including some form of language-related discussion..


If called, you will normally have two interviews with academic Fellows of the College.


For more information and for all admissions enquiries, please contact the Admissions Office.

Admissions Office

Director of Studies