English Language and Applied Linguistics PhD/MA by Research

We offer excellent candidates the opportunity to carry out research in one of the most dynamic institutions in Britain.

We specialise in, and welcome applications from prospective PhD students interested in the following areas: Corpus Research, Cognitive Linguistics and Psycholinguistics, Discourse Analysis and Stylistics, and Language Learning and Teaching.

We also offer an Applied Linguistics PhD via distance mode, in two formats: traditional and modular.

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Shuangling Li

Shuangling Li

“At the University of Birmingham, we have the most supportive group of staff and PhD fellows and I have access to valuable resources for research. We also have a research community, PG Tips, which organises weekly seminars and conferences for us to participate in. We can hear about each other’s research project or talk about our own studies. Our department also organises ELR seminars where we can hear from established professors or researchers in our area.”
Ask Shuangling a question

The MA by Research programme requires you to prepare a dissertation of up to 40,000 words on a topic of your choice, for which an academic staff member will provide expert supervision.

The PhD – the most advanced research degree – leads to a dissertation of up to 80,000 words on a subject of your choice and under the expert supervision of an academic member of staff.

Our principal areas of research are:

Corpus Research - We are well known for our innovative approaches to the analysis of large corpora, which have had a strong impact on language teaching, dictionary development, and research into academic discourses. We are home to the Centre for Corpus Research (CCR), which supports the use of corpus analysis in research, teaching and learning. CCR provides access to a range of corpora and has a dedicated computer suite with specialist resources as well as an eye-tracking laboratory.

Cognitive Linguistics and Psycholinguistics - Our research in cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics covers a wide range of areas including figurative language, idioms, embodied cognition, language and perception, sign languages, second language acquisition, and construction grammar. We have particular strengths in British Sign Language, Australian Sign Language and gesture studies.

Discourse Analysis and Stylistics - We are known for the development of several highly influential discourse analysis frameworks, and for our work on narrative, the discursive representation of inequality, new media, the language of politics, as well as new ideas on evaluation and phraseology. Our research draws on a variety of linguistic and theoretical traditions, including: systemic-functional linguistics; critical discourse analysis; corpus linguistics; multimodal analysis; narrative analysis; conversation analysis, and genre analysis. Our particular strength at Birmingham is that we combine discourse analysis with corpus analytic methods of research. 

Language Learning and Teaching - We research and publish in: academic literacies; phraseology; the teaching and learning of metaphor and other types of figurative language; applications of cognitive linguistics to second language learning and teaching; and the use of corpora in language teaching.

Profiles of our current English Language and Applied Linguistics doctoral researchers

At Birmingham you also have the option of studying languages, free of charge. Almost no other UK University offers you the opportunity to learn the intense graduate academic language skills which you may need to pursue your research.

Why study this course

  • The department celebrated excellent Research Assessment Exercise 2014 results. 34% of research at the University of Birmingham for English Language and Literature was rated 4*, ‘world-leading’. A further 53% was rated 3*, ‘internationally excellent’.
  • Our English Language programmes benefit from the 450 million-word Bank of English corpus, an invaluable collection of authentic language data.
  • All students and researchers working within English Language also have free access a variety of language corpora, and, where necessary, training in how to use them.
  • The Main Library houses an extensive collection of books on English language and linguistics, including English language teaching, and subscribes to 250 periodicals in the fields of English language and literature.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2017/18:

  • Home / EU £4,180 full-time; £2,090 part-time*
  • Overseas: £15,210 full-time

* For UK/EU postgraduate research students the University fee level is set at Research Council rates and as such is subject to change. The final fee will be announced by Research Councils UK in spring 2017.

The above fee quoted is for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.

Entry requirements

Our requirements for postgraduate research are dependent on the type of programme you are applying for:

  • For MRes and MA by Research programmes, entry to our programmes usually requires a good (normally a 2:1 or above) Honours degree, or an equivalent qualification if you were educated outside the UK.
  • If you are applying for a PhD then you will usually also need to hold a good Masters qualification.

Any academic and professional qualifications or relevant professional experience you may have are normally taken into account, and in some cases, form an integral part of the entrance requirements.

If you are applying for distance learning research programmes, you will also be required to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study by distance learning.

If your qualifications are non-standard or different from the entry requirements stated here, please contact the admissions tutor.

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

Please refer to our six step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas.

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Additional Guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Before contacting members of academic staff, please make sure you are familiar with the application process.

Any questions about fees, scholarships, paperwork etc. are best directed to the College of Arts and Law Graduate School.

You may also be interested in browsing our English Language and Applied Linguistics staff profile pages to find additional research expertise.

Dr Joe Bennett - j.a.bennett.1@bham.ac.uk

I would be interested in supervising research into relationships between discourse – taken in its most general sense to include not just language but also other semiotic modes, especially images and sounds – and social power relations. Of particular interest to me at the moment are the ways in which features of contemporary British life are semiotised – the ways in which, for example, social class differences are talked about by politicians, or the ways in which different organisations with different political interests visually represent British cities. Any work related to these themes, including that relating to other cultural/national contexts, is likely to be of interest. In terms of methodological frameworks, I am interested in work that draws on Halliday’s Social Semiotics, including later developments in that area, and in Critical Discourse Analysis.

Dr Gareth Carrol g.carrol@bham.ac.uk

I am keen to hear from students interested in research on idioms and formulaic language, as well as other aspects of phraseology. This includes processing and representation in first and second languages, and also amongst disordered populations. Please contact me to discuss any ideas you may have.

Dr Nick Groom - n.w.groom@bham.ac.uk

I am interested in supervising PhD students who want to use the tools and methods of corpus linguistics to address problems, questions and issues in Discourse Analysis, Critical Discourse Analysis and Second Language Acquisition research. I am also interested in supervising PhD projects that focus on applications of corpus linguistics in TEFL/TESL.

Professor Susan Hunston - s.e.hunston@bham.ac.uk

My main areas of research are corpus linguistics, especially investigating the lexis-grammar interface, and discourse, especially evaluative language and academic discourse. My more recent work combines and extends these areas. 

Dr Suganthi John - s.p.john@bham.ac.uk

My main areas of research are in academic discourse and the teaching of academic writing. I am keen to supervise research which investigates aspects of academic discourse – for e.g. argumentation in academic discourse, comparative studies on the features of academic discourse in different disciplines, academic style etc. Of particular interest is research which aims to illuminate aspects of academic discourse which are challenging for second language writers. Equally, I would be keen on supervising research which evaluates classroom techniques for the teaching of academic writing and materials development for academic writing. I would also be happy to supervise writing (not academic but general or creative writing) for EFL learners.

Professor Jeannette Littlemore - j.m.littlemore@bham.ac.uk

I am interested in supervising PhD theses on the acquisition and use of metaphor and other types of figurative language by second language learners. I would particularly welcome proposals that focus on the acquisition of metonymy, humour and irony, and the use of verbal and gestural metaphor in cross-linguistic communication or communication between members of different discourse communities. I am also interested in supervising research that explores other applications of cognitive linguistics (such as construal) to second language learning and teaching.

Professor Michaela Mahlbergm.a.mahlberg@bham.ac.uk

My main research interests are in corpus linguistics and contextual approaches to meaning. In my current work I am particularly interested in the development of tools to support innovative research questions in the Digital Humanities and new developments in Big Data.  In the field of corpus linguistics I have published on the relationship between lexis and grammar and the way in which phraseology contributes to cohesion in texts. A major focus of my research is corpus stylistics, where I have worked extensively on Dickens's fiction and proposed a lexical approach to body language presentation in fiction.  I welcome PhD applications from those interested in any of the above topics.

Dr Ruth Pager.e.page@bham.ac.uk

My research interests bring together feminist narratology and the analysis of narratives in digital contexts. My work is integrative in nature and seeks to open up dialogue between literary-critical and sociolinguistic traditions of narrative research.  I would welcome postgraduate students (MA or PhD) with interests in any of the following areas of research:   Narrative theory; Stylistics; New media texts; and Discourse Analysis.

Dr Amanda Pattena.l.patten@bham.ac.uk

My research interests fall into the areas of historical linguistics, corpus linguistics, and construction grammar.

I am particularly interested in supervising MA and PhD research in:

  • Historical linguistics and language change
  • Construction grammar and the relationship between form and meaning
  • Information packaging constructions and other specialised linguistic patterns

Dr Florent Perekf.b.perek@bham.ac.uk

I would be happy to take on prospective PhD students interested to pursue a project in cognitive linguistics with a particular focus on the syntax, morphology, or semantics of English (and/or other European languages), and preferably using corpus-based and/or experimental methods.

Dr Adam Schembria.schembri@bham.ac.uk

My research and teaching experience has encompassed a number of areas in sign language linguistics, including work on aspects of the lexicon, grammar and sociolinguistics of Auslan and British Sign Language (BSL).  I am interested in supervising suitable PhD topics on all aspects of sign language linguistics, gesture studies and/or sociolinguistic variation and change.

Dr Petra Schoofs – p.m.schoofs@bham.ac.uk

My main interest lies in bilingualism and bilingual education. An additional research focus and the topic of my PhD was first language attrition research: what happens to your mother tongue when you have been living in other language environments for a lengthy period of time.  I am interested in supervising doctoral research in the above areas and related topics.

Dr Paul Thompson - p.thompson@bham.ac.uk

I have research interests in linguistic aspects of human-computer interaction, in uses of educational technologies in language learning, and in the exploitation of corpus resources and methodologies in learning about language. I have worked on large scale academic corpus development projects, and am keen to supervise doctoral research which explores specialised language use, particularly in academic discourse, through corpus analysis, or which develops innovative approaches to corpus studies.

Professor Michael Toolan - m.toolan@bham.ac.uk

I am interested in supervising PhDs in all areas of Literary Stylistics, Narrative Analysis, and Discourse Analysis.  Having recently completed two monographs using corpus stylistics to explore narrative structure, my major current research interest is a corpus linguistic study of UK news media representations of wealth (in)equality over the past 40 years.

Dr Crayton Walker - c.p.walker@bham.ac.uk

My own research interests are associated with the study of collocation and other phraseological aspects of English. I am currently using corpus-based techniques to investigate the phraseological behaviours of high frequency nouns and verbs and looking at how these are represented in mainstream EFL coursebooks.

I am particularly interested in supervising MA and PhD research in the areas of

  • collocation and other phraseological aspects of English
  • the pedagogic application of corpora
  • vocabulary and the teaching of vocabulary

Dr Bodo Winter - B.Winter@bham.ac.uk 

My research focuses on the intersection of language and perception. I have also worked extensively on such topics as metaphor, language evolution, gesture, sound symbolism and politeness. The different strands of my research are unified by a strong commitment to rigorous statistical methods and reproducible research practices.

Related research

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. The University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

University of the Year for employability

Birmingham?s English Language and Applied Linguistics postgraduates develop a broad range of transferable skills that are highly valued by employers, particularly in relation to verbal and written communication. They also develop crucial skills in organisation, time management, analysis and interpretation of information.

Over the past three years, 91% of English Language and Applied Linguistics postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Many of our graduates enter roles for which their programme has prepared them, such as teaching and lecturing; others use their transferable skills in a wide range of occupations including journalism, marketing and events.

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.

Accommodation

Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

Support in your studies

We offer an Academic Writing Advisory Service, which aims to help your transition to postgraduate research. The service offers guidance on organising your ideas and structuring an argument, referencing and avoiding plagiarism, being clear and coherent and editing your work for academic style and linguistic accuracy. Individual support is provided by a professional academic writing advisor via tutorials or email, as well as through the provision of online materials.

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