Clare College Cambridge


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Linguistics is the study of all aspects of human language and how we communicate using language. It explores the structure of languages – their sounds, how words are formed, how words are combined to form sentences, the construction of discourses, and how meaning is conveyed at each of these levels of language structure. Linguistics investigates how children learn their native language and whether certain properties of languages are universal to all languages, helping us to understand more about the nature of the human mind. Linguistics is also concerned with how language changes over time and how its usage varies among different groups in society.

The Linguistics Tripos: Part I and Part II

Linguistics is offered as a full three-year degree programme ('Tripos') by the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, comprising a one-year Part I and a two-year Part II.

Linguistics as a Part II subject

Linguistics is also available as a Part II subject for students who decide they would like to study linguistics having completed Part I in another degree subject. A Part I in any degree subject is a possible precursor to a Part II in Linguistics; typical examples include Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Classics, English and Modern and Medieval Languages. It is possible to commence a Part II in Linguistics having completed Part Ia or Part IIb of the Modern and Medieval Languages Tripos. Part II in Linguistics is available as a one-year or a two-year course. 

Linguistics within the Modern and Medieval Languages and Other Triposes 

There is also a wide range of opportunities to study linguistics within the Modern and Medieval Languages Tripos. Students in certain other Faculties can ‘borrow’ linguistics papers after the first year of their Tripos.

Studying Linguistics at Clare

Formal lectures, seminars and practical sessions are arranged by the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages. Supervisions for each paper (in pairs or small groups) are arranged, and in some cases given, by the Director of Studies in Linguistics at Clare.

The Linguistics Tripos offers students a range of choices in the topics and areas they can study. The College very much encourages students to develop and pursue their own academic interests within these choices. The final year of the Tripos (three-year course or two-year Part II course) offers the opportunity to write a dissertation, enabling students to study a particular area of interest in linguistics in greater depth and to gain research experience.

Clare Linguistics students with Director of Studies, Dr Kirsty McDougall (far right), at a college dinner. 

Admissions Requirements

Since linguistics is interdisciplinary in nature, there are no specific requirements on subjects studied at A-level. Applicants with interests in both the arts and sciences are welcomed. Some experience of formal study of language, either through learning languages or A-level English Language would provide a useful background.

A typical offer would be A*AA at A-level or 7,7,6 (40+ overall) in the IB or the equivalent from other educational systems.

Written Assessment

All applicants who are selected for interview are required to take the university-wide at-interview written assessment for Linguistics. Further information about this is available here.


Applicants who are selected for interview will be interviewed in the second or third week of December. Each applicant will normally have two interviews.

Director of Studies in Linguistics

Dr Kirsty McDougall Director of Studies in Linguistics at Clare College. Her main areas of interest are speech production, forensic applications of phonetics (e.g. speaker identification and voice parades), language variation and sociophonetics.

See Student Profile: Rowan Douglas