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Should I study English Language and Linguistics or just Linguistics?

I would like to study Linguistics (L) at university and want to make sure that I wouldn't be missing out on anything by not applying to a joint course with English Language (EL). Consensus on here seems to be that EL focusses more specifically on English while L is more general (obviously). So the question remains is what a joint course would be like. I am definitely more inclined towards L (hence why I'm not mentioning single EL), but wonder what can be gained in terms of course material (and prestige etc.) by doing both rather than only one (e.g. 'communications', whatever that means).

Also, more distantly, would there be an advantage in terms of jobs (teaching, writing etc.) between the two degrees considering how similar they are?
Hi! I'm in Year 13 at the moment and I've applied for various linguistics courses. I can't tell you what it would be like to actually study them, but I can tell you what I think based on the offer holder days and open days that I've been to, and the students that I've talked to.

As far as I can tell, the difference between ELL and L courses seems to be quite minimal. ELL of course focuses more heavily on English - for instance, if you were doing a module on syntax, it would likely focus more on the syntax of English than on syntax as a whole. ELL courses also tend to have more modules available on the history of English, or on global varieties of English, rather than on the building blocks of language, such as phonetics, morphology, etc.

What I struggled with when applying is the fact that most universities won't offer an ELL course and a Linguistics course, but only one or the other. This means that the courses that I applied to all have different names at each different university, but they are functionally all linguistics courses. I have also noticed that ELL courses don't seem to be treated like joint honours courses by the majority of universities, likely because of the fact that the university would only offer ELL and not Linguistics as well as this. At ELL-only universities, the ELL course tends to exist entirely within whatever department houses Linguistics - you wouldn't be splitting your time between multiple departments and multiple courses. For instance, the Warwick 'English Language and Linguistics' course is the only option to study Linguistics without taking a modern language, and it functions just as a Linguistics course at any other university would, only with a stronger focus on English.

Rather than thinking about the title of the course, I spent a lot of time thinking about the modules offered at each university, and I would encourage you to do this too. For example, Warwick seems to be very strong at teaching communications (eg. business communications, discourse analysis), whereas Lancaster is building a reputation for excellence in corpus and forensic linguistics. York is also highly respected for corpus linguistics (as far as I can remember - this wasn't one that I visited myself!). I would strongly encourage you to think about what areas of linguistics you are interested in, search for modules that match these areas, and then ask lecturers about the specialist areas of the university when you visit for open days, because they may give you different answers to what you have heard elsewhere.

Good luck, and I hope you find the right course for you!
Original post by Helpmefindauni
I would like to study Linguistics (L) at university and want to make sure that I wouldn't be missing out on anything by not applying to a joint course with English Language (EL). Consensus on here seems to be that EL focusses more specifically on English while L is more general (obviously). So the question remains is what a joint course would be like. I am definitely more inclined towards L (hence why I'm not mentioning single EL), but wonder what can be gained in terms of course material (and prestige etc.) by doing both rather than only one (e.g. 'communications', whatever that means).
Also, more distantly, would there be an advantage in terms of jobs (teaching, writing etc.) between the two degrees considering how similar they are?


Hi @Helpmefindauni,

This is a good question and it’s great you’re taking time to choose the right course for you.

Many universities will offer different linguistics courses, but they are likely to either have one or the other - ELL or just Linguistics. I’d imagine they would have similar modules and teaching input, but your best bet is to read the course outlines for each university you’re considering and see which one you’d enjoy the most.

At Southampton, we offer two main undergraduate course types involving linguistics - ‘English Language and Linguistics’, or [Chosen Second Language] and Linguistics’. I assume you’re likely to choose ELL instead of a foreign language. What’s great is we have tons of modules that are specifically Linguistics-based, such as Syntax, Phonetics and Morphology, where you’ll study it in reference to your chosen language. For example, ELL will study how Linguistics functions in the English Language, such as analysing English syntax structure, but the course is still heavily reliant on Linguistics.

Furthermore, student can choose to take more Linguistics based modules to shape their degree to give them the skills they need for their future career. We have a huge selection of modules, and your course will mostly consist of optional modules you choose yourself. Job prospects will be rather similar, but it depends on what career you’d like to pursue. If you were interested in teaching or writing English, you might opt for ELL as employers may prefer to see evidence of ‘English’ knowledge specifically, but usually the difference is negligible. Southampton is 3rd in the UK for Linguistics Graduate prospects which means you’ll thrive in the workplace either way.

Hope this was helpful to provide insight into how Linguistics works here at Southampton, but make sure to do extensive research to decide which course is right for you.

Let us know if you have any more questions!
- Lia (Linguistics Student Representative)

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