Linguistics at Ulster University has a strong research focus and a lively research atmosphere. Research students are valued members of the research community and rapidly become part of an active research group. They take part in regular staff-student seminars where current research is presented and debated. The group regularly organises international conferences and in recent years it has become very active in the development of research on linguistic interfaces and multilingualism.
Work in the linguistics group spans a range of areas in the discipline from syntactic and semantic theory to applied linguistics. Particular strengths are in the areas of syntax, semantics, pragmatics, discourse analysis, microvariation, linguistic interfaces, first and second language acquisition, bilingualism, language variation, language change, talk-in-interaction and language policy and planning.
The group also works in investigating experimentally a range of syntactic, semantic or pragmatic phenomena, with different measures and in different types of population; typical adults, children, and individuals with language disorders.
While students and staff work on a wide range of languages, some take advantage of the opportunity to work on a selection of interesting local language varieties including Belfast English, Irish English in general, Irish and Ulster Scots.
Another key research area involves the application of discourse and conversation analysis to understand issues of culture, identity, communication and interaction.
Find out more about the Ulster University Centre for Multilingualism.
About this course
In this section
The Linguistics group has a regular programme of visiting speakers and visiting scholars who join the department for longer periods. Students are encouraged and aided to present their own work at international conferences, to take part in international summer schools, and to become part of the international research community in their various areas of specialisation by spending a semester of study in other universities in the world with which the unit has connections.
We welcome applications for PhDs by full-time, part- time and part-time distance study.
As a full time student, the expectation is that you will work on your project on a daily basis, either on or off campus as agreed with your supervisor. You will be entitled to 40 days holiday per annum.
Part time students are expected to meet with their supervisors on a regular basis, most usually this would be monthly but this is dependent on the project area.How to apply
We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.
In this section
You will need to hold a First of Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in an area relevant to your chosen project to be able to apply.
If you have obtained an undergraduate degree from a non-UK institution, we can advise you on how it compares to the UK system.
English Language Requirements
English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for research degree programmes is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. This is the only acceptable certificate for those requiring to obtain a Tier 4 visa.
Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.
Careers & opportunities
In this section
Although academia is considered to be the most obvious path for any PhD holder, with around two thirds of our graduates remaining in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the degree also paves way for a career in industries centred on research and innovation.
PhD graduates are recognised by employers to hold valuable transferrable skills, as the nature of the degree trains candidates in creativity, critical inquiry, problem solving, negotiation skills, professionalism and confidence.
The most recent Ulster survey of PhD graduates found that 92% had secured employment within the first year since graduation (HESA Destination of Leavers Survey 2015).
ApplyHow to apply
Ulster University welcomes applications from all sections of the community and from persons with disabilities. It is University policy to assess all applications using academic criteria and on the basis of equality of opportunity and you should be assured that reasonable adjustments will be made should you require them.
Once you have selected your chosen project from the lists available on the Faculty pages, you are advised to make contact with the named supervisor on the project as they will be able to guide you in writing your research proposal.
You should then apply using our online application system: ulster.ac.uk/applyonline
Fees and funding
A number of funded scholarships are available across the University each year for PhD projects. Applications for studentships will be considered on a competitive basis with regard to the candidate's qualifications, skills, experience and interests.
Sources of funding
Fees (per annum)
Home and EU £4260
Home and EU £1540
Home and EU (with External Sponsor paying fees) £2200
Distance Research Study (Home and EU) £6600
Research facilities and groups
There is a well-equipped phonetics laboratory, good computer facilities and excellent facilities for video and audio recording for those working in relevant areas.
Staff research areas
Professor Rafaella Folli
Professor Raffaella Folli’s specialist area is syntax, and particularly the lexicon-syntax interface, within the Minimalist framework. She is also interested in language acquisition, language processing and in the study of syntactic deficiencies in aphasia. She has worked and published on a range of languages including English, Italian, Greek and Persian.
Dr Juliana Gerard
Dr Gerard researches in language acquisition and language processing in children and adults. Her work has focused on how processes that are not specific to language, like memory and inhibitory control, can influence children's language development.
Professor Alison Henry
Best known for her work on Belfast English and microvariation in syntax, she also works on language acquisition, language disorders and the interface between syntactic theory and sociolinguistics.
Dr Anthea Irwin
Dr Anthea Irwin’s main research areas are sociolinguistics and discourse analysis. She has two key foci: linguistic construction of identity, particularly in conversational interaction; and linguistic and multimodal constructions of individuals and groups, particularly those who are marginalised, in the media.
Dr Lynda Kennedy
Dr Kennedy's research interests include the language and processing aspects of Broca's aphasia, experimental linguistics, the comparison between language acquisition and disorder. Her work extends the scope of inquiry on Broca's aphasia from the traditional domain of syntax and beyond into the domain of semantics/pragmatics.
Dr Philip McDermott
Dr Philip McDermott’s research focuses on the relationship between the state and linguistic minorities. A focus of his previous research has been in the area of language policy in post conflict societies and planning for (and by) migrant communities. He has a specific interest in the perception of minority languages in public places, the ways that government and communities deal with linguistic diversity and the manner in which multilingualism and bilingualism are dealt with in policy contexts. Presently, Dr McDermott's work is focused on cultural identity and diversity (including language) and how this is manifested in public institutions – particularly the heritage sector, and how migrants engage with this sector.
Dr Jacopo Romoli
Dr Jacopo Romoli’s research interests are multidisciplinary bridging theoretical linguistics with cognitive psychology and philosophy of language, focusing on formal semantics. More specifically, his current research focuses on Presuppositions, Scalar Implicatures, Free choice inferences, Neg-raising phenomena, Assertability constraints, and the scope interactions of nominal quantifiers and modals.
Dr Karyn Stapleton
Dr Karyn Stapleton’s research interests are in the areas of discourse analysis, interpersonal communication, pragmatics, social psychology, and identity construction and management. Her core research involves the application of discourse analytic approaches to issues of culture, politics, community and identity, particularly within the Northern Irish context. Dr Stapleton also supervises in the areas of accountability, social psychology, focusing on the phenomenon of swearing as an interpersonal activity (sociolinguistic, pragmatic, and psychological perspectives).
Dr Christina Sevdali
Dr Christina Sevdali specialises in two main themes: Generative Historical Linguistics and Multilingualism. Within the former, she is focusing on linking historical linguistics, and Ancient Greek language in particular with theoretical (and specifically generative) syntax. She is leading Language made fun, a project that applies linguistics research on multilingualism to an educational setting, assisting newcomer pupils to achieve their full potential.
Dr Catrin Rhys
Dr Catrin Rhys specialises in Conversation Analysis with an emphasis on social interaction with language disordered participants. She has a particular interest in interactional adaptation/ compensation in language impairment. She is also interested in the interface between interaction and the linguistic system the interface between discourse and prosody.