MA in Sociocultural Linguistics

This interdisciplinary programme looks at language from a sociocultural perspective. It's designed for anyone with an interest in the relationship between language, culture and society but also provides students with a solid understanding of English language and linguistics.

About the department
English & Comparative Literature

1 year full-time or 2 years part-time.
If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline. Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants.

The Department of English & Comparative Literature sometimes offers fee waivers for this programme.

See our tuition fees.
Contact the department
Contact Maria Macdonald
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Find out about how you can visit Goldsmiths at one of our open days or come on a campus tour.

The MA develops your understanding of historical and contemporary debates in (socio)linguistics and discourse analysis and enhances your analytic and linguistic skills by introducing different approaches to the analysis of written and spoken language use from a range of everyday and institutional contexts.

Topics covered include:

  • language and ideology
  • linguistic performances of identity (particularly language and gender, sexuality, ethnicity and social class)
  • language and the media
  • talk at work
  • English in a multilingual world
  • intercultural communication
  • multilingualism and code-switching
  • varieties of English

You're encouraged to engage with these topics by drawing on your own social, cultural and occupational backgrounds in class discussions and in your written work.

You're also encouraged to collect your own samples of written and spoken language use and learn to subject those to in-depth critical analysis.

This MA will draw on findings, theories and methodologies from: sociolinguistics, semantics, pragmatics, spoken and written discourse analysis, ethnography, semiotics, feminist stylistics; multimodal analysis; interactional sociolinguistics, conversational analysis, membership categorisation analysis, performativity and narrative analysis.

The programme’s distinct interdisciplinary ethos is also reflected in your opportunity to choose from a selection of relevant option modules in other departments of the College.

What you study

On this programme you will complete two core modules, two option modules and one dissertation.

The two compulsory core modules are:

  • Core Issues in English Language & Linguistics
  • Language in its Sociocultural Context

The four linguistics options are:

  • Analysing Discourse & Identity in Spoken Interaction
  • English in a Multilingual World
  • Intercultural Discourse & Communication
  • Language & Ideology in Written Discourse

You may choose two linguistic options or one linguistic option and one option from other MA programmes within the College, where specifically approved by the Programme Co-ordinator.

You also produce a dissertation. Dissertation topics in the past included: discursive construction of religious identities in interviews with British Muslim converts; code-switching practices in a Tunisian family; discourse and identities in the SLA classroom; language and gender in dream narratives; pauses and silences on Talk Radio; attitudes towards bilingual signs in Thailand; representations of parenthood in UK parenting magazines; political debates on Irish TV; lifetime narratives of older Asian immigrants in the UK; the language of text messaging; language and literacy practices on Facebook; attitudes to non-standard language use; discursive analysis of EFL textbooks; gendered speech style in an all-female group of Iranian friends.

The best (UG or MA) linguistics dissertation is rewarded every year with the Hayley Davis Prize.

We also run an optional MA study skills module in which we cover topics such as: using electronic resources; British academic essay writing & referencing at MA level; planning a dissertation in (socio)linguistics.

Approach to teaching

Our lecture/seminar sessions are designed to combine discussions of preparatory reading materials with tutor-led input and hands-on analyses of data/texts by students. We also tend to invite guest lectures for our option modules and introduce you to a number of linguistics talk series across the University of London.

Our MA group is usually very tight-knit, students and student reps organise study/revision groups, online discussion forums, outings to lectures across London, and a number of social events.


Coursework; essays; examinations; dissertation.

Applying and entrance requirements

You can apply directly to Goldsmiths via the website by clicking the ‘apply now’ button on the main programme page.

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have: 

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments.
  • The email address details of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference.
  • A personal statement. This can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online.
  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory).
  • An essay (written in English), as an example of your academic writing.

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

If you're applying for funding you may be subject to an application deadline. Find out more about funding opportunities for UK/EU students and international students. 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.

Selection process

Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally, we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.

Entrance requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class standard.

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.

No prior knowledge of linguistics is required. If you would like to explore the options, given your personal background, please Get in touch via our online form.

We also accept a wide range of international equivalent qualifications, which can be found on our country-specific pages. If you'd like more information, please contact the Admissions Office.

English language

If your first language isn't English, you need to demonstrate a minimum score of 7.0 in IELTS (including 7.0 in the written element) or equivalent to enroll and study on this programme. 

Please check our English language requirements for more information.

Find out more about applying 

Contact us 

Get in touch via our online form


+44 (0)20 7919 7766

International (non-EU)

+44 (0)20 7919 7702

Core modules

On this programme you will complete two core module s, two option module s and one dissertation.

Code Module title Credits
tbc Core Issues in English Language & Linguistics 30 CATS

This module , one of the two core units for the MA in Sociocultural Linguistics, will introduce you to the main areas of study within modern linguistics, including theoretical and methodological aspects. The module aims to make clear the wider aims of linguistic research, as well as to enable students to apply theoretical notions to specific datasets and develop their own skills of linguistic analysis.

Topics include introduction to phonetics and phonology (speech sounds), morphology (word structure), syntax (sentence structure), semantics (word and sentence meaning) and pragmatics (the use and interpretation of meaning) as well basic issues and facts of language change and language variation.

tbc Language in its Sociocultural Context 30 CATS

This module combines a sociolinguistic with a discourse analytic approach in order to explore the socio-cultural contextualisation of language and meaning from two angles: language use and language representation. This dual focus will be evident throughout the module; topics such as language and gender, language and ethnicity or language and the media will be examined in relation to the socio-cultural (and situational) contexts in which speakers use language as well as in relation to different representations of specific socio-cultural groups in the media and other (written) texts.

For example, we will investigate both how women speak and how women are spoken about, and we will discuss if and how the former relates to the latter and vice-versa. Other topics that will be addressed in this module include the political correctness debate, sexist language, cross-cultural approaches to politeness, attitudes to non-standard English and the linguistic construction of identity.

Option modules

You may choose two linguistic options or one linguistic option and one option from other MA programmes within the College, where specifically approved by the Programme Co-ordinator.

tbc Analysing Discourse & Identity in Spoken Interaction 30 CATS

This module will introduce you to the analysis of discourse and identity in spoken interaction. The module will allow you to develop in-depth, critical understanding of approaches, concepts and debates in spoken discourse analysis. The second aim of the module is to provide you with the opportunity to apply your newly acquired methodological insight to the study of discourse and identity in many different conversational and institutional settings. 

A range of methodological frameworks and analytic concepts will be explored, including ethnographic approaches to language analysis, interactional sociolinguistics, conversational analysis, membership categorisation analysis, performativity and narrative analysis. Seminar discussions will seek to establish what each of these approaches has to offer to the analysis of discourse practices and identity constructions of speakers in naturally occurring talk. For example, we will consider the question if analysts should or can avoid to bring a priori assumptions about the relevance of macro identity categories such as gender and social class to their data.

The module will also encourage you to carry out your own project by collecting, transcribing and analysing a sample of spoken language of their choice. You'll then get the opportunity to present and discuss their work with their colleagues in seminars.

tbc English in a Multilingual World 30 CATS

This module gives you an overview of the issues raised by the global spread of English in the context of language variation and language change. You'll gain knowledge about the social history of English since its arrival in the British Isles to the present day and explore the role that English plays in multilingual settings and its interaction with other languages. Issues of first and second language acquisition are brought to bear on the development of language in multilingual contexts. You'll also explore the influence of language policy and language contact. Special attention is given to power and status in the context of multilingualism.

The module will include a number of case studies and will pay attention to multilingualism in a range of contexts, including family, community and educational settings. You'll be encouraged to present your own case studies of language policy, educational issues, code-switching or other aspects of multilingualism.

tbc Intercultural Discourse & Communication 30 CATS

This module introduces you to a range of empirical studies in a field that has become known as intercultural or cross-cultural communication. We will consider research that examines if speaking styles vary from culture to culture, asking, for example, if some groups of speakers accept and encourage more overlap and simultaneous talk than others, or, if understandings of directness and politeness vary culturally.

We'll study cross-cultural communication in everyday interaction but also in institutional settings, examining talk in business and medical encounters as well as educational settings such as the multilingual/multi-ethnic classroom. We are also interested in the relevance of cultural stereotypes and cultural identities, and we will explore the latter both in multi-party interaction and in narratives. 

Throughout the module you'll need to consider the term ‘culture’ critically, comparing popular definitions of ‘culture’ as homogenous and static with postmodern models that highlight the heterogeneity and fluidity of ‘culture’. You will become familiar with a range of methodological approaches to the study of language, culture and interaction. These include the ethnography of speaking, interactional sociolinguistics, intercultural pragmatics and politeness theory. The module will not only ask you to study language, culture and interaction in a range of different English-speaking countries and settings, but it will also draw on research from a wide variety of other languages, including German, Greek, Japanese and Chinese.

tbc Language & Ideology in Written Discourse 30 CATS

This module aims to introduce you to contemporary approaches and frameworks of analysis of written discourse. The module explores the analytic techniques and principles of written discourse analysis and gives you space to apply these techniques to a wide selection of texts (texts from the contemporary media, advertisements, textbooks, political and administrative texts, texts in translation etc).

The module leads you to a discussion of how linguistic analysis can illuminate wider social issues, for example issues of power and ideology, issues of representation and identity. You'll acquire knowledge of different levels of linguistic analysis, and learn to examine written discourse at the micro-level, and to link the micro-level of analysis to the macro-level of social practice. The use of a variety of texts is intended to lead students to debates about language use and social issues in different areas of human activity: media representation, translation, education, etc.

You are encouraged to engage with the research literature and apply the theoretical concepts and linguistic approaches you become familiar with to independent analyses of self-selected data.

Option modules from other departments

Availability of options across the College varies, but typically you can choose from the following selection. 

Department of English and Comparative Literature: Studies in Comparative Literature & Criticism; Theories of Literature & Culture; Modern Literary Movements; Literature of the Caribbean & its Diasporas; American Literature & Culture: Critical and Theoretical Concepts; Rewriting Sexualities; Twentieth Century Caribbean Writing; Caribbean Women Writing & Representation

Department of Anthropology: Anthropology and Gender Theory; Anthropology and History; Anthropology of Religion; Social Anthropology of the Caribbean

Department of Media and Communications: Introduction to Media and Communications Theory; The Structure of Contemporary Political Communications; Transnational Communications and the Global Media: Orientations; Media Audiences & Media Geography; Media Ethnicity & The Nation; After New Media 

Department of Sociology: Introduction to Feminist & Cultural Theory; Gender Affect and the Body; What is Culture? Key Theoretical Interventions; Race Politics & Ethics

Centre for Cultural Studies: Cultural Theory; Text and Image

Programme specification

To find out more about this degree, including details about the ways you'll be assessed and information about our marking criteria, you can download the programme specification.

Student and Graduate profiles


MA in Sociocultural Linguistics

My first degree was in Literature and Philosophy, so although I had an interest in Language, I never thought of myself as a linguist, per se. In applying for an MA I wanted something that would challenge from a new intellectual angle, but which would be interesting through its relevance to everyday life. When I saw the MA that Goldsmiths offered I knew immediately that it would be the right course for me, and I wasn't disappointed. Linguistics is such a broad subject and this MA manages to touch on so many aspects yet keeps it all manageable and allows you to follow your interests in whichever direction you wish.

The classes were intimate and very sociable, with excellent tutors who encouraged fantastic discussions and really pushed the boundaries of what I thought I 'knew' about language. We had guest lecturers and were also encouraged to sit in on seminars for the options that we hadn't chosen to help us gain as much knowledge of the wider subject as we possible could. There is a huge emphasis on actively collecting your own data and really getting involved in the world of socio-linguistics. Having come from a more literary and theoretical background, I found this slightly daunting at first, but as soon as I started collecting and analysing data I found it thoroughly satisfying and rewarding. For my dissertation I gathered research in two schools to look at the teaching of literacy is managed within a multilingual classroom in the UK. I now consider myself a linguist and am applying to train as a Speech and Language Therapist!


MA in Sociocultural Linguistics

Before studying at Goldsmiths on the MA, I completed a BA in Language and Communication at Cardiff University. The BA course touched on some of the principles of discourse analysis and linguistic and communication research and I was looking for an MA programme that would that would allow me to take a more in depth look into some of the areas we had covered, particularly socio-linguistics and inter-cultural communication. I liked the interdisciplinary nature of the MA programme at Goldsmiths, it offered me a greater understanding of the fundamentals of modern linguistic research through the core course modules whist giving me the opportunity to follow my specific interests in the optional modules. I found the seminars engaging and inspiring and I enjoyed the classroom discussions. While the course was challenging, the class groups were relatively small and there was a really supportive atmosphere created amongst my peers and tutors.

I became particularly interested in second language acquisition and translation studies and wrote my final dissertation on the influence of first language usage on second language acquisition in the classroom. On completion of the course I accepted a post working for the British Council in Colombia, teaching English to adults and business people. I draw on my academic experience regularly in my job and continue to read EFL journals, particularly at the moment as I am studying on a Cambridge diploma course in language teaching.


MA in Sociocultural Linguistics

I graduated from London Metropolitan University with a BA in Applied Translation, while working as a part-time Spanish language tutor. Coming from a linguistic background, I wanted to further my studies in linguistics, so I decided to do an MA in the field.

After being offered a place at several universities, I chose Goldsmiths’ MA because I was looking for a course which offered aspects related to Sociology and Cultural Studies from a linguistic point of view. I was particularly interested in studying modern linguistics, techniques of linguistic analysis, socio-linguistic methodologies, and semantics and pragmatics, and this MA covered all these subjects, and more.

I enjoyed taking the following courses: Theory and Method in the Study of Language in Context; Discourse as Social Interaction; and Language and Meaning in Cultural Analysis; and found that they covered my expectations in terms of what I was looking for. I found it good practice to carry out analysis and interpretation of spoken and written texts, and I really enjoyed the group discussions with peers and lecturers, which were very engaging and thought provoking.

After completing my MA I was offered a job at London South Bank University in the Research and Development Office. At some stage in the future I may continue my postgraduate studies with a PhD degree, as I would like to do research in social communication and cultural issues.


Publishing, journalism, British Council roles, public relations, teaching, research, translation, advertising, the civil service, business, industry, the media.


Transferable skills, including enhanced communication and discussion skills in written and oral contexts; the ability to analyse and evaluate a wide variety of spoken and written texts from informal as well as institutional settings; an understanding of the concept of communicative competence; the ability to organise information, and to assimilate and evaluate competing arguments.

Content last modified: 02 Sep 2014

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