Honours & MA in General Linguistics

​​​​​​The Honours programme and the MA programme both focus on the systematic study of language and language-related phenomena. As a general aim, our programmes are intended to equip students with:
  • a  sound  knowledge  and  understanding  of  current  theoretical  insights  in a linguistic domain that  is relevant to their particular interest and/or profession; and
  • the skills needed to apply these theoretical insights in an informed, critical and creative way to solve problems of linguistic theory and/or language practice.
To achieve this general aim, students in the programme are instructed in:
  • the theoretical linguistic concepts and principles required for analysing and understanding problematic aspects of particular linguistic phenomena;
  • the patterns of thought, forms of argumentation and methods of research that characterise the study of these phenomena within the relevant theoretical framework; and
  • general intellectual norms such as those of conceptual precision, reasonedness, coherence, clarity of formulation, etc.
Both programmes are highly relevant to the developmental needs of Southern Africa. In this regard, they are intended to develop an awareness of the strategic importance of understanding language and language-related issues in our multilinguistic and multicultural society, and to enable graduates to practice their (planned) professions with greater expertise, effectiveness, and satisfaction. The successful completion of the MA programme also formally paves the way for possible doctoral studies in linguistics.

Honours in General Linguistics

The Honours programme in General Linguistics has been designed for people in a range of professions that revolve around language or language-related phenomena, as well as for postgraduate students who have an academic interest in such phenomena.
The Honours programme has the following specific aims:
  • to equip students with a sound knowledge (i) of current linguistic insights into phenomena in a domain relevant to their interests and/or profession, and (ii) of the theoretical approaches and research methods that are used to gain such insights;
  • to produce individuals who have the ability to identify and convey their understanding of problematic phenomena in a particular linguistic domain;
  • to develop the academic and intellectual skills needed (i) to do independent small-scale research on a problematic phenomenon in a particular linguistic domain, and (ii) to report the findings of such research in a technically well-finished text.
As a region, Southern Africa shows a very rich diversity of languages and cultures. However, there is a lack of people with the necessary knowledge, insight and skills to address language and language-related issues, and who can do sophisticated research on such issues.

MA in General Linguistics

The MA programme is intended to make a significant contribution by providing students with the high-level skills needed to understand and do research on issues relating to language structure and use, language acquisition, language variation and shift, intercultural communication, multilingualism, language planning and policy, language disorders, and so on.
The MA programme builds, to a large extent, on the type of work that is done in the Honours programme in General Linguistics. As such, it subsumes many of the generic and substantive aims of the Honours programme, although on a more advanced level.
The main aims of the MA programme are to provide students with:
  • specialised knowledge of and insight into linguistic theories dealing with issues such as those mentioned above;
  • a sound understanding of theoretical approaches and research methods used in studying  linguistic  phenomena  in  various  domains  (syntax  and  morphology, pragmatics, second language acquisition, language variation, intercultural communication, language impairment, etc.);
  • the academic and intellectual skills that are required for doing independent research on a problematic phe​nomenon, including the ability to:
    • read technical texts with precision,
    • represent other people’s views, arguments, theories, etc. with a high degree of conceptual and terminological precision,
    • identify and analyse linguistically significant problems,
    • critically appraise and construct solutions to such problems,
    • defend a point of view and to reason in a logically coherent way,
    • integrate different perspectives into a coherent whole, and
    • produce a technically well-finished thesis.
For more information about these programmes, see the links to the prospectus’ below.


Application for admission to either the Honours programme or the MA programme in General Linguistics must be made on a prescribed application form obtainable from the Registrar. Application for admission can also be made using the University’s electronic application system (see link below).

An application can be considered only if it is accompanied by a complete study record showing exam marks for all subjects taken, both at undergraduate and at postgraduate level. If you do not have a copy of your study record, you should request one from the Registrar of each university at which you studied.
As there is a limit to the number of Honours, PGDip, and MA students that can be taught and supervised effectively in any one year, a selection has to be made from the applications received. Students are selected on the basis of their previous study record as well as their written responses to diagnostic test questions which all applicants are required to answer as part of their application. This diagnostic test is used to appraise a candidate’s ability to read an academic text critically and to respond to questions in a clear and coherent way. The diagnostic test is available from the Department, or it can be downloaded as a .pdf file (see link below).​ Furthermore, students need to submit a document detailing their research interests.
Students who wish to apply for admission to the programme must submit the completed application form online, provide a complete study record, and pay the required application fee. Postal applications should be sent to:
The Registrar
Stellenbosch University
Private Bag X1