Structure, content and study tracks

What is special about the human mind that makes language possible? Why are there so many different languages in the world? Does your mobile device really understand what you are saying? Can we save languages that are spoken by a very small number of people?

Which one is more difficult to learn for artificial intelligence: to communicate in natural speech or to drive a car? Why can you sometimes tell where other people come from just by listening to their accent when they talk? Why doesn't computer-synthesised speech sound human? Why do some languages seem so much more difficult to learn and why do computers struggle with translating between them? Are some languages more complex than others?

In the Master's Programme in Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities (LingDig)*, you can find answers to these questions, deepen your understanding of language in general, become an expert in linguistic diversity at a local or global scale, dig into the mysteries of human cognition, or learn to approach various aspects of human life with digital research methods.

*Previously the Master's Programme in Linguistic Diversity in Digital Age. The mentioned fields of specialisations/study tracks are available as of 1 Aug 2020.


The scope of the Master of Arts degree is 120 credits (ECTS), to be completed in two years of full-time studies. In the Master's Programme in Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities (LingDig) contains the following studies:

  • Studies common to all students in the programme (30 credits); this includes a 5-credit introductory course, 5 credits of working life studies and 20 credits chosen from a common list of courses.
  • Advanced studies in your study track (30 credits)
  • Elective studies (30 credits)
  • MA thesis (30 credits)

Your elective studies may include modules offered either by the other study tracks within this Master's programme or by other programmes within the University of Helsinki. Examples of modules offered by other programmes include Indigenous studies and Computer science. Courses offered by other universities can also be included here.

The studies in your own study track, as well as the other studies, can also include study abroad (e.g. student exchange) and work practice or other working life oriented study units. Working life and career development perspectives are integrated into many of the courses.

At the beginning of your Master’s studies, you will prepare your first personal study plan (PSP), with support from the staff of the Master's programme. You will also receive guidance from the Faculty.

Content and study tracks

Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities (LingDig) is an integrated international programme that offers you in-depth training in your chosen study track supplemented with broad multi-disciplinary perspectives. As a student in the programme you will be able to choose among five study tracks: (1) General Linguistics, (2) Phonetics, (3) Language Technology, (4) Cognitive Science and (5) Digital Humanities.

General Linguistics broadens and deepens your training in a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches to language structure and language in use. Special emphasis is put on linguistic diversity including language typology in a global perspective as well as the documentation and description of endangered and previously undocumented and under-documented forms of speech. Our view encompasses all aspects of linguistic diversity in time and space, including historical linguistics as well as the extralinguistic context of languages: ethnicities, cultures and environ­ments. The areal foci are Eurasia and Africa. Typical courses for this study track are for example Language contact and Linguistics of a particular family/area. General Linguistics in Helsinki

Phonetics will introduce you to the tools for working with the articulatory, acoustic and perceptual aspects of human speech from a multidisciplinary perspective. The discipline deals with all aspects of human speech, including spoken language, emotion, as well as other para- and extra-linguistic factors. Through the courses, you will become acquainted with the methods of experimental phonetics and speech synthesis.  Most courses in phonetics are taught jointly with the researchers in the Phonetics and Speech Synthesis research group. The group's research focus is on speech prosody. Typical courses for this study track are for example Speech Synthesis and Recognition and Speech and Language Evolution. Phonetics in Helsinki

Language Technology focuses on the development of models and tools that can process and generate human languages, The field combines linguistics and computer science in an interdisciplinary approach with close links to machine learning and research in artificial intelligence. The study track includes fundamental models of morphology, syntax and semantics and emphasises cross-lingual natural language processing and language technology in the humanities. Our courses are closely related to research in the department integrating students in on-going projects and developments. Typical courses for this study track are for example Computational syntax and Computational morphology. Language Technology in Helsinki

Cognitive Science is the multidisciplinary study of the mind. It studies the information-processing that is the basis of all intelligent behaviour, including perception, attention, learning and memory, concepts and language. Most studied is the cognition of adult humans - but cognitive development, animal cognition and the similarities and differences in human and Artificial Intelligence also belong to cognitive science, as do the fundamental philosophical, theoretical and methodological issues in understanding the mind. Typical courses for this study track are for example Philosophy of Mind and Cognition and Language, Cognition and the Brain. Cognitive Science in Helsinki

Digital humanities (DH) is a scholarly field situated in-between divergent research cultures and approaches. It incorporates both humanities research based on computer-assisted methods, and the humanities-based study of digital cultures. Most typically DH refers to the use of data science within the realm of SSH research. Typical courses for this study track are for example Elements of Digital Humanities and Programming for Digital Humanities. Digital Humanities in Helsinki


These five study tracks interact at all levels, starting with an introductory course common to all students, bringing together the perspectives of all five study tracks. Taking courses across study tracks is made easy. The integration of these five disciplines into one programme is unique - no similar programme exists anywhere else.

In the context of humanities, the programme has the closest relationship to natural sciences, and many subfields of the programme involve methods directly linked to laboratory sciences, including digital technology and neurosciences.

The teaching in the programme includes lectures and seminars, practical exercise sessions, reading circles, fieldwork excursions, as well as work practice (internship). The broad spectrum of teaching methods guarantees optimal support for your learning processes. 

Every spring, the programme organises a student conference. Information on previous years' conferences.

Se­lec­tion of ma­jor or spe­cial­isa­tion (study track)

The Master’s Programme in Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities (LingDig) includes five study tracks.* You choose one of them when applying to the programme, but in your elective studies you can include courses from the other study tracks as well as from other Master’s programmes.

General linguistics supports a broad range of theoretical and methodological approaches to language. Our focus is on language description and typology in a global perspective. In language description, we emphasise the documentation and grammatical description of endangered and previously under-documented languages. Typological research examines patterns of cross-linguistic variation in order to understand the general regularities governing the structure and functioning of human language. We investigate the diversity of human language by looking at languages and speaker communities through time and space, combining language description with historical-comparative linguistics, linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics and cultural history. This approach fosters understanding of linguistic diversity and its maintenance under various conditions.

Phonetics is the science of speech. Speech can be investigated as a motor-cognitive ability or skill, as an acoustic signal, or as a perceptual phenomenon. The training as a phonetician involves a broad range of fields, both applied and research-oriented. Phonetic research is often multidisciplinary, combining general phonetics with speech technology, acoustics, linguistics, language technology, language education, psychology and neuroscience.

The core of language technology is the development of computational models and algorithms that can process and produce human languages. Building machines that can understand and generate language requires knowledge of the properties and structures of human languages and how they can be implemented in formal models or learned from data. For this, language technology combines findings from linguistics, computer science and various related fields. Students in this track will learn the essential building blocks for the development of natural language processing systems. We focus on multilingual and cross-lingual approaches and emphasise modern techniques based on machine learning and data-oriented algorithms. We cover the theoretical foundations as well as practical applications such as machine translation and data mining. Language technology has a growing impact on the modern digital society and experts in the field are widely needed on the job market. We strive for a strong connection between teaching, research and development to prepare students for their future careers.

Cognitive scientists use a variety of techniques (experimental measurements, surveys and interviews, quantitative and qualitative data analysis, computational modelling) to study the mind, brain and behavior. Our teaching goal to develop "full-stack scientists" with a good feel for how the elements of a research program integrate: defining theoretical concepts, design of an experimental paradigm, signal analysis and statistical and computational modelling, and how these finally express the theoretical ideas. The Cognitive Science teaching tradition in Helsinki is fairly un-hierarchical and informal, but demanding. 

Computers and data processing are changing also the scholarship in humanities and social science. Digital humanities is a multidisciplinary undertaking with a broad range of methods applied to different humanities research questions. Different aspects of open science and new forms of academic collaboration are at the core of our teaching philosophy. The focus areas include use of language technology and data science in the humanities and the study of digital cultures.

*Previously the Master's Programme in Linguistic diversity in Digital Age. The mentioned fields of specialisations/study tracks are available as of 1 Aug 2020.

Co-operation and studies with other parties

The programme has active contacts with philosophy, history, data science, education and culture and language-related study programmes within the university. Especially for students who elect to take the cognitive science, phonetics, language technology or digital humanities track, courses or modules in Computer Science are recommended. For students focusing on linguistic diversity, the module offered by Indigenous studies is a good choice.

Via Flexible Study Rights (JOO) agreements, you can also take suitable courses at other universities, such as Speech and Language Processing at Aalto University.

The members of the teaching staff are well connected with linguistics and language technology programmes in other Nordic and European universities as well as worldwide.

In the CogSci study track you also have the opportunity to apply to USchool - a joint module with Aalto University in usability, the design of interactive products and services, user interfaces, and user experience. With hands-on projects with engineers and designers, this prepares you for a job in UX. 

Cognitive Science and the Cognitive Brain Research Unit of the faculty of medicine organize an international summer school. You can also attend summer schools organised by other linguistic, cognitive science or digital humanities programmes in Europe and world-wide, given that these studies have been accepted in advance in your PSP.

Some courses in linguistic corpus methods and language data management are offered by or in co-operation with the FIN-CLARIN consortium, whose national coordinator and support team are at the University of Helsinki. FIN-CLARIN provides resources and services for language researchers through Kielipankki, the Language Bank of Finland, maintained by CSC - IT Centre for Science. FIN-CLARIN is part of the European research infrastructure called CLARIN ERIC. The language technology side of the programme in particular has close cooperation with technology companies and other businesses.

The teachers and students of the programme also interact widely with other institutions, both in the public sector and NGOs.

Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities - Optional studies

Are you a student looking to complete optional studies in Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities? The master's degree has several optional study modules on offer. They can be found in the optional studies catalogue. (Scroll down to "Master's Programme in Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities"). You can register for a module using the corresponding course code in Sisu.

These optional study modules allow students to take a variety of courses from the corresponding  Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities study tracks. The module size can vary between 15 and 30 etcs. A full list of the courses currently offered can be found through the university's course finder.

Students of the Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities Master's programme can find optional studies in other programmes they might ant to include in their own studies on the same webpages.