Master's Programme in Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Age, Master of Arts (2 years)

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Degree level
Master's degree
Start semester
2019 Autumn
Scope of studies and length
120 ECTS credits, 2 years
Language of instruction
English, Finnish, Swedish
Tuition fee per year (only non-EU/EEA citizens)
13000 €
Application period
3.12.2018 - 11.1.2019

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Why do languages change? Why does your mobile device suggest funny completions for words you are typing? How did it happen that Finnish is spoken mostly in Finland, but its linguistic relatives are scattered over a larger area? How can you study a language that does not have a standard orthography? Why can you sometimes tell where other people come from just by their accent? Why do some people stick to their dialect, but others give it up when they move to the city? Should you try to support language diversity? Can we save languages that are spoken by a very small number of people? How can computer-synthesised speech be made to sound more human? Why do some languages seem so much more difficult to learn - are they inherently more complex?

This Master's programme will provide you with an understanding of the nature and diversity of human language and with the theoretical tools for working with language material. If you are interested in languages but are unable to decide which of them you want to study, this Master's programme offers several fields of specialisation. One of them might be just perfect for you.

During your studies, you will:

  • Gain an in-depth understanding of the basic structure of language, its subsystems (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics) and their interrelationships, building on your previous knowledge of languages and linguistics.
  • Improve your skills in linguistic analysis and language description
  • Deepen your knowledge of linguistic concepts, theories, descriptive models and the associated research methods
  • Learn how language is related to cognition, speech and interaction as well as to social structures, culture and society
  • Learn to use various methods and technical tools in order to manage and analyse language data
  • Gain a good understanding of linguistic variation and diversity: what is common to the world's languages and how they differ, how language changes over time, how languages influence each another, how individuals cope with multilingual situations and how communities speaking endangered languages can be supported.

After completing your studies, you will be able to work independently in various fields that require multidisciplinary expertise in linguistic sciences. You will have the theoretical knowledge and skills that are required for postgraduate studies in the doctoral programme in language studies.

Further information about the studies on the Master's programme website.

Citizens of non-EU/EEA countries, who do not have a permanent residence status in the area and pursue their studies in English, are liable to pay tuition fees. You can check from FAQ at the Studyinfo website whether or not you are required to pay tuition fees.

Find out more about the Be 1* of the Best Scholarship Programme.

The language of instruction is English.

Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Age is an integrated international programme that offers you a comprehensive view of all subfields of the science of language. As a student in the programme you will be able to choose among four specialist options: (1) General Linguistics, (2) Phonetics, (3) Language Technology, and (4) Diversity Linguistics.  

General Linguistics gives you comprehensive in-depth training in a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches to language structure and language in use. Special emphasis is put on language typology in a global perspective as well as the documentation and description of endangered and previously undocumented and under-documented forms of speech. 

Phonetics will introduce you to the tools for working with the articulatory, acoustic and perceptional aspects of human speech from a multidisciplinary perspective. At the more advanced level, you will become acquainted with the methods of experimental phonetics. 

Language Technology combines linguistics with digital technology in an interdisciplinary approach with close links to computer science. The focus areas include natural language processing (NLP) for morphologically rich languages, cross-lingual NLP and language technology in the humanities.

Diversity Linguistics 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 in Diversity Linguistics are Eurasia and Africa.  

These four study tracks interact at all levels. There is a study module common to all students in the programme regardless of the specialist option they choose. The integration of these four perspectives 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. 

The Master’s programme Linguistic diversity in the Digital Age includes four study tracks. After completing the module common to all students in the programme, you will choose one of them, but in your elective studies you can include courses from the other study tracks as well as from other Master’s programmes.

General linguistics

General linguistics in Helsinki 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.


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 itself is often multidisciplinary and combines general phonetics, e.g., with speech technology, acoustics, linguistics, language technology, language education, psychology and neuroscience.

Language technology

Technological innovations of recent years have had an important impact on the study of language. Language technology offers technical tools and methods with which natural language ‑ speech and writing ‑ is processed by a computer. Some well-known applications of language technology are automatic spelling and grammar checking, speech recognition, speech synthesis, and machine translation.

Diversity linguistics

Diversity linguistics investigates the diversity of human language by looking at languages and speaker communities through time and space. Like general linguists, diversity linguists are interested in the complexity of human language, and they use similar typological and descriptive approaches. A specific feature of diversity linguistics is that it combines language description with historical-comparative linguistics, linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics and cultural history. This enables students to describe the language history of a given region or society, and to analyse a language grammatically. It fosters understanding of linguistic diversity and its maintenance under various ecological conditions.

The scope of the Master of Arts degree is 120 credits (ECTS), to be completed in two years of full-time studies. The degree contains the following studies:

  • Studies common to all students in the programme (30 credits)
  • Advanced studies in your study track (60 credits)
  • Other studies (30 credits)

All students in the programme take the same courses during the autumn semester of their first year. Then you will focus on your study track (general linguistics, phonetics, language technology, or diversity linguistics). This block of studies consists of courses (at least 30 credits) and your Master's thesis (30 credits).

Additionally, you can choose other studies: modules offered either by the other study tracks within this Master's programme or by other programmes within the University of Helsinki. The size of such optional study modules is typically 15, 25 or 30 credits. 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 in 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.

Master’s studies culminate in the writing of the Master’s thesis, an independent scientific study with the scope of 30 credits. You will be guided through the writing process in the thesis seminar in the second year of your studies.

The aim of the Master’s thesis is to develop basic skills required for conducting research. The most important of them include the ability to seek information independently, to analyse and assess existing information critically, and to produce and apply information independently. In addition, the writing of the Master’s thesis develops project management skills and the mastery of extensive knowledge.

As a rule, the thesis is written in English (but students with Finnish or Swedish as their administrational language can write their thesis in these languages).

After completing your Master’s thesis, you will

  • be ready to work in a persevering manner and able to understand large wholes,
  • have the ability to define and discuss the chosen research problem,
  • master the theories and research methods required in your own work,
  • have demonstrated familiarity with the topic of the thesis and the literature in the field, and
  • be able to communicate scientifically and analyse material.

After graduation, students of the programme find employment in a wide variety of positions, in which special knowledge of language is required.

One path prepares you for a research career, and many graduates work as researchers in Finland and abroad. You can also work in the political, diplomatic, and educational sectors, as well as research administration. Further potential employers are found in the publishing industry, media and journalism, public relations and communications of business and public administration, as well as NGOs.

If you choose a technological orientation, you may work in language technology firms or more generally in the IT sector. Big international companies are in constant need of experts in speech and language technology. Additionally, there is a vibrant field of domestic companies, some established ones and many promising start-ups. Some students have founded their own companies and become entrepreneurs.

Note that it is not possible to graduate as a (subject) teacher in the LingDA Master's programme.

In honour of the University of Helsinki's 375th anniversary, the Faculty of Arts presented 375 humanists during year 2015. Get to know the humanists!

Linguistics is by definition an international field. Language capacity is a feature common to all human beings, and the objective of linguistics as a science is to study both the universal background of language as a phenomenon and the global diversity of languages as expressions of social and cultural heritage.

In the LingDA programme, internationalization is present in several forms and at several levels:

  1. The programme functions in English and accepts international students from all countries;
  2. The programme recruits students representing a variety of linguistic and cultural backgrounds;
  3. The students are encouraged to study and master many languages from both the practical and the theoretical points of view;
  4. The students are encouraged early on to get engaged in documentational and typological field work among speakers of little documented languages in various parts of the world;
  5. The students are encouraged to use the opportunities of international exchange that the university offers. 

The programme has a high international profile and all teachers have wide international contact networks. At the university of Helsinki, linguistics was internationalized as early as the 19th century. Finland is a country where, in particular, ethnolinguistics and field linguistics were developed and practised much earlier than in most other European countries. Some of the regions where Finnish ethnolinguists have been active include North and Central Eurasia, the Near and Middle East, East Asia, South Asia, and Africa. This tradition of field-work-oriented linguistics is today carried on by the HALS (Helsinki Area and Linguistic Studies) research community. At the same time, the more recent fields of linguistics, including phonetics, language technology, and typology, have developed their own international profiles.

The programme has active contacts with other language-related study programmes within the university. Courses or modules in Computer Science are suggested for the technically oriented students. 

Via JOO agreements, students may also take suitable courses in other universities, e.g., Speech and Language Processing at Aalto University.

Members of the teaching staff are well connected with linguistics and language technology programmes in other Nordic and European universities as well as worldwide. It is also possible to attend summer schools organized by other linguistic programmes in Europe, given that these studies have been accepted in advance.

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 located 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 Center for Science. FIN-CLARIN is part of the European research infrastructure called CLARIN ERIC.

Especially the language technology side of the programme has close cooperation with technology companies and other businesses. Furthermore, the teachers and students of the programme interact widely with other societal actors, both public sector and NGOs.

The MA programme Diversity Linguistics in the Digital Age combines several research fields in which the University of Helsinki has long been a global leader. Language research in Helsinki has always maintained its strong commitment to a better understanding of cultural areas and their history. Situated in an ideal place for the study of language history and contact linguistics of various Eurasian language families, the study of Uralic languages has a long tradition in Helsinki. Our interest in the culturally and historically informed study of language reaches well beyond that, though, spanning Asia, Europe and Africa.

Our language research is empirically driven and informed by linguistic typology. The question of linguistic complexity, its significance for language and cultural history, and its intersection with ecological models is a hallmark of the Helsinki School of Linguistics. We explore new horizons in area and language studies by combining cutting edge research in linguistic typology with field work based descriptive linguistics and linguistic anthropology.

A unique asset at the University of Helsinki is the presence of various language technology initiatives at the forefront of the digital humanities. The study of morphologically complex languages plays a great role here, and special attention is paid to lesser researched languages.

Each of the four study lines of our MA programme thus corresponds to a University of Helsinki focus area. Our language-related research is typically multidisciplinary and involves more than one linguistic specialty. This is also a crucial feature in our MA programme. Students receive theoretical, thematic and methodological training for research or other professional careers that require problem-solving skills in order to maintain linguistic diversity and to support people’s linguistic well-being.

After completing the Master of Arts degree, you can apply to study for the Doctor of Philosophy degree, a postgraduate research degree. Within the University of Helsinki, the relevant programme is the doctoral programme in language studies. The University of Helsinki Faculty of Arts is Finland’s leading centre for research in the humanities. The Faculty has a strong research orientation, and its research represents the top level in many fields, both in Europe and globally. The LingDA MA programme gives you a strong and competitive background for pursuing doctoral studies within the focus areas of the four specialist options. You will find more information on doctoral studies at the University of Helsinki at

How to apply
Below you’ll find a link to the entry requirements for this programme. The application period to our international programmes is in December every year.

Faculty of Arts

People trained in the liberal arts play an important role in all sectors of society, from the traditional humanities fields of education and administration to business and technological fields. There is always a need for people who can think clearly, analyse issues, find creative solutions, and present them persuasively.

The University of Helsinki is among the top one hundred of such institutions in the world –the only one in Finland to be rated so highly. It is also Finland’s largest and most multidisciplinary university, offering around 300 disciplines in 11 faculties. The University’s staff and over 36,000 students constitute an international academic community, which is spread over four campuses in Helsinki and several other localities around Finland. Students here complete over 5,800 degrees each year.

The University’s Faculty of Arts is a significant international community of research, education and culture. It is Finland’s oldest and largest centre of teaching and research in the humanities and the country’s most versatile faculty. At the University of Helsinki, your education in the arts integrates international scope, linguistic interaction, reasoning skills, and a broad-based education. It will form the foundation for an enduring interest in lifelong learning and in understanding your fellow human beings.

The Faculty of Arts and its departments are located in the centre of Helsinki, mainly in three blocks near the Senate Square, in the University of Helsinki Main Building, Topelia and the Forestry Building. You will find everything you need for your studies – libraries, exercise facilities, learning centres and the like – within a short walk.

The Faculty of Arts is located in the centre of Helsinki, close to the Helsinki University Library (Kaisa House) and Alexandria Learning Centre, offering you easy access to modern study facilities and library services. The National Library of Finland, with the country’s broadest and most important collections in the field of arts, is also located on the City Centre Campus.

Helsinki is a compact city, built on a peninsula and islands in the Baltic Sea. Most of the city centre is within walking distance. In recent years the city has become much more cosmopolitan – there are restaurants and cultural activities from all over the world. Students and faculty here speak English, and most people working in shops and restaurants speak at least some English. So you can interact with most people in English, though it will enrich your stay here if you learn Finnish. Tervetuloa! Welcome!

As a University of Helsinki degree student, you can participate in a student exchange or traineeship outside Finland. The University has approximately 500 high-quality partner universities throughout the world, and each year some 1,000 University students embark on a student exchange or traineeship. A stay abroad gives valuable skills and experiences:

  • You can incorporate an international dimension into your degree and obtain international expertise in your field. A well-planned student exchange provides you with diverse, unique skills!
  • You will gain a new perspective on the world, learn more about yourself and enhance your language proficiency.
  • You will get better acquainted with the culture of the target country, meet new people and be able to establish international networks in your field.

More information about studying abroad:

At the University of Helsinki we provide an accessible learning environment for all students.

If you have a disability, an illness or a learning disability, and might need some special arrangements to be able to complete your studies, please contact the faculty at the beginning of your studies or when the need arises.

You will usually agree upon the practical arrangements with your professor before the course or seminar begins. If needed, you can also consult the Head of Academic Affairs at the faculty.

Special arrangements for your studies, such as individual support for learning, might include extra time to complete assignments and exams, teaching materials given in advance or in electronic form, accessibility to classrooms and alternative ways to complete assignments and coursework.

If you would like more information about special arrangements, please contact the Student Services in the City Centre at

University students have access to various services and benefits; among them housing, meals, health care, wellbeing as well as sports. On the New Student web pages, you find information on necessary insurances, permits, and fees. The University of Helsinki Student union (HYY) members may use a great variety of services and participate in various events and activities. Not to mention discounts available for students e.g. on travelling, cultural events, and several stores. Sub-organizations of HYY also organize a wide variety of social events. More information is available at Instructions for students.