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Linguistics - Research


Linguistics at Ulster University has a strong research focus and a lively research atmosphere. PhD Researchers 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.

Another key research area involves the application of discourse and conversation analysis to understand issues of culture, identity, communication and interaction.


The Linguistics group has a regular programme of visiting speakers and visiting scholars who join the department for longer periods. PhD Researchers 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.

There is a well-equipped phonetics laboratory, good computer facilities and excellent facilities for video and audio recording for those working in relevant areas.

Entry requirements

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study. We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master's Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

Additional information for International applicants may be found

English language requirements

In order to be admitted to research study at Ulster, you will need to provide evidence of your English language proficiency as part of your application.


PhD Research

You can study for a PhD on a full (3 years) or part-time (6 years) basis and by the end of your programme, you will have produced a body of work that makes a contribution to knowledge in your chosen field.

We have various routes to obtaining a PhD - for example, in some areas you can submit a practical element as part of your submission, such as a piece of art or a musical composition.


The MPhil programme is studied over a 2 year period on a full-time basis or 4 years on a part-time basis.

We would recommend that you contact one of our academic staff whose interests align with your own to discuss your intended research prior to submitting an application.

Careers or further progression

Careers and opportunities

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), and while two thirds end up in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the range of skills acquired equips the remainder for employment in a wide range of contexts.

Further enquiries

Contact supervisor

Dr Maxim Fomin


+44 28 7167 5213



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.

Application date


We are delighted that you are considering Ulster University for your research studies. Full details on the application process and further guidance on how to apply, and what you will need to upload as part of your application, is available at the link below.

Once you have identified supervisors, discussed a research proposal and are ready to make an application, please apply using the online application system.

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.

Research 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.

Enrolment and start dates

Year of entry: 2020/21

Postgraduate Information Session 26 March 2020

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