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Master Program Linguistics

Frequently Asked Questions

This section contains the frequently asked questions relating to your studies. If you are sure you cannot find your answers here or in the download section, please check below who to contact:

If you have a question about...
a course the course instructor you can find their contact details in the course catalogue
a module the module coordinator and/or the course instructor. You can find their details in the course catalogue
the Linguistics MA program the study advisor here
the university's framework regulations the Student Services at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Language Requirements

I don't speak German - can I still apply for this major?

Yes, but not all focus areas are taught entirely in English.

Focus areas taught in English

  • English Linguistics
  • Digital Linguistics
  • Phonetics
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Descriptive Linguistics
  • (Linguistics without specialisation > depends on the courses chosen)

Focus areas taught in German or German/English or mixed:

  • Language - Interaction - Society is offered by the German Department and will be taught mostly in German. There are some courses that you will have to take at the English Department. (Please contact the study advisor Lorena Schneider ( if you think that the courses at the English Department might be a challenge for you.)
  • Indo-European Studies is also taught mostly in German.
  • In the Romance Linguistics track, it is possible that a language course is taught in the language that is studied, e.g. "Langue française (C2)" is taught in French.
  • The Slavic Linguistics track is mostly taught in German or in the target language. However, it is possible that some modules can be taught in English if the instructors are informed as soon as the courses are published in the course catalogue.

I have a Bachelor Diploma in English. Do I still have to provide a Language Certificate for English?

Depends. Foreign-language applicants for a Master's degree must prove that they have sufficient command of the main language of instruction. However, if they hold a Bachelor's degree or a comparable degree from a university located in a region where the official language is the same as the language of instruction, they are exempted from this rule.

If you have a Swiss maturity certificate or a Bachelor's degree, you are exempt from having to prove your language proficiency. 

See here fore more information on the language requirements at the University of Zurich. 

I noticed that there are many courses not taught in English. Does that mean I can only take some specific courses?

Most of the courses (including the compulsory methodology modules) are taught in English. If the language of instruction is "Deutsch/Englisch", the course will be taught in English as soon as at least one student does not speak or understand German. Language courses such as "Catalan Language", for example, are taught in the respective language. 

Exceptions: The focus areas Language - Interaction - Society and Indo-European Studies are predominantly (or entirely) taught in German.


Is it correct that entering your Master's program is based on the number of ECTS credits and not on formal content criteria on Linguistics courses completed?

Yes. The admission requirements are 21 ECTS credits from courses with linguistic content as well as good knowledge of English (C1), including academic writing skills in English. This means that even with a completely unrelated Bachelor's degree it is possible to enrol in this Master's program in linguistics. If you don't already have said 21 ECTS credits in linguistics you will receive additional requirements in the amount that is missing. You can obtain these missing ECTS credits by attending Bachelor's modules in linguistics in parallel to your Master's degree modules. 

See the section Prerequisites for more information.

We attach great importance to the self-responsibility of our students. If during your studies you discover that there are gaps in your linguistic knowledge, we assume that you will acquire the missing knowledge yourself, for example by reading books, working through a tutorial, or attending suitable courses. The instructors are happy to give students advice in this case. 

Can graduates with a degree from a university of applied sciences study linguistics?

Yes, they have the same entry requirement as other university graduates, i.e. they have to bring 21 ECTS credits in linguistics or will be admitted with additional requirements in the missing amount of ECTS. See the section Prerequisites for more detailed information.

For graduates of universities of applied sciences in particular, however, it is still the case that they must have an average grade of at least 5. See here for more information.

I have a degree in Business English. Why do I get additional requirements?

It is important to note that courses focusing on language skills (pronunciation, listening, writing, etc.) or translation are not considered linguistic content. To get an idea of what is considered linguistic content, have a look at BA programs with the module group "Linguistics" (for example BA in English Literature and Linguistics). 

If you are not sure, you can always contact the program coordinator 

Transfer of Credits / Recognition of Academic Achievement

I have a Bachelor's degree in CL and have thus already completed ECL I and PCL I. Do I have to take the compulsory module "Language Data Processing" again?

The skills acquired in the module "Language Data Processing" can be recognised as acquired if you have completed the modules ECL I and PCL I. Because the credits have already been used for the CL Bachelor, transfer of credits is thus not possible.

However, you no longer have to complete the compulsory module "Language Data Processing", but you have to acquire the 15 ECTS credits that this module is worth elsewhere.

I've taken a PhD course, can it be counted towards my MA degree?

No. Only level-appropriate courses may be counted toward your degree, i.e. MA courses can be counted towards an MA degree, PhD courses can be counted towards a PhD degree.

I want to take a course at ETH, can I do that?

Yes, UZH students may take courses at ETH if they are related to their study program. To do so, they have to register as a "special student" (Fachstudierende) and take the same steps one would take for a semester abroad. This means that they must contact the program coordinator and sign a learning agreement for the course. After successful completion of the course, the student can contact the program coordinator again with the necessary proof of successful completion and the request for accreditation will be forwarded to the responsible office.

Please read the information on this page: ETH Special Student Registration

Program Structure and Course Sequence

Is it possible to start the program in the spring semester?

Yes. It is entirely possible to start the program in the spring semester. Note, however, that the compulsory methodological modules are only taught in the fall semester. Depending on your background, the spring semester could be a good opportunity to complete the additional requirements for the 21 ECTS in linguistics, to take language courses, or modules that have no prerequisites.

When and how can I change my focus area?

The change of focus area is made with a request for a change of degree program. This is done during your semester enrolment in the respective time windows: 

  • Change for the fall semester: 15 May - 31 August
  • Change for the spring semester: 15 November - 31 January

Detailed information can be found here.

I want to study abroad. Is it possible in this program?


At the moment, our students can go abroad via the contracts of the other departments involved in this program. We are working on setting up our own contracts with partner universities. 

We usually recommend the third semester (if you study full-time) to go abroad. This way, you would ideally already have completed the compulsory methodological modules as well as some seminars here at UZH. However, it is your decision when you want to go abroad. 

For more information on how to apply for a stay abroad, please see this page.

Master Thesis

If I want to hand in the MA thesis in December, do I have to book it in the spring semester or only in the fall semester?

In principle, the Master Theiss module must bed booked in the semester you want to hand it in.

More specifically: The module should be booked ideally when you start it. So if you already start working on your Master thesis in FS21, you should also book it in FS21. The idea is that in the first semester of this 2-semester module you look for a supervisor and do some preliminary work, and you'll still have time to attend some modules, if you wish. In the second semester, we suggest you work almost exclusively on your Master Thesis, but of course the distribution of your workload is entirely up to you. 

The sample curriculum distributes the 30 ECTS for the MA thesis in two semesters, e.g. 6 ECTS in the 1st and 24 ECTS in the 2nd semester. What does this mean?

The sample curricula are really just that: A sample of how your 4 (or more) semesters could look like. The reason why many sample curricula distribute the 30 ECTS for the MA theses across the semesters is to give you an idea of how you could, for example, focus on research and structuring your MA thesis in the first semester (6 ECTS) and data collection, data analysis, and the writing of your thesis in the second semester (24 ECTS). This simply reflects the potential amount of work involved in each semester. You are free to distribute the work load as you wish.

The MA Thesis module is a 2-semester module. Can I still hand it in after 1 semester?

Yes, you can hand it in after 1 semester already.

I am worried that I won't make the deadline. Is it possible to get an extension of the deadline?

Yes, it is possible to get an extension of up to 1 month. Please discuss this with your supervisor first before you approach your study advisor. If the prevention (e.g. illness, natural disaster, etc.) was longer and 1 month extension is not enough, this can justify a cancellation of the MA thesis module. However, the new MA thesis must the be written on a new topic.

Questions concerning individual focus areas

What is the difference between a Major in CL (90) and the Monomaster Linguistics with specialisation in Digital Linguistics (120)?

The Computer Linguistics Major is designed for students who already have a Bachelor's degree in CL and corresponding knowledge in programming and IT. Therefore, 60 ECTS in CL are required as a prerequisite. The Master modules are not feasible for students without corresponding prior knowledge.
The Monomaster Linguistics is designed for students who either have prior knowledge from a language field, i.e. typically a BA in a philology or none at all, in which case they will be required to fulfil the 21 ECTS credits from linguistics. See section Prerequisites.

What is the difference between Linguistics with focus area English linguistics and an English Major with a focus on Linguistics?

A Major in English with a specialisation in linguistics is only 90 ECTS credits and requires you to choose a minor subject worth 30 ECTS (or two 15 ECTS minors). For information on an English Major, please visit website of the English Seminar.

The Monomaster in Linguistics with focus area English linguistics includes methodological training and access to a wide range of other courses offered by the 9 institutes that are part of our program.

LINK: Study Guide Linguistics

Lehrdiplom für Maturitätsschulen

Can I do the Lehrdiplom with a Monomaster in Linguistics?

Yes, you can do the Lehrdiplom für Maturitätsschulen (Teaching Diploma for Upper Secondary Education) with a Monomaster in Linguistics, provided that:

  • for the first (or only) teaching subject, you take at least 45 ECTS credits in modules in English;
  • for the second (or additional) teaching subject, you take at least 30 ECTS in modules in English;
  • you fulfill all the other requirements* (e.g. Master Thesis in English or a closely related field).

Please see here for more detailed information on the requirements and the study advisors fo the Lehrdiplom für Maturitätsschulen for each language. 

Note that the study program for the teaching diploma is taught in German.

Weiterführende Informationen


Study advisor

Couldn't find the answers to your questions anywhere on our website? Contact our study advisor: 

International Students

Contact for Visa and Immigration Questions

Cecilia Caruso

+41 44 634 20 28

Office hours: Mon - Thu

For academic questions and questions regarding admission please contact your department or the Admissions Office.