Humanities Research: Linguistics

Language makes sense of thought and reality
Programme of
Humanities (Research)
TitleMA Forensic Linguistics/Language and the Law
MA Human Language Technology

The two-year Research Master in Linguistics, specialization of the Humanities research master, trains you as a professional linguistic researcher, specialised in either Human Language Technology or in Forensic Linguistics. Both tracks are aimed at linguists who are looking for a solid training in linguistics, coupled with a challenging specialization in young research fields with a fundamental concern for current society.

Track: Human Language Technology
Human Language Technology is a young and rapidly evolving research field that holds a unique position between linguistics and computer science. Nowadays, in linguistic research a firm background in language technology is extremely valuable. Linguists have to be able to process large datasets. As a student of this specialization you will get acquainted with the essential large computational linguistic resources, learn programming in Python for linguistics and develop skills in Natural Langue Programming (NLP) and machine learning. Through this intensive research programm, you will become a professional in human language technology. The programme is offered by the Computational Lexicology and Terminology Lab (CLTL), an internationally acclaimed research group in computational linguistics.  Students holding a BA in Linguistics, Computer Science or Artificial intelligence are encouraged to apply.

Track: Forensic Linguistics/ Language and the Law
Forensic Linguistics/ Language and the Law is a new and exciting field, which has both a narrow and a broad definition. In its more specific sense it denotes the use of linguistic evidence in the courtroom. In its broader sense it refers to all areas of overlap between language and the law, including the language used in legal or quasi-legal settings by participants including judges, lawyers, witnesses, police officers and interpreters. As a graduate of this programme you will have acquired the theoretical background and practical casework experience to be able to analyse disputed texts, recognize a “language crime” such as bribery or threatening communication (nowadays often sent via social media), and identify participants in the police station or courtroom who are at a linguistic disadvantage, and therefore vulnerable to miscarriages of justice.

The programs for the two tracks partly overlap. All students take general courses in the field of humanities research and linguistics, both on theory and methodology.

Download flyer Human Language Technology

Download flyer Forensic Linguistics/Language and the Law


This two-year programme trains you as a researcher in linguistics, with a focus Forensic Linguistics or Human Language Technology. The researchers working at VU Linguistics are all affiliated to interfaculty research institutes within the VU. As a result, a lot of attention is paid to the relations between linguistics, computer science, the cognitive sciences, anthropology and , communication theory. There is also a strong emphasis on learning how to use various methods of linguistic research (corpus-based research, experiments, and linguistic modelling). 

The programme’s lecturers publish widely in international journals and are specialists in varying fields of linguistics. You will become acquainted with current theories and debates in their specific areas, including descriptive linguistics, applied linguistics, discourse analysis and language technology. 


The two-years course gives you the opportunity to create a programme that meets your personal interest. In principle, there are two ways of compiling your own study: 

  • Choose between one of the two tracks (Forensic Linguistics or Human Language Technology)
  • Compile your own study within one of the focus areas for research in our faculty. 

The curricula for the two specializations, Forensic Linguistics and Human Language Technology, are worked out in detail. If you are interested other areas of research you can choose optional courses and tutorials to build your own programme. The coordinator of the master course and the lecturers in the research fields will be pleased to discuss the possibilities. You can find more details on the programme below. 

Personal motivation is important for carrying out the research for this programme. You must be ready to ask ‘why’, be eager to discover the answers and be prepared to immerse yourself in the material for extended periods without coming up for air. You need a fascination for language and the vital role that language plays in our lives. Human Language Technology is open to students with either a linguistics or computer science background. In the first semester you can select courses tailored to your background allowing you to strengthen up your linguistics or technical skills, depending on your needs. 


Humanities Core Modules (3 x 6 EC) 
All Humanities Research Master students follow three core modules in humanities research and research design. These courses are aimed to provide a general introduction to the history, philosophy and methodology of humanities research, and to two cross cutting themes of VU humanities research: Environmental Humanities and Digital Humanities. You will also actively participate in the graduate lectures & seminars of the Graduate School of Humanities. 
After the introductions, the courses focus at research design: they will train you to position yourself in the international research field and to develop your skills in developing and presenting innovative research. In the second year, you will learn to write a research proposal for national or international science foundations. 

Linguistics Courses (2 x 9 EC) 
Central required courses on Linguistics Research Projects and on General Linguistics (2 x 9 EC), provide an introduction to linguistic research in general and at VU specifically. The courses are taught by several lecturers from the perspective of their own linguistics specialization. You will learn about exiting international projects that are at the frontier of linguistic research. 
For Human Language Technology specialists, the core course Linguistics Research Projects will be organized separately, around language technology: you will get acquainted with the different research projects that are running at CLTL (check our website:, interview the researchers, read background literature and write a report. 

Core Courses (24 EC) 
In the core courses you will be trained in the basic skills necessary for a linguistics researcher and will dive into the research of the leading research groups of the department. In these core courses you will learn to collaborate with cutting edge research groups, and to connect your own expertise to the main questions and methods of this state of the art research. 

  • Programming Python for Linguistics (9 EC - Year 1)
  • Natural Language Processing Technology (9 EC - Year 1)
  • Term Paper (6 EC - Year 1) 

Track Courses (21-27 EC) 
In the track courses you will further specialize in the track of your choice: 

Track courses of Human Language Technology: 
- Computational Lexicon (6 EC - Year 1) 
- Subjectivity Mining (6 EC - Year 2) 
- Machine Learning (9 EC - Year 2) 

Track courses of Forensic Linguistics 
- Why the law needs language and linguistics (6 EC - Year 1) 
- Methods of authorship analysis (6 EC - Year 1) 
- Language of Government and business (6 EC - Year 2) 
- Tutorial: Current issues in Forensic Linguistics (9 EC - Year 2) 

National research schools (min. 10 EC) 
All research master students enroll with a Humanities National Research School at the start of the first year of their study. The Graduate School of Humanities organizes this enrolment. Students then choose from the programmes of a National Research School a selection of courses, masterclasses, summer or winter schools of at least 10 EC. 

Individual study programme (max. 30 EC) 
A large portion of the study programme is reserved for individual choice. This way you can develop a tailor made study programme together with you mentor. You can choose for a stay at an another university or research institute in the Netherlands or abroad, or an internship, for tutorials, or specific skill trainings, combined with participation in conferences, workshops and the graduate lectures & seminars of the Graduate School of Humanities. You are also free to choose (a maximum of 5) linguistics MA courses. 

Thesis (30 EC) 
To complete your two-year programme you will write a Master’s thesis on a research project that you will carry out yourself. The thesis is an original scholarly piece of writing that makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of a linguistic issue. It contains clear argumentation, effectively supported by references to relevant literature and can serve as proof of your potential as a researcher. 

Click here for a pdf or the 2-year programme schedule.


Your most likely prospect after completing your Research Master’s is to set up your own research programme as a PhD student. This involves carrying out research under the guidance of a supervisor, and writing a PhD thesis on the subject. 

You can also embark on a career at a research institute outside of the academic setting. There are many research institutes eager to welcome researchers schooled in qualitative and quantitative research.   

Other opportunities 
But you can also embark on a career outside the field of research, for instance as an editor, a language policy worker in education for a local or national government, or a teacher. 

Human Language Technology is rapidly developing field of research. In linguistic research a firm background in language technology is extremely valuable for your future career in academia. In addition, the language industry is very keen on linguists with a technical background. Being a graduate of the CLTL will certainly boost your chances for a career in linguistics or language technology. 

As an expert in Forensic Linguistics, you have built up a unique expertise to find employment within government bodies, such as the ministry of justice or a forensic institute. Commercial companies are also often in need of linguists with a technical background. Being a graduate in Forensic Linguistics, especially if you have taken courses in language technology, will certainly increase your opportunities at finding a job in a related field. 


The Research Master's in Linguistics (Research) is a small-scale programme at VU Amsterdam, which makes it easy to get to know the different lecturers and their areas of expertise. 
Focus on research 
You will be involved in the activities of the research group from the very beginning (all lecturers are involved in research in the field of Linguistics). You are invited to take part in their monthly research meetings, where they take turns presenting their research activities and engaging in discussion.

Choose for liberty of choice or for a set programme
The Research Master’s in Linguistics leaves it up to you: you either take the core courses and make your own choices regarding the optional courses that you take (if you wish to construct your own specialization) or you take the core courses in combination with one of the two set specializations (Linguistic Engineering or Forensic Linguistics).

National graduate school 
VU Amsterdam participates in LOT, the Dutch national graduate school in linguistics. Every year, LOT organizes a winter school and a summer school with a variety of courses that you can follow.

Chantal van Son

Alumna, PhD at the Computational Lexicology and Terminology Lab (CLTL -

"In this study, I discovered how language really works. Figure it out once and then teach the computer!"

Overview Humanities Research: Linguistics

Language of instruction



2 years

Application deadline

1 June for Dutch and EU-students. 1 April for non-EU-students.

Start date

1 September

Study type



Human Language Technology and Forensic Linguistics

Field of Interest

Language and Communication

More information:

Student experiences

"After completing my Bachelor's in Communication at Boston University in the US, I decided to move back to Netherlands to continue my studies. I took some communication and linguistics classes here at VU Amsterdam and really liked the combination between these two disciplines. I then decided to apply for the Linguistic Research Master's where I could focus on these two disciplines and learn more about academic research. 

The Linguistic Research Master's is a new programme within the Linguistics faculty. It is a very small programme which makes it very intimate. Making contact with my fellow students and professors has been really easy. I really like this programme because it allows you to choose your own courses and create your own track within the linguistics department. You can even take classes from other faculties at VU Amsterdam, or other universities in the Netherlands. There are a lot of research opportunities at our faculty, which you are greatly encouraged to participate in during your time here at VU Amsterdam. A lot of self discipline is needed for this, but it is well worth the effort! After graduating from this programme I will be much better prepared for a PhD position." 

-Tessa van Charldorp, The Netherlands

"After obtaining an Master's in Applied Linguistics at the University of Surrey in the UK, I wanted to learn more about linguistics. The research programme at VU Amsterdam has given me this opportunity. A broad overview of all aspects of the subject, from corpus linguistics to creoles, is complemented with a wide range of option modules, which offer the freedom to follow individual interests. 

The teaching takes place in small groups and active participation is encouraged. The university also offers good study facilities and there is a lively international student community. This course provides an excellent preparation for those who wish to enter the field of research and a useful background for those who simply wish to extend and develop their knowledge. I am now finishing my first year and certainly do not regret my decision to apply." 

- Ruth Little, United Kingdom

Ruth Little

Student from United Kingdom

"The teaching takes place in small groups and active participation is encouraged. The university also offers good study facilities and there is a lively international student community."

Dutch students

Applicants should hold a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics or closely related field in order to be considered for admission to the programme. Furthermore, in order to be admitted directly we require a full Bachelor’s degree in linguistics and an average grade of minimally 7.5.


All students whose first language is not English including both home and international students must be able to provide recent evidence that their spoken and written command of the English language is appropriate. This requirement is specified in order to ensure that the academic progress of students is not hindered by language difficulties.

Acceptable qualifications
Listed below are all the English language qualifications and tests and the level required to satisfy our English language entry requirements. The qualification or test result must have been awarded no more than two years prior to the proposed date of enrolment.

  • IELTS Academic Version: Overall grade of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each of the subtests.
  • TOEFL paper based test: Overall grade of 600 with a minimum of 55 in each of the subtests plus 4.0 in TWE.
  • TOEFL internet based test: Overall grade of 100 with a minimum of 20-23 in each of the subtests.
  • Cambridge Advanced English: A, B or C.

Exemption from the requirements listed above can be awarded to students who have fulfilled the following requirements no longer than two years prior to the date of enrolment:

  • students who have fulfilled the requirements of the VU English language proficiency test TOEFL ITP, with the required scores. For more information please consult Taalloket.
  • Students with substantial education (minimum 12 months) conducted in English in an English speaking country.
  • Students holding an International Baccalaureate degree in English.

The required evidence should, if possible, be included with the complete application. If either unsatisfactory or no evidence of English language proficiency has been provided with the application, admission will be conditional upon the provision of such evidence. This condition will be clearly indicated on the offer letter and must be fulfilled before enrolment at the VU Amsterdam.

Dutch students and international candidates with a Dutch degree can apply via Studielink before June 1 for the label Linguistics (Research).

VU Amsterdam makes use of its own VU Portal (, which is linked to Studielink and allows you to upload digital copies of all the documents containing the information we need to decide whether or not you are admissible. After you have applied for the master in Studielink, the university will retrieve your application details from Studielink and prepare your VU Portal account and e-mail you the login details. Please note that this may take a couple of days. The e-mail will contain instructions on how to access your account and complete your application. The required documents to be uploaded in VU Portal are:

  • Application form (in Dutch)
  • Letter of Motivation
    Please supply a letter (1-2 pages in length) stating your reasons for applying to the master.
  • Bachelor diploma(s)
    If you have yet to obtain your degree or diploma, you can ask the registrar of your university to provide an official statement to the effect that you are most likely to graduate before 1 September.
  • Transcript of records
  • Curriculum Vitae
    The curriculum vitae should include your personal details and list your previous education and relevant work experience.

Your application will be reviewed by the Faculty of Humanities. The final decision on admission is made by the Examination Board of the Master's programme within 6 weeks. You will be informed on this via Studielink.

Information on courses and the study programme:

Dr. Petra Bos 
VU Amsterdam 
Faculty of Humanities 
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam 
T (020) 598 6576 
F (020) 598 6500   

Information on practical matters (application procedure, scholarships, visas, etc.):   
VU Amsterdam
International Office
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam

Contact person:
Mr Stipo Jeleč
International Student Advisor
t +31 (20) 59 889 20

International students

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. 

Specific admission requirements for the research Master’s Programme Linguistics 

Applicants should hold a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics in order to be considered for admission to the programme. Furthermore, in order to be admitted directly we require a full Bachelor’s degree in linguistics and an average grade of minimally 7.5.

You must always present official test results proving your proficiency in English. Only students who have completed a  full high school/International Baccalaureate in English or bachelor’s degree in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia may be exempted. You can already apply online without having the test results. In case you haven’t taken a test yet we advise you to plan a test date as soon as possible. Below you will find the minimum English test scores for the English taught programmes at the Faculty of Humanities: 

TOEFL score (score 600 paper based with a minimum of 55 in each of the subtests plus 4.0 in TWE, score 250 computer based or score 100 internet based with a minimum of 20-23 in each of the subtests).  IELTS score of 7.0 overall band score (with none of the separate section scores dropping below a minimum score of 6.5). 
Cambridge English: Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C, or Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C. 

Please refer to the language requirement page for the general requirements regarding the English language test. 

If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required. 

Step 1: Meet admission criteria 

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online 

Please prepare the following documents. You can find an explanation of each document on the application page. All documents should be provided in English. 

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (ID only for EU residents) 
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation Letter
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Transcript of records 
  • Thesis (or another sample of academic writing, at least 5 pages plus a list of used literature)
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education 
  • A list of all the main literature used during your previous higher education  

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. After you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via email.

Step 3: Await decision on admission 
The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam! 
Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. Here you will find an explanation what to do after admission. When all conditions are met you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam! 

Further information about; 
Tuition fees 

Contact for International Degree Students 

For detailed questions about the Master’s programmes or the application procedure contact your International Student Advisor at the International Office: 

Stipo Jeleč          
Tel + 31 (0)20 598 8920 

As an international student planning to study at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, you can apply for a variety of grants and bursaries. 

Detailed information about scholarships and deadlines can be found on or

The VU Fellowship Programme

The VU Fellowship Programme (VUFP) is a highly selective scholarship for strongly motivated students with excellent study results. If you want to apply to the VUFP, you will need to complete the scholarship application as well as the Master’s programme application by 1 February. More information can be found here

Information on courses and the study programme: 

Dr. Petra Bos  
VU Amsterdam  
Faculty of Humanities  
De Boelelaan 1105 
1081 HV Amsterdam  
T (020) 598 6576  
F (020) 598 6500    

Information on practical matters (application procedure, scholarships, visas, etc.):     
VU Amsterdam 
International Office 
De Boelelaan 1105 
1081 HV Amsterdam

Contact person: 
Irena Bunic
International Student Advisor 
t +31 (20) 59 85252empty