Humanities Research: Linguistics

Language makes sense of thought and reality
Programme of
Humanities (research)
TitleMA Linguistics

The two-year research programme in Linguistics, specialization of the Master's degree programme Humanities (research), trains you as a professional linguistic researcher, specialised in either Human Language Technology or in Forensic Linguistics. Both focus areas are aimed at linguists who are looking for solid training in linguistics, coupled with a challenging specialization in newly developing research fields with a fundamental concern for current society.

This two-year programme trains you as a researcher in linguistics, with a focus on Human Language Technology or Forensic Linguistics. The researchers working at VU Amsterdam are all affiliated to interfaculty research institutes within the university. 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 courses of the programme give 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 specialized programmes (Human Language Technology or Forensic Linguistics)
  • Compile your own study within one of the focus areas

The programmes for the two focus areas partly overlap. All students take general courses in the field of humanities research and linguistics, both on theory and methodology. More detailed information about programme is available in the online study guide.

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 programme, you will become a professional in human language technology.

The specialization 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.

The programme is offered by the Computational Lexicology and Terminology Lab (CLTL), an internationally acclaimed research group in computational linguistics.  Students holding a Bachelor's degree in Linguistics, Computer Science or Artificial intelligence are encouraged to apply.

Forensic Linguistics

Forensic Linguistics 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.

Humanities Core Modules (3 x 6 ECTS)
All Humanities Research Master's 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 Amsterdam's humanities research: Environmental Humanities and Digital Humanities.
You will also actively participate in the graduate lectures and 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 Core Courses (6 ECTS)
The course General Linguistics, provides an introduction to linguistic research in general and at VU Amsterdam specifically.
For Human Language Technology specialists, the core course Introduction to Human Language Technology (6 ECTS) will be organized around language technology: you will get acquainted with the different research projects that are running at the research group CLTL, interview the researchers, read background literature and write a report.

Specialized Courses (27-30 ECTS)
In these courses you will further specialize in the focus area of your choice.

Human Language Technology:
- Python Programming for Text Analysis (6 ECTS - Year 1)
- Deep Learning for NLP (9 ECTS - Year 1)
- NLP Foundations (9 ECTS - Year 1)
- Subjectivity Mining (6 ECTS - Year 2)
- Machine Learning (9 ECTS - Year 2)

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

National research schools (min. 10 ECTS)
All research Master's 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 ECTS.

Individual study programme (max. 30 ECTS)
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 Master's courses.

Thesis (30 ECTS)
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. Students who will choose Human Language Technology, are offered the possibility to combine their thesis with an internship in research or at the language industry.

Detailed course information
VU Amsterdam's online study guide: Humanities Research (2019-2020).


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 Humanities Research Master's in Linguistics 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.

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

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.


Dutch students and international candidates with a Dutch degree can apply via Studielink before June 1st for the label Humanities (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. Hennie van der Vliet
T: (020) 598 6466

VU Amsterdam 
Faculty of Humanities 
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam

Information days
Meet us at the next Master's Event!

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 at least 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 (IB) in English or bachelor’s degree in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia may be exempted. You can 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 check the Admission and language requirement page for the general requirements. 

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
  • 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 and a list of all the main literature

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
Tuition fees

Information on courses and the study programme:

Dr. Hennie van der Vliet
T: (020) 598 6466

VU Amsterdam 
Faculty of Humanities 
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam

Information on practical matters (application procedure, scholarships, visas, etc.):

Irena Paap
International Student Advisor
T: +31 (20) 59 85252

VU Amsterdam
International Office
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam

Information days
Meet us at the next Master's Event!

Some international students are happy to tell you about their experiences with living and studying in Amsterdam. These Student Ambassadors come from all over the world and have attended various bachelor's and master's programmes.

Our student ambassadors are listed here on this webpage:

Reach out to them and get their stories about being a student at VU Amsterdam!

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




2 years


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


1 September




Human Language Technology and Forensic Linguistics


Language and Communication