- Course: BA Linguistics and Phonetics
Before applying to Leeds I spent a number of years working in Edinburgh, Bristol and London. I worked as a waiter, a chef, a labourer, and composer. I also spent a while travelling through India, a country with lots of languages.
In terms of the course I was always pretty dead set on something language-based. I had never particularly excelled in a specific language, and didn’t have any real interest in devoting an entire degree programme to just one. Linguistics and Phonetics felt like the right puzzle-piece; under one roof I was offered the opportunity to explore language acquisition, the human vocal tract and the way in which language interacts with gender. As for the university itself, by the time I was applying a lot of my friends were already halfway through a degree programme here. So I guess I went on the basis their positive recommendations, really. Also, aesthetically the campus also did a very good job of convincing me.
I’m into syntactic theory, and what you can do with it. I like studying the interplay between the different structures that we find within sentences, how those structures can be described, and what they might say about the human mind. My dissertation is centred on the question of whether languages share any common properties, whether there are any universal structures present in all of them. For this I’m looking into the asymmetrical relationships that subjects and objects have with verbs, and in doing so I’m reading about Japanese, Finnish and the indigenous Australian language Warlpiri.
I should say, though, it’s not all that grammatically technical! I’ve also really enjoyed engaging in the sociolinguistics/cultural theory end of things, especially in regards to language and gender. These areas of study have really pushed my thinking into areas that would have remained unexplored, calling into question what role it is that language plays in determining the social world. The further reading that the language and gender study has put me onto has genuinely influenced my day to day thinking; it’s not all "which one’s an adjective?"...
One of the main benefits of the degree programme is the dedication to teaching offered. Whilst it is well known that lecturers are heavily focused on their own research, from a student’s perspective it has always felt like a department in which the teaching takes priority. At every juncture all my questions were first answered, and then challenged, and then questioned. All the seminars and lectures were intellectually stimulating, but never at any point did I feel as if they were delivered with any pomposity. The department is down to earth and easy to like, and the classes are challenging and rewarding.
The libraries (especially the Brotherton) are great places to work and their linguistics catalogue is extensive to say the least – not only in print but also in terms of journals. The amount of literature you have access to is enormous.
The strength of the degree is really in its breadth, but you can be as specific as you like within the broadest of fields. And also don’t worry if you’re terrible at learning languages like me, it doesn’t matter!