The goal of the Linguistics PhD programme is to train researchers and instructors in the field of linguistics.

Study level PhD studies

Duration of study 4 years

Language English Estonian

A more general objective is to develop skills and abilities for independent research within a chosen field. Students should be able to conduct internationally relevant independent linguistic studies on the topic of the dissertation, to publish results in high-level scholarly journals and to present papers at international conferences.

Our programme will be of interest for the candidates who have their MA or equivalent level of education in the field of linguistics or philology, and wish to engage in application of linguistic theories in research.

Our main areas of expertise include: First language acquisition, Psycholinguistics, Cognitive linguistics, Second language acquisition, Translation studies, Sociolinguistics, Multilingualism and language contacts, Text linguistics, genre and discourse analysis.

Meet some of the PhD students of our School of Humanities

In 2024 we expect candidates for the following positions:

Junior researcher will be employed by the university PhD student is not employed by the university
One PhD junior researcher position (open topic) One PhD student position (open topic)
Three junior researcher positions will be distributed by the admission board during the admission period  

We also welcome applicants who wish to research one of the following topics

Why study with us?

  • Courses are held in the School of Humanities in the form of seminars, lectures and independent work.
  • Doctoral students are expected to contribute to theoretical seminars during the whole period of studies; other courses are conducted mostly in intensive study cycles.
  • The syllabus is flexible and enables every student to organise his/her studies in close cooperation with the supervisor and to choose the optimal training in a given research topic.
  • Deadlines for exams and responsible instructors are appointed individually for each student.
  • In order to obtain international experience, it is possible to participate in conferences, seminars, summer schools and to take courses abroad with the support of the Erasmus programme.
  • Every doctoral student has to draw an individual study plan in cooperation with the supervisor.

Course Outline

Full-time studies

  • PhD studies consist of a course component and a thesis component. Many of the courses are based on individual work and demand close co-operation with the supervisor.
  • Some subject courses and all general courses will have contact meetings. Not all the general courses will be offered in English every year.
  • PhD students must participate in the PhD seminars throughout their studies.
  • The official full-time study period of PhD studies is four years.

Core course components

One of the most important elments of the course component are the seminars, running throughout the four year study period. During these seminars the students will be able to present papers and function as examiners for their fellow students. Individual studies form an important part of the learning experience.

Study programme 2022/23

Academic Staff

Anna Verschik is the Professor of General Linguistics at Tallinn University. Her scholarly interests inculde topics like Estonian-Russian language contacts, multilingualism on the internet, sociolinguistics in the Baltic countries, contacts of Yiddish in the Baltic area and sociolinguistic situation of post-Soviet countries in a comparative perspective . She teaches subjects related to her research field.

Main research interests: contact linguistics and multilingualism.





Reili Argus is the Professor of Estonian Language. She has taught regularly psycholinguistics, first language acquisition, language editing and word-formation in Estonian. Her primary interest is the acquisition of Estonian as a first language. The main focus of her research has been on the acquisition of Estonian morphology, as well as on the acquisition of lexico-semantic and pragmatic categories. She works also on topics connected with language planning and practical use of Estonian language. She is a member of the Language Planning Board of the Society of Mother Tongue and the Society of Estonian Language Editors.

Suliko Liiv is the Professor Emeritus at Tallinn University. She graduated from the University of Tartu specialising in Germanic and Romance philology and the teaching of English. She has improved her professional knowledge at different universities in the United Kingdom and the USA. Her doctoral thesis focused on the pronoun "it" in English: formal pronoun "it" as a device for neutralising subjective and objective relations of the predicate.
Her research areas are contrastive linguistics, intercultural communication, foreign language teaching methods, language policy and lexicography.

Mari Uusküla poseesses a MA and PhD degrees from University of Tartu and has also studied at the Eötvös Lorand University Budapest, Hungary and at Universita degli studi di Firenze, Italy. Her research interests include linguistics, lexical semantics, semantic typology, color naming, categorization and perception, field linguistics, and psycholinguistics. She has published research articles on color semantics and categorization in a range of European languages including Hungarian, Italian, Russian, Finnish, Czech and others. She teaches psycholinguistics, anthropological linguistics, semantics and pragmatics at Tallinn University. She supervises at BA, MA and PhD levels. She has also lectured in a number of European Universities in Roskilde, Verona, Milano, Budapest and others.

Kapitolina Fedorova is the Associate Professor of Russian Studies at Tallinn University. She graduated from St. Petersburg State University (PhD 2002) and used to work for 15 years at the Department of Anthropology at European University at St. Petersburg. Before joining Tallinn University she spent two years teaching at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, South Korea.
Her research interests include sociolinguistics, language contacts, border and migration studies, linguistic landscape studies, and interethnic communication. She conducted research projects in different regions, including the Russian-Chinese, Russian-Finnish, and Russian-Estonian border areas, St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Seoul.

Study Support Facilities

  • The university campus houses a study library, the main university library in situated within an easy reach in the city centre. The National Library of Estonia is also in the city centre. Several electronic databases are available through the libraries.
  • There is the Graduate School of Linguistics, Philosophy and Semiotics, run by a consortium of institutions.
  • Students are welcome to participate in various seminars and conferences, including the conferences of the Estonian Association for Applied Linguistics.
  • Funding: Harno

Admission Requirements

  • Completed Master’s degree or the equivalent.
  • Proof of English Proficiency.

Read more here

Admission Requirements

For general requirements, please read admission to PhD Studies here.

Additional admission criteria in 2024

During the application period (20 May - 01 July) the candidates should upload into the application database:

1) The research proposal that has been expanded and enhanced in cooperation with the prospective supervisor and signed by him/her (length approx. 5 pages / 2500 words without the list of sources), which contains at least the following components:

  • The topic of the research project;
  • The objectives of the research and main research question(s);
  • Overview of methods to be used and/or of main terminology;
  • The overview of the state of the art of the topic;
  • Overview what topic related research the candidate has done prior to application;
  • Overview of the contents of the intended research;
  • Prognosis on the possible primary results of the research;
  • Primary list of the sources and literature to be used in the research;
  • The timeline-schedule of the research (incl. information on research to be conducted abroad, like Erasmus visits to other universities, visiting libraries and archives abroad etc.).

If the research contains fieldwork: the description of the scope, length, and financing (both the projected budget and sources of financing).

Candidates should clarify why this research should specifically be carried out at Tallinn University School of Humanities.

2) Expanded vision of the teaching assignments to be carried out during the PhD studies (max. 2 pages). It should give information on courses or course components to be taught, the role of the PhD candidate, and should be accepted by the prospective supervisor. (During the four years of PhD studies the students are expected to assist at least in three courses or seminars and to teach or co-teach at least one course / seminar).

3) CV (including a list of candidate’s publications)

4) A proof of English proficiency

Admission exam

The admission exam is an interview that is conducted based on the research proposal and other documents submitted by the candidate. The candidates for junior researcher position should have a very clear idea how long their studies will take. The interview take place in July and candidates will be contacted to arrange the exact time.

The assessment criteria

The following aspects will be assessed:

  • The academic competences of the candidate (incl. suitability of prior education, other knowledge and qualifications supporting the research topic, suitability of language skills for the intended research) [max. 35 points]
  • Research project / proposal (incl. topicality and interdisciplinarity, the contents of the research, intended methods, suitability for the profile of the School of Humanities) [max. 35 points]
  • Teaching competences (incl. the candidate’s suitability to teaching at the School of Humanities) [max. 20 points]
  • General motivation to study at PhD level [max. 10 points]

The subtotal maximum points a candidate can obtain is 100.

The examination board will assess each candidate individually based on the criteria. Each board member will assess the candidates based on the submitted materials. The board members will discuss the candidates and decide if they should / should not be invited for an interview. During the interview all board members may ask questions. Afterwards there is a discussion among the board members and a shortlist of candidates to be offered a PhD position is created based on the mutual agreement of the board members.

See also the detailed guidelines on application procedure at Tallinn University site.

Thematic positions 2024

Language attitudes and maintenance of Ukrainian in refugee families

The PhD student is expected to carry out research in family language policy among Ukrainian refugees in Estonia. Suitable candidates will have a background in linguistics. Candidates are required to have a good command of Ukrainian and English, knowledge of Estonian is a strong advantage. The admitted candidate will be enrolled in the Ph.D. programme of Linguistics.

Contact: Anna Verschik

World Englishes, English in Multilingual Contexts, English as a Lingua Franca

The PhD student is expected to carry out research in sociolinguistics with a focus on World Englishes, Multilingualism or English as a Lingua Franca. Preference is given to candidates with previous research and teaching experience in varieties of English, World Englishes, English as a lingua franca, Sociolinguistics and English morpho-syntax. Suitable candidates will have an undergraduate degree in English linguistics, sociolinguistics or equivalent. Candidates are required to have an excellent command of the English language. Deep knowledge of and/or proficiency in a variety of English is a strong advantage. In case of admission, the junior researcher will be expected to actively contribute to teaching. Knowledge of Estonian is an advantage. The admitted candidate will be enrolled in the Ph.D. programme Linguistics.

Contact: Julia Kuznetski

Comprehension and acquisition of emotion and perception words in the Estonian language

The PhD student will be expected to conduct research on psycholinguistics. The candidate will be expected to have expertise and skills in linguistics and excellent command of Estonian, skills in general linguistics and knowing several languages will be an advantage. The admitted candidate will be enrolled in the Ph.D. programme Linguistics.

Contact: Reili Argus

Notable Alumni


Elīna Bone was a PhD student in Linguistics at Tallinn University. Her field is contact linguistics with the focus on language use of Estonian-Latvian individuals because an individual is where contact-induced change starts.

Browse her thesis.

Anu Kalda was a PhD student in Linguistics. She holds an MSc in Political Science from Helsinki University and an MA degree in Translation Studies from Tallinn University. In her doctoral research Anu focused on analysing how English perception metaphors are translated into Estonian. She used the methods of cognitive and psycholinguistics. Perception metaphors include colour, smell, taste and temperature words. The aim of her thesis was to investigate the influence of linguistic and cultural background on understanding and translating perception metaphors. The focus was not only on translation but also on translation process and the cognitive load of perception metaphors.

Browse her thesis.

“The Teacher of English MA programme offered by Tallinn University provided a thorough understanding of the connections between language, culture, learning, and teaching. During my PhD studies, I had great opportunities to deepen my knowledge of foreign language learning and teaching and at the same time examine native language effects on the comprehension and the processing strategies of unfamiliar foreign language idioms.”

Browse her thesis


Helin Kask received her doctoral degree in linguistics at Tallinn University, Estonia. Her research interests are contact linguistics and multilingualism. Her thesis focused on English-Estonian language contacts in written texts and oral speech. She investigates on-going contact-induced language change in Estonian under the impact of English.

Browse her thesis

The School of Humanities at Tallinn University is a fantastic place to undertake a PhD in Linguistics, especially in the fields of sociolinguistics, language acquisition, language pedagogy, bilingualism, Estonian and Russian philology, language contact, and landscape linguistics.
The School has so many resident and visiting experts in these fields and I personally deepened my knowledge of sociolinguistics immensely over the course of my PhD studies, and it was the perfect place for me to write my doctoral thesis on transnational family language policy.
The School and university in general has a very welcoming and international feel in which any aspiring linguistics researcher would feel at home. While I am not currently working in academia or even linguistics, the skills I developed during my time at Tallinn University, including writing, research, analysis, and presenting serve me very well in my day-to-day work.

Browse his thesis

"Russian-Estonian language contact interested me. After completing my Estonian philology MA programme at Tallinn University I decided to enter a doctoral level as during the defence I was recommended to write a germane monograph in Estonian. The internationality of a PhD programme in linguistics created great opportunities to study different aspects of language contacts in Estonia. After a postdoc at the University of Tartu I returned to work in an area of Estonian as a second language and intercultural communication".

"The Linguistics PhD studies at Tallinn University gave me enhanced knowledge in linguistics which has made it possible to hold my present position at the same university as a professor. It enabled me to become and remain both updated on the current issues of the Estonian linguistics and to blend into the networks of international European networks of child language research".

Browse her thesis

Postgraduate Destinations

Graduate career options

Internationally accredited PhD diploma opens positions that require a doctoral degree. 

Further study opportunities

Our graduates are encouraged to pursue Post-Doc studies and individual academic development.

Contact Us!

  • Specific questions regarding the programme should be directed to the School of Humanities:
    Maris Peters

aDdressNarva mnt 25, 10120 Tallinn


  • For additional guidelines regarding admission procedure please contact the international admission specialist. 


Related programmes

Studies of Cultures

School of Humanities

Our Studies of Cultures is an umbrella PhD study programme covering fields like Cultural Theory, Estonian Literature and Culture, English Literature and Culture, German Literature and Culture, Romance Studies, Russian Literature and Culture, Middle Eastern and Asian Literatures and Cultures, Cultural Geography, Philosophy, and Social and Cultural Anthropology.

PhD studies
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