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.

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 2019/20

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.

Krista Kerge in the Professor of Applied Linguistics and working for Tallinn University (including its predecessors) for thirty years. She is supervising a number of PhD students covering a diverse range of topics. She is facinated by the integration of various linguistic subject areas, the intersections of linguistics and various social sciences, and language as a tool for artistic creation (for example, translation of fiction).

Main research interests: linguistic variation, text and genre analysis, language acquisition, learning and teaching of first and second language, verbal communication (especially legal and administrative communication), syntax and word formation of Estonian text.


Suliko Liiv is the Professor of English 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.

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: Archimedes

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 2020

In 2020 we primarily expect candidates who wish to research one of these areas:

  • First and second language acquisition (in the Baltic context);
  • Early multilingualism;
  • Contact linguistics.

Before the submission in the application database the candidates are recommended to submit the following documents for a preview:                                                                                      

1) A research proposal accepted by the prospective supervisor (length approx. 3 pages / 1500 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 the 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;

NB! If the candidate needs assistance finding a supervisor, the research proposal should be submitted to

2) A one page description of candidate’s teaching experience so far and a vision of the possible teaching assignments to be conducted during the PhD studies at Tallinn University. It is highly recommended to find, in collaboration with the prospective supervisor, some links with the present courses and study programmes taught at Tallinn University.

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

All three documents should be sent to

The admission board will go through the materials submitted and will give the candidates feedback on how to continue with the application process within two weeks.

During the application period (11 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 (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 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.

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

Notable Alumni

"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

"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".

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


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