New Master’s Programme in Theoretical Linguistics to Start at HSE
A new English-taught master’s programme ‘Linguistic Theory and Language Description’ starts in the new academic year. Ekaterina Rakhilina, Head of the School of Linguistics, told us about some details of the programme, project work and the potential for international cooperation.
Currently, HSE only offers master’s programme in computer linguistics, but this year we’ve been implementing a pilot project of a second, theoretical, profile as part of this master’s programme. The profile, as well as the upcoming master’s programme, is headed by Miсhael Daniel. The competition was rather high: HSE graduates in computer linguistics, theoretical linguistics and Russian studies, as well as very high-achieving prospective students from other universities all applied for the programme.
The new programme will be English-taught, mostly because HSE is becoming more actively involved in international education. International students are entering both undergraduate and master’s programmes, and, of course, it’s easier for them to study in English. But it is also useful for Russian students, and particularly for master’s students, to become part of the international academic community. The gap between the Russian-taught and English-taught programmes is not as big as it may seem; some undergraduate courses are already English-taught; almost everyone listens to some sort of English-taught courses on the internet; and most specialist books in linguistics are in English.
The main thing this programme inherited from the School’s existing programmes is a focus on projects. Undergraduate students already participate in many projects during their studies. They get used to teamwork, to participating in study and research groups together with lecturers, and in large-scale projects sponsored by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) or the Centre for Fundamental Studies. By the way, our School is now implementing three RFBR projects, and all of them involve students. Many courses culminate in a project, and there is a discipline called ‘Workshops’ during the third year of study, which is totally dedicated to project activities.
Project work during master’s studies is even more important. What is so special about master’s projects? The truth is that our School’s master’s projects are a close imitation of real-life ones. The programme in computer linguistics has been developing them for a long time, and before the New Year there was a big presentation of the near-completed projects, where people from the industry were invited. For the theoretical profile, the projects have just started, but they are also being conducted in a ‘real’ format. First, students prepare applications similar to applications for grants in research funding, and then these student applications are considered by external experts. The key thing is research skills, which are acquired by students this way. Research is carried out within a certain framework, and learning to work in this framework and meet deadlines is a very important aspect of their future career.
We closely cooperate with other universities and are very willing to build cooperation with other HSE campuses. In addition to that, we’ll have joint projects with international universities, which may even ‘commission’ some of the projects. There are two such projects within the computer linguistics programme today, one with the University of Tromsø, and the other one with Oxford.
There are many options for projects, but what we want to have in the end are serious publications. Our lecturers publish their papers and attend various conferences. And if we could teach our students to apply for such conferences, to read reviews, and to teach, this would be very useful. We’ve already had this experience; both master’s and undergraduate students have successfully participated in international conferences.
The existing programme involves internships, and the new one will certainly continue this. The University of Tromsø is purposefully looking for grants to invite our students. We are very hopeful of establishing cooperation with Oxford in this subject area. Soon, we will sign an agreement with Stockholm University; traditionally, we have very good relations with their Linguistics Department. We very much hope to continue cooperating with the University of Helsinki, which carries out very good research in typology and is one of the world’s best academic institutions in terms of Russian studies. We are also going to organize a School of Typology in April together with the University of Jerusalem: such events promote awareness about the new master’s programme in the international academic environment. Many international linguistics researchers already know the Higher School of Economics as a place where high-quality research in linguistics is carried out. But it would be even better if it were also better known among students of linguistics, and this is one of the reasons why we encourage our students to go to various conferences and schools.
In addition to that, we are planning to attract globally renowned scholars, as we have been doing in recent previous years. This year, Ian Maddieson, the world’s leading expert in phonology and instrumental analysis of ‘rare’ sounds, delivered a large course of lectures here.
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