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This annual Essay Competition aims to raise awareness of the systematic study of language as an interesting and multifaceted subject in and of itself. It is hoped that the Prize will encourage students with an interest in linguistics to explore this further and to apply for a University course in this subject. In addition, the Prize aims to recognise the achievements of high-calibre students from whatever background they may come, as well as the achievements of those who teach them.

The competition is open to all students with an interest in how language works regardless of the specific subjects they are currently studying at A-Level (or similar qualification). For example, it may be of interest to students taking A-Levels in Modern Languages, English Language or Classics, but also to students taking Psychology or Mathematics. The competition is for students who have not yet started the final year of secondary education (this would be students up to Year-12 (Lower 6th) for students in England and Wales; the competition is open to any international student who wishes to take part).

The 2023 competition has closed.

You might wish to consult some of the following freely accessible resources and/or to further research this topic on your own. (these are useful quick introductions to various relevant topics such as language and age, language and class etc; it is not necessary or expected that you would purchase the content behind the pay-wall)

More advanced reading on language and social variables:

Cheshire, J. (2005). Age and generation-specific use of language. In U. Ammon, N. Dittmar, K. Mattheier and P. Trudgill (eds.) Sociolinguistics: An Introductory Handbook of the Science of Language and Society. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 1552–1563.

Cheshire, J., Kerswill, P., Fox, S. & Torgersen, E. (2011). Contact, the feature pool and the speech community: The emergence of Multicultural London English. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15/2, 151-196.

Kerswill, P. (2012). Language variation 1 – social factors : class and ethnicity. In: Clayton, Dan, (ed.) Language. English and Media Centre , London , pp. 23-43.

Trudgill, P. (1972). Sex, covert prestige, and linguistic change in the urban British English of Norwich. Language in Society 1:179-96.

Candidates are invited to submit an essay of between 2,000 and 2,500 words (references do not count towards the word limit; any widely used referencing style is acceptable as long as you use it consistently). Essays should be submitted using the form below by the deadline of  12 noon on Tuesday 1 August 2023.  Late submissions cannot be accepted.  All candidates will be notified with the results of the competition by mid September. Due to the volume of essays received we are unable to provide any feedback on the essays themselves.

Any queries should be directed to Professor Napoleon Katsos at

The competition carries a First Prize of £600, to be split equally between the candidate and his or her school or college, and a Second Prize of £400, which again is to be shared equally between the candidate and his or her school or college.  The school or college’s portion of each prize will be issued in the form of book tokens with which to buy linguistics books.  In addition, up to three further essays of a high quality will be commended.

How information about you will be used

Your email address will only be used for the purposes of contacting you in regards to your submission . It will not be used for any other reason or given or sold to any other company or organization.  You will receive a copy of the information you have provided to the email address you specify.

Sorry. This form is no longer available.

Past Prize Winners


  • 1st Prize: Aran Johstone-Trias (Twyford Church of England High School)
  • 2nd Prize: Maisie Haenelt (Lichfield Cathedral School)






  • 1st Prize: Eliza Logan (Lady Margaret School)
  • 2nd Prize: James Morley (Harlington Upper School)


  • 1st Prize: Oliver Pearey (Colchester Royal Grammar School)
  • 2nd Prize: Eloise Hunt (King Edward VI College, Stourbridge)


  • 1st Prize: Julia Southern-Wilkins (Bedford Girls’ School)
  • 2nd Prize: Martha Birtles (Holy Cross College, Bury)


  • 1st Prize: Shefali Chander (Westminster School)
  • 2nd Prize: David Fenton-Smith (High Storrs School)


  • Joint 1st Prize: Olivia Bonsall (Holy Cross College, Bury)
  • Joint 1st Prize: Georgina Connors (The British School of Paris)
  • 2nd Prize: Kirsty Bailey (Croydon High School)
Winners attending the 2022 Prize-Giving Ceremony
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