Dillon Kelly

dillon kelly profile

St Cross Humanities MPhil Scholarship

Joining us from: The USA & Myanmar

MPhil Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics

Though I am originally from the United States, I spent almost all my pre-university life living in South and Southeast Asia while my parents worked in public health development. After finishing secondary school in Yangon Myanmar, I came to the UK to study Ancient Languages at University College London where I got to experience both an intensive academic environment while also exploring one of the world's most vibrant cities. At UCL I focused on the study of religious texts by learning Biblical Hebrew, Sanskrit, and Ancient Greek, whose grammatical complexities gave me insights into the areas of theoretical and historical linguistics which I now pursue in my MPhil.

My interest in linguistics first arose when I began to learn Mandarin Chinese as a young teenager and had to confront the challenge of learning a language completely unrelated to English and began to understand the nuance in how different languages formulate and communicate ideas. My primary interest now however is in Sanskrit, the ancient literary language of India whose literature underpins the language and culture of many countries in Asia and beyond. By examining the historical development of Sanskrit and its relations with other Indo-European languages, as well as tapping into the rich history of linguistic and philosophical theory in India, I hope to gain a better understanding of language's abstract and concrete applications and the ways in which it shapes our societies. 

In my spare time I try to keep up artistic pursuits like writing fiction and poetry, as well as painting and drawing. In writing I try to find a direct outlet for my linguistic interests and ideas, and I draw inspiration from the various poetic styles and techniques I've encountered while studying the literature of other languages. This year I am also serving on the committee of the recently revived Linguistics Society, and once my schedule becomes more manageable I hope to begin volunteering to help people in Oxford experiencing homelessness.

The St Cross scholarship has been a great help in allowing me to go further with my savings and complete graduate study without taking out loans. Though many Americans are often required to take on debt to complete any degree, I have been very fortunate in coming to the UK where I've been able to pay for both a BA and an MPhil for considerably less than it would cost just to be an undergraduate at an equivalent US university. Depending on what other funding is available down the road I would ideally like to continue my studies as part of a DPhil, but otherwise I hope to work in writing, publishing, education, or any other occupation that involves using language as a tool for education and improving communication worldwide.

I chose Oxford as the MPhil in Linguistics offered a unique opportunity to both study many areas of theoretical linguistics as well as the historical linguistics of a chosen language, where most universities only provide one field or the other. Though I did not apply directly to St Cross, I was very glad when I heard that they had selected me as an MPhil scholar as I knew that being in a graduate-only college I would not be disregarded in favour of undergraduates, and that I would be joining a tight-knit community of people from all walks of life. As such everyone I've met at St Cross has been extremely down to earth yet hardworking, dispelling any rumours of college life being insular and out of touch with the real world.