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Elective: Microvariation: Phonology and Syntax



This course discusses the mutual relevance of the study of microvariation and grammatical theory (in particular, phonology and morpho-syntax). We will devote some attention to sociolinguistic models of social variation, the study of geographic microvariation in dialectology, theories of language change and the relation between variation and change, and the effects of language contact on the structure of human language. It will be shown how neighbouring disciplines bring to light many interesting data and puzzles which any serious theory of phonology or syntax cannot abstract away from. We will then discuss the extent to which the main theoretical approaches to micro-variation, like Optimality Theory, the parametric theory or typological-functional theory, can account for these data. Examples will be chosen from a wide variety of languages. Some attention will also be paid to alternative ways of describing language variation, in particular to so-called ‘usage-based’ models.


Tuesday, 13.15 – 15.00 Timetable

Mode of instruction

Two-hour seminar per week

Assessment method

Presentations (40%)
Homework (20%)
Course paper (40%)


This course is supported by Blackboard

Reading list

Reading list to be distributed in class


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information