nl en

Language Change


Admission requirements

A course in (English) syntax and/or a course in (English) phonetics/phonology.


Whether we like it or not, all languages change. The interesting question is how, and why. In this course, we consider different types of linguistic changes (phonological, morphological, semantic, syntactic) and try to determine their causes. In addition, we will see how our knowledge of linguistic change can be used to reconstruct earlier stages of a language, in particular those stages for which no written records are available. Our examples will be mainly drawn from English, but we will also consider a variety of other languages.

Course objectives

  • Students have gained insight into the ways in which languages change, and into the possible causes that underlie these changes.

  • Students are familiar with the descriptive and theoretical methods used in historical linguistics and are able to use these methods in their own written work.

Mode of instruction

2-hour weekly seminar

Assessment method

Presentation (10%), two written essays (2 × 20%), final written exam (50%).



Reading list

Campbell, Lyle (2004). Historical Linguistics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
A number of recent articles (to be made available)


Students should register through uSis.
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs