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Microvariation: Phonology and Syntax


Admission requirements

Phonology and syntax at level 400.


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.

Course objectives

  1. Learning to understand the relationship between dialectological, sociolinguistic and historical data and modern theories;

  2. Learning to apply such theories (in particular, principles and parameters and Optimality Theory).

  3. Learning to see connections between phonological and syntactic theory.


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • Time spent on attending lectures and seminars: 26 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 100 hours

  • Time for data collection and preparing the oral presentation: 34 hours

  • Time to write the final paper: 120 hour

Assessment Method

  • Oral presentation 20%

  • Written paper 80%


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

To be provided on Blackboard.


Students should register through uSis. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte via:
Registration Contractonderwijs via:


MA Linguistics departmental office, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;