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Topics in Linguistics A: Historical linguistics


Admission requirements



This course addresses six issues that are fundamental to historical approaches to language in general and ancient languages, or language varieties, in particular, each to be discussed during one of the six meetings: 1) a brief survey of the evolution and scope of historical linguistics; 2) the genealogical method; 3) the methodological underpinnings of working with ancient languages and scripts, including decipherment; 4) philology and textual criticism; 5) language change; 6) historical sociolinguistics.

Course objectives

To make original observations; to ask questions and form hypotheses about historical-linguistic issues in diverse languages; to critically evaluate relevant literature; to discuss and present contrasting positions and traditions; and to gain hands-on research experience.



Mode of instruction

Seminar, with weekly readings and written assignments. Both the readings and the assignments will be discussed in class.
No more than one session may be missed for this single-block course of six sessions. In case of absence, you must state a reason. Submitting assignments set for that session is still mandatory.

Course Load

Total 140 hours (5 EC x 28 hours) – Contact hours: 12 – Preparation for class: 80 hours – Written assignments: 48 hours

Assessment method

Written assignments (70%), in-class participation & contributions (30%).




Reading list

For a general introduction, read Robert McColl Millar, Trask’s Historical Linguistics, 3rd edition, London/New York 2015: Routledge. Specialized bibliography for each meeting will be distributed in class.


Enrollment through uSis for the course and the examination or paper is mandatory.

When registering, students that are registered for the specialisation that this course belongs to, or the Research Master, take priority. The deadline for registration is August 15 (first semester) or January 15 (second semester). All other students should contact the Coordinator of studies

Prospective students, please check the Study Abroad/Exchange website for information on how to apply.

Application for Contractonderwijs


Coordinator of Studies

Programme Linguistics Research