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Linguistics 6: Language Change


Admission requirements

Students have taken and passed introductory BA-courses on phonetics, phonology and syntax.


Whether we like it or not, all languages change. In this course we consider how languages change, and why. We will see that 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), and that it gives us a better insight into why languages are the way they are. Most examples of linguistic change that we will examine are drawn from English, but we will also look at changes in a variety of other languages. The subject matter of this course should be of interest to all students of English language and linguistics.

Course objectives

The course will introduce you to different types of linguistic change and to different theories which aim to explain linguistic change. You will therefore learn both to describe linguistic change and to evaluate different approaches to linguistic change. In addition, you will learn to apply your knowledge to new data, and gain insight into the possible causes of linguistic change. Finally, you will acquire a nuanced view of linguistic change – a topic which attracts interest from linguists and laymen, and sometimes evokes strong feelings in the latter.


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Mode of instruction

Seminar (2 hours p/w)

Assessment method


Class presentation; essay; final written exam with closed questions, short open questions and essay questions


  • Written exam: 50%

  • Essay: 30%

  • Presentation and participation: 20%

A minimum of a 5.5 is required for both the essay and the final exam.

Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than two tutorials means that students will be excluded from the tutorials. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared, not participating and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.


To pass the course, a minimum of a 5.5 is required for the final exam and for the essay. If the mark for the final exam is a 5.49 or lower, the exam will have to be retaken during the resit period. If the mark for the essay is a 5.49 or lower, a resit essay will have to be submitted. There is no resit for class presentations.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Trask, Larry (2015). Trask's Historical Linguistics (3rd edn.). London: Routledge.

  • Other readings will be provided.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Contractonderwijs


Please contact Student administration Arsenaal or the coordinator of studies for questions.


Disclaimer: Please note that the course descriptions, in particular the assessment method, might be adjusted (timely) depending on the measures taken regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.