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Historical Syntax


Admission requirements

A course in advanced (generative English) syntax and/or a course in (English) historical linguistics. If in doubt, consult the course tutor before registering.


This course deals with language change in an area that is often considered to be one of the more stable areas of language, syntax. Syntactic change frequently occurs, though the amount of change varies greatly across languages (Kroch 2001). The syntax of English, for example, has changed considerably, while the syntax of Japanese has hardly changed.
On the basis of a number of research articles, we will discuss examples of syntactic change and we will examine factors that are responsible for causing syntactic change. We will pay attention to both internal factors (interacting rules and constraints of grammar) and external factors (e.g. language contact). We will also look at the spread (diffusion) of syntactic change and how we can study syntactic change using historical corpora. The main focus will be on English, but we will consider some syntactic changes in other languages as well.

Course objectives

  • Students have gained insight into the causes and courses of syntactic variation and change.

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


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

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • time spent on attending seminars: 26 hours

  • time for studying the compulsory literature and preparing for the presentation: 132 hours

  • time to write a paper (including reading/research): 122 hours

Assessment Method

  • Presentation 25%

  • Final written essay 75%


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

A number of recent articles/chapters (to be announced and made available).


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 via Studeren à la carte
Registration via Contractonderwijs


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