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Beyond Sources: What Languages Reveal about the Course of History


Admission requirements

You have received your propaedeutic diploma within one academic year and your academic results are good (indication: 7,3 average). Students who meet the criteria may apply for a place in the Humanities Lab.


Languages are constantly changing and have done so for as long as human language has existed. Furthermore, Language users will adapt their language to suit their current needs. When a linguistic community is isolated from its linguistic relatives or comes into contact with new linguistic communities, this often leaves traces in the spoken language.

These traces are found in the form of newly introduced vocabulary, sounds or grammatical structures. Such traces can inform us about the history of a language and its speakers, even when historical sources are lacking. This is especially worthwhile when the language in question has no written traditions or because the language was spoken in prehistoric times.

The course Beyond Sources will examine the methodology of historical linguistics and will present practical cases where the history of language may serve as an important historical source to shed light on events in the past.

Course objectives

At the end of this course, the student will have:

  • A foundation in the methodology of historical linguistics.

  • Experience in analyzing linguistic data from a historical perspective.

  • Knowledge of how to approach this data to reconstruct historical contact between speakers of language.

  • Knowledge of how to analyse linguistic data to say something about the culture and environment of speakers of a language (family) in the past.


Courses of the Humanities Lab are scheduled on Friday afternoon from 13.00 to 17.00. For the exact timetable, please visit the following website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Amount of lectures: 4 hours x 6 weeks 24 hours Practical work: 5 hours x 6 weeks 30 hours Literature: 8 hours a week x 6 weeks 48 hours Assessment: Final paper 38 hours Total course load for the course 5 EC x 28 140 hours### Assessment method

Assessment will consist of several parts:

  • Every week there will be homework assignments. Proper preparation and timely handing in of these assignments will constitute 30% of the final mark.

  • Attendance and in-class participation will constitute 10% of the final mark.

  • A final paper of 10-15 pages will constitute 60% of the final mark.

  • A resit will only be possible for the final paper. It will cover 100% of the final mark, and the paper has to be more extensive to compensate (15-20 page paper).


Blackboard will be used to supply reading material and weekly cases that require examination and/or discussion.

Reading list

There is no preparatory reading for this course. Readings for the course will be provided in the first class.


Students of the Humanities Lab will be registered via uSis by the administration of the Humanities Lab.


Instructor: Dhr. Dr. M. van Putten

Humanities Lab:
Office: e-mail
Phone: 071-527 2228 or 071- 527 8039


If all participants of this course are Dutch native speakers, this course will be taught in Dutch.
More information: website.