Historical Linguistics (2017/2018)

Course code
Name of lecturers
Paola Cotticelli, Alfredo Rizza
Paola Cotticelli
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
First half of Semester 2 , Second half of Semester 2

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The course in Historical Linguistics offered for the Master Degree in Linguistics is delivered in English and is coordinated by Professor P. Cotticelli. The Visiting Professor Peter Arnold Mumm (Univ. Of Munich) will teach in the first part of the course (36 hours - 6 CFUs). A second part (18 hours - 3 CFUs) will be held by Dr. Alfredo Rizza.
The course deals with and illustrates the linguistic change in a comprehensive way, in its "facts" and in its "factors".
• The "facts". Language change affects all levels of human language analysis: phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicon, semantics, pragmatic. The course will describe them exhaustively in a synthetic and orderly manner.
• The “factors". The factors involved are historical, social, technological, geographical and cultural. The course will describe the theories necessary to scientifically investigate the properties and the dynamics of linguistic change in the light of these factors.
The course aims to give the student the ability of a critical use of the concepts and fundamental methods of historical linguistics.
This class therefore offers a method for the understanding of the complexity of human language change, a knowledge fundamental to the completeness of the MD in Linguistics. The acquired knowledge is in fact necessary for the training of the linguist and for his preparation for the further level of study (PhD and the like) and for professionalism in a world increasingly characterized by encounters of different languages and in continuous and rapid change.

The student will be able to:
• recognize the aspects of linguage change and describe them properly;
• illustrate the foundations of the study of linguage change and the theories that describe the factors and the possible causes;
• know how to apply the acquired knowledge in the further study and / or professional career.
A knowledge of synchronic and diachronic linguistics (acquired in the first year of the MD and in the previous BA courses) is assumed.
It is advisable for those who feel to lack an adequate knowlwdge of the fundamentlas to consult the Coordinator and to use introductory handbooks (e.g. Graffi — Scalise, Introduzione allo studio del linguaggio; Magni, Linguistica storica; Ringe — Eska, Historical linguistics)


1. Formal and functional characteristics of language change.
2. The system of language change: facts, factors, causes, and theories.

This class is divided into two parts.

Part 1 (Prof. Mumm and Prof. Cotticelli):
1. General introduction to language change
2. Phonological change
3. Morphological change
4. Syntactic change
5. Lexical change
6. Semantic change
7. Pragmatic change

Part 2 (Prof. Rizza):
8. Factors and Theories:
8.1 The flowing nature of language; Humboldt and Saussure; language system and language use
8.2. Internal and external factors, system and use
8.3. Language contact


(1) Lectures dedicated to the subjects of the course, encouraging active participation of the students with questions and discussions.
(2) Papers to be prepared and read during class based on essays that will be selected by the students according to individual interests.
(3) Non-attending students. Non-attending students are encouraged to contact as soon as possible the
respective coordinator to help arranging a program which is as consistent as possible with the objectives and ambitions of attending students. The coordinator will also provide the reading and offer help in understanding of the material during the preparation.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Auer, Peter Dialect change. Convergence and divergence in European languages. Cambridge University Press 2008
Anttila, Raimo Historical and comparative linguistics (Edizione 2) Benjamins 1989
Campbell, Lyle Historical linguistics. An introduction. (Edizione 3) MIT Press 2013
R. Lazzeroni Linguistica storica Carocci 2011
van Sterkenburg, Piet Linguistics today - facing a greater challenge Benjamins 2004
Heine, Bernd; Kuteva, Tania The genesis of grammar. A reconstruction Oxford University Press 2010
Bowern, Claire; Evans, Bethwyn The Routledge handbook of historical linguistics. Routledge 2015 Available here: http://www.reference-global.com/doi/book/10.1515/9783110198508

Assessment methods and criteria

For all students (attending or not attending) the assessment of learning outcomes provides:
• The exposition of an in-depth report on a topic of the class;
• The final oral exam on all subjects, including the reports read by the colleagues.
Students will have lessons and reports on the e-learning platform.

• check the status of course learning;
• verify the ability to re-elaborate and deepen.

The exam covers all the topics of the program including the reports of the colleagues.

The evaluation is expressed in thirtieths, based on the knowledge, the effectiveness and readiness of the answers, the language property.

For Erasmus students, the coordinator is available to clarify the how to prepare the exam.