Historical Linguistics (2018/2019)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Paola Cotticelli
Paola Cotticelli
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem. 2A, Sem. 2B

Lesson timetable

Go to lesson schedule

Learning outcomes

The teaching deals with the change, the contact and the variation of language and languages. It offers a key to approaches and understanding the human language in a diachronic perspective, fundamental to complete the skills of the student in linguistics, his preparation for further levels of study, and his abilities and training at the job's world, more and more characterized by meetings of languages and cultures in communication and rapid changes.

Expected results
D1- High knowledge of the facts and factors of language change and contact, and linguistic variation.
D2- Recognize the aspects and phenomena of linguistic change and describe them in the correct way.
D3- Critically consider the theories and methods of historical linguistics.
D4- Present the results of the study adequately.
D5- To autonomously re-elaborate and re-use the skills acquired for further study and / or professional carieer.


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 Velizar Sadovski (Academy of Sciences of Vienna) will teach in the first part of the course (36 hours – 4,5 ETCS). The second part (27 hours – 4,5 CFUs) will be held by Prof. Paola Cotticelli.
The course deals with and illustrates the phenomenon of composition in ancient and modern Indo-European languages in a comprehensive way, examining the history of classificatory methods, from Indian grammars to the present day, the theories connected to them, and examples taken from different languages as a starting point for a synchronic and diachronic analysis.
1. The natural language, languages and formal and functional characteristics of word formation
2. The system of composition: history, phenomena, analysis, theories.

This class is divided into two parts.

Part 1 (Prof. Sadovski):
1. General introduction to language word formation
2. ….
3. ….
4. ….
5. …
6. …
7. ….

Part 2 (Prof. Cotticelli):
8. ……..
8.2. ……..
8.3. ……..


(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.

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 knowledge of the fundamentals to consult the Coordinator and to use introductory handbooks (e.g. Graffi — Scalise, Introduzione allo studio del linguaggio; Magni, Linguistica storica; — J. Clackson, Historical linguistics)

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.

At the end of the course the student must be able to:
• recognize the type of compounds and describe them correctly;
• illustrate the fundamentals of the study of linguistic change and the theories that describe the factors and the possible causes in relation to the strategies of formation of the compounds;
• be able to apply the knowledge acquired in the further study and / or professional career.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Campbell, Lyle Historical linguistics. An introduction. (Edizione 3) MIT Press 2013
Clackson, James, Indo-European Linguistics. An Introduction Cambridge 2007
Bowern, Claire; Evans, Bethwyn The Routledge handbook of historical linguistics. Routledge 2015

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.