Introduction to Linguistics LT (i) (2020/2021)

Course code
Name of lecturers
Paola Cotticelli, Federico Giusfredi
Paola Cotticelli
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
CuCi IA, CuCi IB

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The goal of this course is to have the student acquainted with some basic notions concerning several aspects of human language. The course aims to provide the epistemic and methodological basis for general linguistics and historical linguistics. To reach this goal, some of the key concepts of modern language science will be illustrated, such as the distinction between language and languages and the articulation in analytical levels, and the description of the main phonological, morpho-syntactic and semantic phenomena in the perspective of synchronic analysis and with reference to both Italian and other languages typologically and genealogically distant from one another. The main phenomena of change and linguistic contact in the diachronic key will also be discussed.


The course will cover the following topics:
Fundamentals of general linguistics and historical linguistics.
1) General linguistics (prof. Giusfredi): fundamental characteristics of human language; basic notions of phonetics and phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics.
2) Historical linguistics (prof. Cotticelli): history of the discipline, historical-comparative method; notions of language change, linguistic family, Indo-European languages and language families of the world; models of language classification, typological classifications, models for the interpretation of linguistic change (neogrammarian, geolinguistic, sociolinguistic) on the different levels of linguistic analysis, linguistic contact.

1. key concepts of modern science of language
2. distinction between language and languages
3. description of the linguistic system on the different levels of analysis in synchronic perspective
4. main phonological phenomena,
5. main morpho-syntactic phenomena
6. main semantic and lexical phenomena, both in Italian and in other languages typologically and genealogically distant from each other
7. Brief history of the discipline and its investigation methods
8. Linguistic genealogical classification, in particular of the Indo-European family; the language families of the world
9. typological classification of world languages
10. main phenomena of language change on the different levels of linguistic analysis (phonological, morpho-syntactical, semantic)
11. main phenomena of language contact in diachronic and synchronic view.
12. Description of the Italian dialects
13. Elements of sociolinguistics

In addition to the mandatory texts for the written and oral exam (see below), the student can use the following in-depth texts
- scripts by the teachers
- further materials available on the platform
- exercises

1a. Scripts on the platform
1b. G. Graffi - S. Scalise, Le lingue e il linguaggio. Introduzione alla linguistica, nuova edizione, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2013 (ch. 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11 and l’Appendice).
Exercises related to all the chapters of the volume, and in particular exercises of phonetic transcription (one of the topic of the examination), are available on the website of the publisher "Il Mulino" (, registering in the area called "Aulaweb".
2.a. Scripts on the platform
2.b. E. Magni, Linguistica storica, Bologna, Patron, 2014.
2.c. G. Graffi - S. Scalise, Le lingue e il linguaggio. Introduzione alla linguistica, nuova edizione, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2013 (capitoli 3, 9, 10).

3) REFERENCES for further information:
3a. Lessico di Linguistica, a cura di Paola Cotticelli Kurras, Edizioni dell’Orso, Alessandria 2007.
3.b. R. Lazzeroni, “Il mutamento linguistico”, in R. Lazzeroni (a cura di) Linguistica storica, 16^ ristampa 2011, Carocci, 14-54.
3.c. R. Gusmani, “Interlinguistica”, in R. Lazzeroni (a cura di) Linguistica storica, 16^ ristampa 2011, Carocci, 87-114.

Assessment methods and criteria

The objective of the examination is to verify the level of achievement of the previously indicated objectives of the course. The exam consists of a written test, articulated in two parts, one for the general and one for the historical linguistics, and of an oral examination.
The written test consists in some open and some closed questions. Open questions are in both parts and require the student to describe a linguistic phenomenon, or theories and models learned explained during the course and learned through the exam preparation. The closed questions, on the other hand, allow to apply the acquired knowledge on linguistic change, on phonetic transcription, on the analysis of propositions and morphology (mainly of Italian phenomena or of languages taken into consideration during the course). Examples of written exams are presented during the exercise course.
Structure of the written exam:
- syntactical analysis of a short text
- short phonetic transcription
- some multiple choice tests and
- open-ended questions about all the arguments of the course (both about general and historical linguistics).
The positive overcoming of the written exam gives admission to the oral exam.
Important notice: to pass the written exam, it is necessary to have the knowledge of basic grammatical notions (e.g., to be able to recognize the ‘subject’, the ‘predicate’, the ‘object’, etc., of a clause, to distinguish among the several kinds of subordinate clauses, to correctly classify the different parts of speech). Such notions are available within any good school grammar. Moreover, some special exercises on all the topics of the course will be held during dedicated classes, the related material uploaded on the Moodle platform; essential bibliographical references will be suggested for non-attending students.
The oral examination covers all the topics of the course.