20 Credits AUTUMN

Aims/Description: Language change is a fact of all living languages, and in this sense historical linguistics is just as much about the present and future of any given language as it is about its past. This module introduces historical linguistics as the branch of study that uses evidence for change to explain how and why languages change, how languages are related, and encourages students to reflect on and discuss the ways in which studying historical linguistics bears significantly on other areas of linguistics, in terms of theory, methods and fundamental questions about what language is, what it is for, and what it tells us. The subject will be approached by 1) levels of linguistic inquiry, i.e. to do with semantic, phonological, morphological, syntactic and pragmatic change; but also 2) from the perspective of 'big questions', e.g. language families and linguistic prehistory, the role of acquisition in change, methods of linguistic reconstruction, and historical sociolinguistics.

Staff Contact: Michelle Wegrzynska
Teaching Methods: The lectures will introduce and explain key theories and concepts, and will be topical according to 1) levels of investigation (e.g. one lecture on historical semantics, etc.) and 2) themes of investigation (e.g. one week on acquisition and change, etc.) (outcomes 1-3). The seminars will be used to discuss more open questions raised by the historical perspective, but also, more specifically, to explore weekly concepts using (for example) historical data/problem sets (esp. outcomes 2 and 3, but also 4). Particularly as this module contains a large amount of terminology, both descriptive and theoretical, the bi-weekly study hours will be used as review sessions to help ensure students carry these terms/concepts forward as they progress.
Assessment: Course work, Classroom Testing

Information on the department responsible for this unit (English Language and Linguistics):

Departmental Home Page
Teaching timetable


The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

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Teaching methods and assessment displayed on this page are indicative for 2021-22. Students will be informed by the academic department of any changes made necessary by the ongoing pandemic.

Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK