Syllabus for Historical Linguistics

Historisk lingvistik


  • 7.5 credits
  • Course code: 5LN231
  • Education cycle: First cycle
  • Main field(s) of study and in-depth level: General Linguistics G1F

    Explanation of codes

    The code indicates the education cycle and in-depth level of the course in relation to other courses within the same main field of study according to the requirements for general degrees:

    First cycle
    G1N: has only upper-secondary level entry requirements
    G1F: has less than 60 credits in first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    G1E: contains specially designed degree project for Higher Education Diploma
    G2F: has at least 60 credits in first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    G2E: has at least 60 credits in first-cycle course/s as entry requirements, contains degree project for Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science
    GXX: in-depth level of the course cannot be classified.

    Second cycle
    A1N: has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    A1F: has second-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    A1E: contains degree project for Master of Arts/Master of Science (60 credits)
    A2E: contains degree project for Master of Arts/Master of Science (120 credits)
    AXX: in-depth level of the course cannot be classified.

  • Grading system: Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
  • Established: 2007-02-15
  • Established by:
  • Revised: 2020-01-24
  • Revised by: The Department Board
  • Applies from: week 27, 2020
  • Entry requirements: Phonetics and Phonology, 7.5 credits or Phonetics I, 7.5 credits or 30 credits in a language subject.
  • Responsible department: Department of Linguistics and Philology

Decisions and guidelines

The course is an independent course. It is furthermore included as optional module in Linguistics B, C or D. The course syllabus was approved by the linguistic section board on the 15 Feb 2007.

Learning outcomes

The course intends to give an introduction to language change from a historical perspective and knowledge of the more important theories of language change. On completion of the course, to earn the grade Pass the student should at least be able to: describe the differences between synchronic and diachronic linguistics at a general level describe historical linguistics as a field within linguistics and its historical development account for the main types of language change: (in) sound change, (ii) grammatical change, (iii) changes in syntax, (iv) semantic changes discuss the concept of grammaticalisation describe language-internal versus language-external language changes, what is a loan word? what can be borrowed? why does language borrow? account for the different linguistic methods of classifying languages: Genetic classification, typological classification, areal classification reflect on the following concepts critically: the comparative method, internal reconstruction account for different models of language change at a general level: the family tree model, the wave model, the dialect model, the generative model discuss the relation between area linguistics and historical linguistics


The course treats theories in historical-comparative linguistic research and its methods such as the comparative method and internal reconstruction and the applicability of the methods and their reach. Sound changes and the concept of sound laws Form and semantic changes. Etymology.


The instruction consists of lectures, exercises and assessment. The student's own learning activities are crucial for the completion of the course.


The examination on the course is in two parts:
1. written examination
2. recurrent written assignments.

For the grade Pass (G), Pass is required on the written examination as well as the written assignments. For the grade Pass with distinction (VG), Pass with distinction is required for the written examination as well as Pass for the written assignments.

If there are special reasons for doing so, an examiner may make an exception from the method of assessment indicated and allow a student to be assessed by another method. An example of special reasons might be a certificate regarding special pedagogical support from the University's disability coordinator.

Other directives

The course may not be included in a degree if the equivalent parts have been studied within another course included in the degree.

Reading list

Reading list

Applies from: week 11, 2020

  • Millar, Robert McColl Trask's historical linguistics

    3rd edition.: Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, [2015]

    Find in the library

  • Campbell, Lyle Historical linguistics : an introduction

    3., rev. edition: Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, [2013]

    Find in the library

  • Fortson, Benjamin W. Indo-European language and culture : an Introduction

    2. ed.: Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010 [i.e. 2009]

    Find in the library