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Card-index course

Synchronic Linguistics: Language History and Language Change

Responsible Faculty: Faculty of Arts

Teacher(s): Michiel de Vaan

Validity: 2019 -> 2019

Course Timetable (Weekly)

Date Location Notice Topics Lecturer(s)
2019/2020 : Tuesday 10:15-12:00 (Weekly) Anthropole/3032     Michiel de Vaan


Spring semester
2 hours per week
28 hours per semester
Teaching language(s): English
Public: Yes
Credits: 3.00, 4.00


Upon completion of the course students should
- have acquired knowledge of the most important ways in which languages, and specifically the English language, change;
- be able to understand and apply the terminology and concepts used in the description of language variation and change;
- be able to compile/collect (diachronic) datasets and use them appropriately in order to shed light on language history, i.e. analyse/interpret data, formulate hypotheses and test them, decide between competing argumentations;
- be able to find a niche (based on existing research) and construct a focused and realistic research question;
- be able to select, adapt (if necessary) and apply an appropriate research method for the specific field in accordance with the ethics guidelines of the department;
- be able to present an academic argument in an informal setting through oral communication using a visual aid (e.g. handout, PowerPoint slides, poster, whiteboard) if appropriate;
- have developed the ability to present their research results both orally and in written form.


This course serves as an introduction to the study of language change, also called historical linguistics. You will be introduced to general principles and mechanisms of language change. Data from various languages, but primarily from the English language, will be used to illustrate the main types of change of sound systems, grammar and lexicon. We will also address many theoretical issues such as language contact, the social and psychological backgrounds of language change, the birth and demise of languages, the relation between language variation and language change, and the phenomenon of the 'invisible hand'.


Details regarding evaluation will be discussed in the first class of this course. The information will be provided on Moodle.


The following course book will be used:

McColl Millar, Robert. 2015. Trask's Historical Linguistics. London and New York: Routledge.

Programme requirements

- Introduction to English Language and Linguistics (IELL)
- Development of the English Language (DEL)

Additional information


Use contextFaculty codeStatusCredits
A40-ANGL: Certificate of 40 credits ECTS in English (2013 ->) - A40-ANGL ›› Language and Linguistics - A40-ANGL-2-30Optional3.00
English, 2nd part (2013 ->) ›› Complementary program - BA-ANG-2-1060Optional4.00
English, 2nd part (2013 ->) ›› Linguistics - BA-ANG-2-1050Optional3.00
NIV-ANG: Mise ΰ niveau MA, Anglais (2013 ->) - NIV-ANG ›› Complementary program - NIV-ANG-2-1060Optional4.00
NIV-ANG: Mise ΰ niveau MA, Anglais (2013 ->) - NIV-ANG ›› Linguistics - NIV-ANG-2-1050Optional3.00
Options, 2nd part (2013 ->) ›› Language and Linguistics - BA-OP-ANGLOptional3.00
Options, 2nd part (2013 ->) ›› Language and Linguistics - BA-OP-ANGL-TOptional3.00
Canton de Vaud
Swiss University
Unicentre  -  CH-1015 Lausanne  -  Suisse  -  Tél. +41 21 692 11 11  -  Fax  +41 21 692 26 15