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Linguistics 6: Language Change


Admission requirements

Students have taken and passed introductory BA-courses on phonetics, phonology and syntax (e.g. Linguistics 1, 2 and 4).


Whether we like it or not, all languages change, and all languages change continually. The English that is spoken today has developed from Old English (a language that can’t be read without special study) in the space of some 40 generations. In this course we consider how languages change, and why. We will see that our knowledge of linguistic change can be used to reconstruct earlier stages of a language, and that it gives us a better insight into why languages are the way they are. Most of our examples will be drawn from English, but we will also look at changes in a variety of other languages. The subject matter of this course should be of interest to all students of English.

Course objectives

The course will introduce you to different types of linguistic change and to different theories about linguistic change. You will therefore learn both to describe linguistic change and to evaluate different approaches to linguistic change. In addition, you will learn to apply your knowledge to new data and gain insight into the possible causes of linguistic change. Finally, you will acquire a nuanced view of language change – a topic which attracts interest from linguists and laymen, and sometimes evokes strong feelings in the latter.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Seminar (2 hours per week)

Assessment method


Class presentation; essay; final written exam with closed questions, short open questions and essay questions


  • Written exam: 50%

  • Essay: 30%

  • Presentations and participation (20%)

A minimum of a 5.5 is required for both the essay and the final exam.

Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than two tutorials means that students will be excluded from the tutorials. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared, not participating and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.


To pass the course, a minimum of a 5.5 is required for the final exam and for the essay. If the mark for the final exam is a 5.49 or lower, the exam will have to be retaken during the resit period. If the mark for the essay is a 5.49 or lower, a resit essay will have to be submitted. There is no resit for class presentations.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • • Trask, Larry (2015). Trask's Historical Linguistics (3rd edn., revised and edited by Robert McCall Millar). London & New York: Routledge.

  • Other readings will be provided.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Contractonderwijs


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Student administration Arsenaal