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History of Linguistics


Admission requirements

No additional requirements are needed.


This course gives an overview of the history of the study of human language until approximately 1950. We will read extracts of some famous texts and modern commentary on them by modern scholars. We will discuss Pāṇini (4th century BCE), Sībawayh (760-796), the Port Royal grammarians (17th century), Franz Bopp (1791 – 1867), the brothers Grimm (early 19th century), Neogrammarians (late 19th centiry), Gottlob Frege (1848-1925), Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), Edward Sapir (1884-1939), Leonard Bloomfield (1887-1949), Roman Jakobson (1896-1982).

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students should be able to see the paradigms in which they usually work in a broader historical light; they should be able to understand how different visions on human language have led to different schools of thought; they should have a larger understanding of the origin of our current ideas.


The timetable will be available by June 1st at the website of Research Master in Linguistics

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Written exam.


Yes, see Blackboard

Reading list

The papers to be read (some of the English translations of original texts) will be distributed on the course’s Blackboard site.


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Application for Contractonderwijs

Students can register for courses en exams through uSis

Contact information

Coordinator of Studies