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Beyond Sources: What Languages Reveal about the Course of History


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the Humanities Lab 
If you have received your propaedeutic diploma within one academic year, your academic results are good and you are a very motivated student, you may apply for a place in the Humanities Lab.


Languages are constantly changing and have done so for as long as human language has existed. Furthermore, Language users will adapt their language to suit their current needs. When a linguistic community is isolated from its linguistic relatives or comes into contact with new linguistic communities, this often leaves traces in the spoken language.

These traces are found in the form of newly introduced vocabulary, sounds or grammatical structures. Such traces can inform us about the history of a language and its speakers, even when historical sources are lacking. This is especially worthwhile when the language in question has no written traditions or because the language was spoken in prehistoric times.

The course Beyond Sources will examine the methodology of historical linguistics and will present practical cases where the history of language may serve as an important historical source to shed light on events in the past."

Course objectives

  • Explain the basis of historical linguistic methodology.

  • Interpret linguistic data from a historical perspective.

  • Discuss the outcomes of known historical situations in terms of language

  • Deduce the implications of linguistic situation in the historical scenario that may have given rise to it.

  • Analyse the historical implications of reconstructed vocabulary and structure.

  • Reconstruct specific (pre-)historical situations based on this analysis.


Courses of the Humanities Lab are scheduled on Friday afternoon from 13.00 to 17.00 h. For the exact timetable, please visit the following website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course 5 EC x 28 hours=140 hours

  • Lectures: 4 hours x 6 weeks = 24 hours

  • Practical work: 5 hours x 6 weeks = 30 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 4 hours x 6 weeks = 24 hours

  • Assignment(s): 2 hours x 6 weeks = 12 hours

  • Presentation: 12 hours

  • Final Paper: 38 hours

Assessment method


Assessment will consist of three main parts:

  • Attendence and participation in class.

  • A final presentation (12 minute presentation).

  • A final paper (6-10 pages).


  • Attendance: 10%

  • Presentation: 30%

  • Paper: 60%


If the final result of this course turns out to be an insufficient grade, a resit may be taken. This will take the form of a larger paper (10-15) pages and will make up 100% of the grade.

Exam review

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. 


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Communication with students of practical matters.

  • Homework assignment and weeky reading will be posted on blackboard.

  • The final paper needs to be handed in on blackboard.

Reading list

No preparatory reading is necessary. Reading assignments (usually several book chapters or articles) will be provided every week on blackboard.


Students of the Humanities Lab will be registered via uSisby the administration of the Humanities Lab

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Marijn van Putten
Humanities Lab office: e-mail