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The Languages of South and Southeast Asia: History, Context and Structure


Admission requirements


Course description

The languages of South and Southeast Asia is an introduction to the historical, cultural, and structural dimensions of the languages of South and Southeast Asia. We provide both knowledge about these languages in their historical, cultural, and linguistic context and insights into the main ways these languages are studied.

The course consists of four blocks. After an introduction to the language map and language families of South and Southeast Asia (block I), we survey the current language situation in the countries of the region (II). In particular we look at the relationship between languages and ethnic identity and the role of national languages in the formation of nation-states. Subsequently (in block III) we discuss the cultural functions of language on a more local level, to conclude (in block IV) with various linguistic approaches to the region’s languages.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the language map and the genetic relations between languages in South and Southeast Asia, especially India and Indonesia;

  • Knowledge of and insight into the social and political roles of languages in the contemporary states of South and Southeast Asia, in historical perspective;

  • Knowledge of and insight into the socio-cultural dimensions of languages in South and Southeast Asia;

  • Acquaintance with the scientific study of language and an introduction to the disciplinary focus Linguistics (Taalkunde)

Time table


Mode of instruction

  • Lecture course

Course Load

Total course load for the course: 140 hours.

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 26 hours.

  • Approximate time for studying the compulsory literature: 78 hours

  • Approximate time for writing the assignments: 36 hours

Assesment method

The course assessment has two components:

  1. Three written assignments. Each assignment will contain two questions, one focused on knowledge of concepts/theory studied in the preceding block(s), and one on the application of those concepts/theory. The mark for each assignment counts as 20% of the overall mark (a total of 60% of the overall mark).

The assignments will be made available through Blackboard after classes #4 (covering block I and II) , 8 (about block III), and 11 (about block IV). The answers must be submitted one week later via Blackboard.

  1. A written final examination (40% of the overall mark).

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an an overall mark of “5.50” (6) or higher. An exam resit is possible only for element (2), and only if the student participated in the first written examination and received an overall mark for the course of “5.49” or lower.

The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Blackboard is used for:

  • the syllabus (extended course description) and reading list

  • making available of assignments

  • submission of assignments by students

  • announcements

Blackboard serves as the primary means of communication about the course between instructors and students outside class meetings. Registration for the course on Blackboard is essential.

Reading list

A reading list, to be announced later. The readings must be studied prior to the class in question.


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the Timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration for A la Carte
Registration for Contractonderwijs


The course coordinator, Prof.dr. B. Arps