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Core: Samples of Linguistic Structure


Admission requirements

There are no additional admission requirements.


This course consists of a series of compact structural surveys of minimally five languages, constituting a representative selection from different language types in different parts of the world. For each language, the sound system and the grammatical structure (morphology and syntax) is discussed along with other salient characteristics. The language data presented during the course are subject to the type of analysis generally found in solid, user-friendly language descriptions. In every stage of the structural surveys, the unity of the language as a system of mutually related elements and processes will be emphasized. The acquired knowledge is then put into practice by reading and analysing a representative sample of text in the language in question.
The teaching staff in charge of each structural overview consists of specialists in the languages to be dealt with. They include members of the tenured academic staff, but guest researchers or visiting professors not connected to Leiden University will also be invited to participate. An average structural survey consists of four sessions of 2 hours each in two weeks; classes are twice a week.
The purpose of the course is to rapidly gain insight into the overall structure of languages previously unknown to the participants. It is essential for the ability to read and interpret grammars and linguistic descriptions, in which a great deal of coherent information must be processed, retained and evaluated. The course provides a basis for the study of whole languages, which may serve as a preparation for linguistic fieldwork aiming at the documentation of undescribed languages. This effect is obtained by the relatively short duration of the presentations and the compact character of each survey.

Course objectives

At the end of the course the student

  • understands how linguistic observations are constructed in a grammar or other source for linguistic observations on languages of the world

  • has developed an appreciation how different languages can be in a range of areas of language structure and how that relates to our knowledge about language in general

  • can develop an alternative analysis of a given phenomenon in a particular language on the basis of cross-linguistic comparison.


Linguistics research

Mode of instruction

Seminar (twice weekly)

Assessment method

During the course the students hand in a number of written assignments for each language and for the general introduction. The assessment is based on the results of 4 of the 5 languages.
The first assignment is to evaluate a grammar (objective i). This assignment is compulsory but not graded.
For each of the languages there are two assignments: one aimed at developing familiarity with the structures of the given language (objective ii), and a second one writing a short critical essay on an aspect of the language (objective iii).

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:

  • announcements

  • an overview of current affairs

  • specific information about (components of) the course

Reading list

Readings for the different subcourses will be announced on Blackboard.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch


For questions about the content of the course, please contact the teacher:
Maarten Mous

Education Administration Office van Wijkplaats:

Coordinator of Studies: Else van Dijk