Historical Linguistics

Subject 175-017 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2009.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Two 1-hour lectures and a 1-hour tutorial per week. There will be no tutorials in the first or last weeks of semester.
Total Time Commitment: 3 contact hours/week , 5.5 additional hours/week. Total of 8.5 hours per week.
Prerequisites: Some prior study in Linguistics & Applied Linguistics is desirable, e.g. a first year Linguistics subject.
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/disability


Rachel Nordlinger
Subject Overview: This subject examines the ways in which languages change over time, and the techniques used to infer what these changes have been. Specific topics include the nature of language change, the comparative method and linguistic reconstruction in phonology and morphology, the family-tree model of language change, effects of language contact, sociolinguistic aspects of language change, grammaticalisation, semantic change, language and prehistory, synthetic models based on historical linguistics, archaeology, genetics and diachronic anthropology. The focus will be on the languages of Europe, Australia and the western Pacific.
  • have a general understanding of how and why languages change;
  • have developed practical skills in determining the genetic relationships between languages, inferring changes, and reconstructing past states of languages;
  • understand how structured human institutions emerge and change without conscious planning;
Assessment: Problem-solving assignments totalling 2000 words 50% (due throughout the semester) and an essay of 2000 words 50% (end of semester).
Prescribed Texts:
  • Historical Linguistics (T Crowley) (3rd ed)
Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • be able to analyse unfamiliar systems;
  • be able to present clear analyses of complex data.
Notes: Formerly available as 175-213/313. Students who have completed 175-213 or 175-313 are not eligible to enrol in this subject.
Related Course(s): Diploma in Arts (English Language)
Diploma in Arts (Linguistics)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: English Language Studies
Linguistics & Applied Linguistics
Linguistics && Applied Linguistics Major
Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Linguistics and Applied Linguistics

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