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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Zev Handel
LING 454
Seattle Campus

Methods in Comparative Linguistics

Method and theory of historical and comparative linguistics. Problems of phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic change and reconstruction. Prerequisite: either LING 200, LING 201, ANTH/LING 203, or LING 400.

Class description

This course introduces the basic concepts of historical linguistics and historical reconstruction, including the comparative method. The main focus is on the types of changes (phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic) which commonly occur, and on the practical application of methods of reconstruction. A broad range of languages will be examined. The course also touches on genetic classification, language families, and writing systems.

Student learning goals

Gain introductory knowledge of the field of historical linguistics

Gain an understanding of the concepts and methodology underlying the field

Practice the analytic methods employed in linguistic analysis and reconstruction

General method of instruction

Class lectures, readings, and exercises. Our main textbook will be Campbell, Lyle. 2004. Historical Linguistics: An Introduction. (2nd edition). MIT Press.

Recommended preparation

See listed prerequisites. It is assumed that students have a good understanding of articulatory phonetics, IPA, and a basic command of concepts in phonology, morphology, and syntax, all of which can be acquired in any introductory linguistics course or from an introductory linguistics textbook.

Class assignments and grading

Most assignments will be problem sets through which students will gain an understanding of and familiarity with the techniques of historical reconstruction.

Midterm exam: 20% Final exam: 30% Homework: 35% Preparation and class participation: 15% (subject to change)


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Zev Handel
Date: 04/30/2009