Historical linguistics

This course is part of the programme
Master's Degree Programme Humanities Studies

Objectives and competences

Introduction to the field, scope and methods of historical linguistics.
ability to recognize linguistically interesting topics


In order to successfully participate in in-class discussions and to follow the lectures, the student should take the introductory linguistic courses. This course is related to other courses in the Language curriculum.


The main part of this course covers historical syntax. Properly understood, the development of historical formal syntax is the most natural and promising complement of the minimalist program to proceed beyond the traditional goal of classical explanatory adequacy within current generative theories of language.
The course (between 12 and 15 hours) will consist of an introduction to and a critical discussion of:
the epistemological and empirical foundations of a diachronic theory of syntax,
the notion of historical explanation in linguistics and especially in formal syntax,
the role of parametric theories in renovating historical grammar,
Keenan's theory of Inertia,
the development of an historical-comparative method in parametric grammar.
Material discussed in lectures also forms the main part of recitations, where more time and care is devoted to the main issues. Emphasis is given to practical knowledge and actual analysis of language data.


  • Longobardi G. Methods in Parametric Linguistics and Cognitive History, in Linguistic Variation Yearbook 3, 2003, 101-138. https://doi.org/10.1075/livy.3.06lon
  • C. Gianollo, C. Guardiano and G. Longobardi Historical Implications of a Formal Theory of Syntactic Variation, in press in Stephen Anderson and Dianne Jonas (eds.) Proceedings of DIGS VIII. Yale University, Oxford University Press.
  • Roberts I. Introduction to Historical Syntax. Catalogue


Attending lectures, a term paper, active participation in in-class discussions.