Historical linguistics is the study of the way language changes over time, and involves examining the development of individual languages and the comparison or related languages. The discipline partakes of a dualism which is basic in linguistics in that on the one hand its material consists of particular listable phenomena and events, and on the other hand we are able to generalize from these data about how people talk. For instance, if a structural unit of language has changed in its nature or distribution in linguistic history, that unit has thus been shown to exist, as effectively as if that unit were observed to change in the course of language acquisition or in a language disorder. Because language change thus provides one sort of laboratory for the study of basic linguistic phenomena, historical linguistics at the present time is an area of lively theoretical discussion as well as of concrete scholarly investigations.
Subdisciplines of historical linguistics include historical phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and sociolinguistics. Program faculty have expertise in these general areas as well as in comparative Celtic, Germanic, Romance, Slavic, and Indo-European linguistics. Trained historical linguists find employment in departments of Linguistics, English, foreign languages, and Anthropology.
Faculty having Historical Linguistics as an area of interest:
Assistant Professor (Languages, Literatures, and Cultures; French)
Phonetics, Sociophonetics, Sociolinguistics, Theoretical Phonology, Lab Phonology, Historical Romance, Historical Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, Scandinavian Languages
Associate Professor (English)
Theory of language change; Historical syntax; Historical phonology; Indo-European linguistics, culture, religion, and prehistory; Old and Middle Irish syntax; Contemporary English grammar
Professor (Languages, Literatures, and Cultures; German)
Comparative Germanic linguistics (German, English, Scandinavian, Dutch, Frisian), historical linguistics, language typology, dialectology, phonology, morphology, etymology
Associate Professor (Languages, Literatures, and Cultures; Spanish)
Phonology, Historical linguistics, dialectology.
Bilingualism in pre-conquest England, Old English and Anglo-Latin philology.
Graduate Courses in Historical Linguistics:
LING 533 - Introduction to the Germanic Languages
Introduction to historical Germanic linguistics including a survey of the Old Germanic languages (Old English, Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Old High German, Old Norse, Gothic); comparative phonology, morphology, and syntax, typology of modern Germanic languages and dialects; and common Germanic in its Indo-European context.
Cross-listed Course: GERM 517
LING 730 - Historical Linguistics
Innovation in phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics; evidence from texts, social and regional dialects; emphasis on theories of language change.
Prerequisites LING 600 and 610
LING 731 - History of English Language
The historical background of Modern English with attention to the major linguistic and cultural developments which distinguish English from other related languages. No prior knowledge of Old English or Middle English is required.
Equivalent Course ENGL 781
LING 732 - History of the French Language
Development of the French language from its origins to 1600.
Equivalent Course FREN 715
LING 733 - History of the German Language
Relationship of German to the other Germanic languages. Phonological and morphological development of German. Attention also to syntax, vocabulary, and dialects.
Equivalent Course GERM 705
LING 734 - History of the Spanish Language
Development of the language from its origins to the present day.
Equivalent Course SPAN 715
LING 739 - The Evolution of Linguistic Theory, Practice, and Methods
Introduces basic resources of discipline and focuses on the development of linguistics in terms of dominant issues and analytical methodology with emphasis on paradigm shifts.
Prerequisites LING 600, 610, 620
LING 830 - Seminar in Historical Linguistics
Special topics in historical and comparative linguistics, such as historical phonology or syntax, Indo-European linguistics, and comparative Germanic or Romance linguistics.
Prerequisites consent of instructor