31359 - Historical Linguistics

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

This is an advanced course in Historical Linguistics that presupposes some previous knowledge of Theoretical Linguistics. Therefore the passing of the exam of Linguistica Generale is required.

Course contents

The course deals with historical linguistics and mechanisms of language change. The main subjects are the description and the interpretation of the phenomena of phonetic, morphological, syntactic, and semantic change that characterize the diachronic development of Romance and Germanic languages.


E. Magni (2014), Linguistica storica. Bologna: Pàtron editore (ristampa 2015).

P. D'Achille (2001), Breve grammatica storica dell'italiano. Roma: Carocci (ristampa 2017).

Further readings (optional):

M. Gimbutas (1999), The Living Goddesses (ed. by M. Robbins Dexter). Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press.

A. Liebermann (2005), Etymology for Everyone: Word Origins and How We Know Them. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Teaching methods

The course is essentially based on frontal teaching.

Assessment methods

The evaluation of the competencies and abilities acquired during the course consists of an oral test organized as follows: an interview designed to assess the understanding of the topics covered during the course, as well as the faculties of analysis, reflection and comparison applied to the evolution of the Romance and Germanic languages in particular. Next, some exercises aimed at verifying the proficiency in recognizing phenomena of language change and applying phonetic ‘laws', as well as in explaining data from both ancient and modern languages. To be precise, the questions will focus primarily on diachronic processes concerning phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics.

The achievement of a wide and systematic understanding of the issues covered during the lessons, the demonstration of competence and mastery of field-specific terminology, the capacity for synthesis and connection between the various areas of the discipline, as well as between it and the languages studied, will be assessed with a mark of excellence.

A mnemonic knowledge of the subject, with superficial analytical capability and ability to synthesize, a command of the language that is correct but with uncertainties, will be given a ‘fair' mark.

A superficial understanding of the material, a scarce analytical propensity with language and expression not always appropriate, will be rewarded with a pass mark or just above a pass mark.

Gaps in the knowledge of the subject matter, inappropriate language use, lack of orientation in the materials offered during the course, lead to the prediction that the examination will be a waste of time for both student and teacher.

Teaching tools

Ipad, beamer

Office hours

See the website of Elisabetta Magni