00483 - Glottology

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course students know the basics and the history of linguistics and are able to understand the latest research trends; they know the current theoretical models of linguistics and owns introductory notions of historical linguistics with particular regard to linguistic reconstruction, theories of language change, and Indo-European linguistics; they are able to go deeper into the methodologies of typological comparison.

Course contents

The goal of the course is to provide a concise introduction to the theoretical foundations of contemporary general and historical linguistics. No previous linguistic notions are presupposed. We will briefly examine the organization of the grammar in its structural components: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. In that context, and considering also the text by Andrea Moro, I confini di Babele, we will discuss some pivotal topics in current linguistics studies: the neurobiological foundations of language and its evolution; first language (L1) acquisition in the child and second/third language (L2/L3) acquisition in adults.

Afterwards, we will present some fundamental topics of modern historical linguistics, the study of language change. We will talk about nature, causes and systematicity of language change and we will examine the main internal (i.e. strictly linguistic) and external (social) factors of language change, with special reference to Romance and Germanic languages. We will consider different types of language spread. Other topics will be: the “discovery” of Indo-European; the methods of comparative and internal language reconstruction; genetic, areal and typological classification of the world's languages. We will finally briefly discuss recent research into language change and linguistic universals, with particular reference to phonological change.

Students are invited to consult the "Notices" Section in the teacher Web Page (http://www.unibo.it/docenti/mario.vayra) for updates on class related activities (workshops, talks), supplementary materials distribution, exams and possible changes in office hours


- G. Graffi, S. Scalise, Le lingue e il linguaggio. Introduzione alla linguistica, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2013 3rd edition (or following date): except for chapt. 4 suoni delle lingue: fonetica e fonologia.

- F. Fanciullo, Introduzione alla linguistica storica, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2007 (or following date): except for  chapt. 3 Corrispondenze fonologiche tra le lingue indoeuropee.

- A. Moro, I confini di Babele. Il cervello e il mistero delle lingue impossibili, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2015. Chapt. 4 is not mandatory. (Notice that an older English edition of the A. Moro's book  is also available at the Library of Dept.  of Classical Philology and Italian Studies): The Boundaries of Babel, Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT Press, 2008).

- M Nespor, L. Bafile, I suoni del linguaggio, Bologna, Il Mulino (chapts. 1-6).

As further reading in the field of phonetics I suggest a choice between:
- F Albano Leoni e P. Maturi, Manuale di fonetica, Roma, Carocci (chapts.1-2). The book includes a CD-ROM with audio files which allow the student to exercise in listeninig and trascription tests of word and sentences in Italian, English, French and German


- P. Maturi, I suoni delle lingue, i suoni dell'italiano. Introduzione alla fonetica, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2006.

* Of course, attending students can optionally consider, as further readings, one of the supplementary books mandatory for non-attending students.

- Non attending students

Non attending students will add to the readings one  of the the following books:

- E. Campanile, B. Comrie,, C. Watkins, Introduzione alla lingua e alla cultura degli Indoeuropei, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2005;


- G. Graffi, Che cos'è la Grammatica Generativa, Roma, Carocci, 2008

 - Supplementary materials  will be made available on-line in pdf format  


Teaching methods

Lessons will be given as lectures. Supplementary materials will be made available on-line during the course (Student Guide: Glottology: “Teaching Material”).

Assessment methods

The exam will include a written test followed by an oral colloquium. Both of them are mandatory. Students will be admitted to the oral colloquium only if their score in the written test will be equal or higher than 18/30. The oral colloquium must take place in the same academic year in which the written test has been completed.. It is mandatory to enroll to the exam via the AlmaEsami interface, both for the written and for the oral test. Written tests’ scores will be available on-line (AlmaEsami) in about two weeks. Students will be scheduled for the oral colloquium according to the enrolling list of the oral exam. It is important that the students who need to anticipate or posticipate the oral test for important personal reasons (e.g. work constraints) inform the teacher of their needs at the moment of the written test and no later than that.

WRITTEN test: it consists of 3 open questions and 7 multiple choise questions. Studentts are assigned two hours order to complete the test. Questions will concern the topics presented during the classroom lessons, addressed by the books of the bibliography (for the book by Moro, see below) and specified in the supplementary materials. The written test will address the more technical aspects of both the general linguistics and the hystorical linguistics sections of the course. For this reasons, questions concering Moro’s book will be limited to chapter I.

ORAL colloquium: its goal is to verify the student’s comprehension of the different topics presented in the course and his/her ability of linguistic analysis. If the written test received a high or excellent score, the colloquium can focus on wider (less technical) topics and on chapters II, III, IV (with Appendices) of Moro’s book. On the contrary, if the written test scored unsatisfactorely, the colloquium will be focused on the critical points of the student’s test. The exam’s score will combine the scores obtained in the written and oral tests, but not necessarely as a purely arythmetic sum: a bonus may be assigned according to the progresses shown by the student in the oral colloquium as compared to the written test.

During the fist lesson the teacher will give all the relevant informations about the course organization and the final exam. Such informations will be available also on line (Materiali didattici). Moreover, a simulation of the exam will be offered in the final lessons.

Teaching tools

Lessons will include Power Point presentations  

Office hours

See the website of Mario Vayra