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 2021/2022

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).

E. Magni (2020), L'ambiguità delle lingue. Roma: Carocci.

Further readings (optional):

M. Gimbutas (2005), Le dee viventi (a cura di M. Robbins Dexter, traduzione di M. Doni). Milano: Medusa Edizioni.

Baglioni (2016), L'etimologia. Roma: Carocci.

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 assessment of the skills and abilities acquired during the course consists of an oral test as follows: a short exercise aimed at verifying the mastery of the use of the international phonetic alphabet (IPA), as well as commenting and explaining the values of symbols, with particular pay attention to the phonemic inventory of Italian. The next step is an interview that evaluates the topics covered during the course and the faculties of analysis, reflection, and comparison applied to materials and examples from various languages. The questions will mainly (but not exclusively) focus on morphology, syntax, semantics and linguistic typology.
To obtain an 'excellent' grade, the student must acquire a broad and systematic understanding of the topics covered during the lessons, mastery of the specific terminology, and the ability to connect the various fields of the discipline, both with each other and with the languages studied.
A mnemonic knowledge of the subject, limited analytical and synthesis skills, a correct command of the language but with uncertainties in the terminology will be rewarded with a 'fair' grade.
A superficial understanding of the material, a poor analytical propensity, too short or inappropriate answers will lead to a passing grade or just above the pass mark.
Gaps in knowledge of the subject, improper use of the language, lack of orientation in the materials offered during the course suggest that the exam will be a waste of time for both the student and the teacher.

Teaching tools

Ipad, beamer, internet resources.

Office hours

See the website of Elisabetta Magni