00483 - Glottology

Course Unit Page


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

Quality education Life on land

Academic Year 2021/2022

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

This course introduces the participants to the language sciences by adopting a diachronic perspective, which "goes across time" seeking the tendencies and the principles that guide language change.

Language systems are continuously transforming. In some cases it is easy to perceive changes as they happen: think of the introduction of neologisms in the language, the rise in frequency of a certain construction or of a new meaning for a word, contact and mixing phenomena across different languages as a consequence of migrations. In other cases the effect of changes can be observed only generations later and it is almost imperceptible to speakers, the agents of change themselves, in its unfolding. The accumulation of various transformations may have disruptive effects and originate linguistic traditions that are so different that they are called new languages (as happened in the case of the Romance varieties that originated from Latin). The course aims to offer the tools to address in a scientifically rigorous way the questions that arise once one observes language in time: why do languages change? how do they do it? and why do we observe recurrent phenomena in the processes that affect different languages, geographically and genealogically distant? how is it possible to assess language relationships? how does the history of a language interweave with the history of the cultures and societies created by their speakers? By addressing these questions it will be possible to appreciate the role of linguistics as a discipline that investigates the complex relation between cognitive and cultural aspects in the development (and dissolution) of languages.

The course discusses these topics by means of (i) the introduction of fundamental notions in the analysis of linguistic systems (phonetics, phonology, morphology, lexicon, syntax, semantics, pragmatics); (ii) the study of phenomena of language change taken especially from Indo-European languages; (iii) a comparative perspective on the history and structure of languages (Indo- European and non-Indo-European ones) present in the Italian society.



- F. Fanciullo, Introduzione alla linguistica storica, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2022 (or earlier editions - concerning this please read the "avviso" (notice) on the Virtuale platform).

- I. Fiorentini, C. Gianollo, N. Grandi (a cura di), La classe plurilingue, Bologna, Bononia University Press 2020.

The text is available in open access format on the website https://buponline.com/prodotto/la-classe-plurilingue/. Students are required to develop a general knowledge of the entire volume and a more detailed knowledge of 10 chapters of their choice from the chapters 2-17.

- L. Lorenzetti, L'italiano contemporaneo, Roma, Carocci, 2002 (or later reprints).

- Teaching material used in class and uploaded on the Virtuale e-learning platform (https://virtuale.unibo.it/)

Students who do not attend the lectures will read also:

- G. Graffi, Breve storia della linguistica, Roma, Carocci, 2019.


Teaching methods

Lectures, collaborative plenary discussions, guided observation of data, practical exercises.

Assessment methods

The exam is made up of a written test (time allotted: one hour) followed by an oral colloquium. Students are admitted to the oral colloquium only if the score of the written exam is at least 15/30. For students admitted to the oral colloquium, both the written test and the oral colloquium are obligatory and the students will have to be successful in both of them (to be sustained during the same exam session).

The written exam

The written test is made up of 12 questions and assigns 30 points in total. The first 10 questions are multiple choice and single choice questions, or they require short definitions and examples. The last two questions foresee a longer, argumentative answer; they concern the books ‘La classe plurilingue' and ‘Introduzione alla linguistica storica' (one question for each book).

The answers require a combination of synthesis and clarity in exposition.

The score of the written test is determined following the criteria below:

(i) 8 of the first 10 questions assign up to 2 points; 2 of the first 10 questions (those concerning the phonetic transcription / analysis and the phonological or morphological analysis of historical data) assign up to 4 points each.

(ii) each of the last two questions assigns instead 0 to 3 points each, depending on:

a) relevance of the answer with respect to the question

b) synthesis ability

c) use of language expressions appropriate to the topic.

The oral exam

The oral exam (which, except in special cases, is made up of approximately three questions) assigns a score ranging from 0 to 3 points. Students who achieve less than 15 points in the written exam are not admitted to the oral exam. Students who achieve from 15 points to less than 18 points are admitted to the oral exam under reserve. The final score is the addition of the scores of the two tests. Both tests have to be passed.

During the oral exam, students are always invited to start with a subject freely chosen by them.

Way to sign up for the exam and evaluation criteria

It is obligatory to sign up for the written exam through Almaesami. Students who pass the written test do not need to sign up for the oral colloquium through Almaesami.

Candidates who are admitted to the oral exam will be examined following the order of the sign-up list of the written exam. Students needing to anticipate or postpone the oral colloquium (e.g. due to work-related reasons) are required to signal their needs to the teacher during the written test.

The results of the written test are made public (on the internet) according to the modalities that will be indicated on the day of the written exam. The schedule for the oral colloquium is published together with the results of the written test. Hence, the start date of the oral colloquia depends on the number of students who each time sign up for the written test.

It is not possible to take the oral exam at a session different from the one in which the written test is taken.

Evaluation criteria are: precision in the use of technical terms; clarity in defining the operational concepts; confidence in analyzing the data discussed in the exam material; methodological thoroughness and problem-solving ability in analyzing novel data; confidence in laying out the chronological and technical framework; maturity in critically finding connections among topics; relevance and synthesis in answers.

During the first and the last lecture complete information about the assessment methods and the organization of the exam will be given. During the course a mock test will also be proposed: the precise dates for the mock test and for its correction and discussion will be communicated at the beginning of classes. This information will always be available on the e-learning platform.

Teaching tools

During the lectures I will make use of slide presentations that will be made available to the students on the Virtuale e-learning platform (https://virtuale.unibo.it/). The e-learning platform will also be used for storing the syllabus and as a general managing tool for the course (i.e. for short-term notices). Students can access the course page on the platform directly with no need for a course password (institutional login will suffice).

Office hours

See the website of Chiara Gianollo