Historical Linguistics - 1st semester


At the end of the course students should: 1) understand the specificity of the subject of Historical Linguistics and its importance in the context of Linguistics; 2) master basic and fundamental concepts of General Linguistics and Historical Linguistics; 3) know, in general terms, different analytical perspectives in the field of diachronic linguistic studies and develop the ability to assess them critically; 4) understand the relationship between different factors (internal and external) of linguistic change; 5) understand the process of diffusion of language change in the light of the current state of knowledge; 6) know diachronic aspects of various languages, particularly of European Portuguese, and be able to describe and characterize them; 7) apply the knowledge acquired to different areas of Linguistics and the Social Sciences and Humanities in general.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

António H. F. P. A. Emiliano


Weekly - 4

Total - Available soon

Teaching language



The course has no formal requirements for enrollment. However, attendance requires 1) prior attendance of introductory courses in Linguistics including Phonetics, Phonology and Morphology and 2) an excellent knowledge of spoken and written Standard European Portuguese, a good knowledge of written English and a working (passive) knowledge of French and Spanish.


BLEVINS, J. (2004): Evolutionary Phonology: The Emergence of Sound Patterns, Cambridge: C. U. Press;
CAMPBELL, L. (2004): Historical linguistics: An introduction, Edinburgh: E. U. Press, 2nd rev. ed.; COSERIU, E.
(1978). Sincronía, diacronía e historia: El Problema del Cambio Lingüístico, Madrid: Gredos, 3.ª ed.;
HALE, M. (2007): Historical Linguistics: Theory and Method, Oxford: Blackwell;
HOCK & JOSEPH (2009): Language History, Language Change and Language Relationship, Berlin: Mouton de
Gruyter, 2nd ed.;
JANDA & JOSEPH Eds. (2003): The Handbook of Historical Linguistics, Oxford: Blackwell; McMAHON, A.
(1994): Understanding Language Change, Cambridge: C. U. Press;
TRASK, R. L. (2007): Historical Linguistics, London: Hodder Education, 2nd rev. ed.;
TRASK, R. L. (2010): Why Do Languages Change? Cambridge: C. U. Press, rev. posth. ed.

Teaching method

Theoretical/PracticalClasses: lectures with student´s active participation.
Bibliographic support: class summaries, support documents, slides used in class, links, full texts of articles
and book chapters, discussion forum available online in the MOODLE platform.
Supervision: discussion sessions, oneonone tutorials, response to students´ queries by email, emessaging
or video conferencing.

Evaluation method

Grading: 1 exam with 4 questions chosen from a set of ca. 20; optional textcommentary
assignment, 25% or 30% of the final grade; optional essay (12 printed pages) about a topic covered in class, 5% or 10% of the final grade; optional planned presentation 1520 minutes, 10% or 15% of the final grade; the weighting of these elements depends on the grades obtained (i.e. less than 15 points or 15+ points).
All assessment elements will be submitted by the students in a standard variety of Portuguese.

Subject matter

1. General and introductory considerations on the study of language change: Historical Linguistics and History of Language; synchrony, diachrony and history; the problem of language change.
2. Data in Historical Linguistics: the study of ancient primary sources; philological work and digital textual
corpora; attestation and reconstruction.
3. Language evolution and language change: Glossogenetics vs. Historical Linguistics; the problem of the origin of language; language and evolution.
4. The comparative method and linguistic reconstruction: general trends in the development of Comparative Linguistics since the 1st half of the 19th century.
5. Explanation in Historical Linguistics — the mechanism of linguistic change: factors and causes of linguistic change; language change and synchronic variation; implementation and dissemination of changes.
6. Analysis of phonological, morphological, morphosintactic and lexical phenomena.


Programs where the course is taught: