Linguistics 110: Spring 1996 Course Syllabus

Textbook: None; course materials will be handed out.
Background reading: Steven Pinker. The Language Instinct. (NY 1994: HarperCollins).
Terry Crowley, An introduction to historical linguistics, 2nd ed. (Oxford 1992: Oxford U. Press).
Reference: Hans Hock, Principles of historical linguistics (Berlin 1986: Mouton de Gruyter).

Note that assigned readings should have been read, and homework will be due, the next class period after they are assigned unless other arrangements are announced.

Week 1: introduction.

1/15 Basic overview of the subject; basic requirements for an objective approach; the uniformitarian principle.
1/17 Formal and social aspects of language; the irrelevance of writing to language structure and change.
1/19 Sketch of the structure of natural human language.

Week 2: unsystematic language change.

1/22 Lexical change: borrowing.
1/24 Semantic change.
1/26 Changes in derivational morphology.

Week 3: "analogical" change in inflectional morphology.

1/29 Inflectional morphology: an overview.
1/31 The development of majority paradigms. Case study: Germanic languages.
2/2 Levelling. Case study: Ancient Greek verbs.

Week 4: "analogical" change, continued.

2/5 Larger patterns: KuryLowicz's fourth "law" of analogy; lexical split.
2/7 Morphological "deep" structure.
2/9 Morphological changes on an abstract level. Case study: case marking.

Week 5: the sounds of human language; sound change.

2/12 Basic phonetics: English sounds.
2/14 Basic phonetics: some non-English sounds.
2/16 Some common types of sound change: assimilation and lenition.

Week 6: sound change, continued.

2/19 Some common types of sound change: chain shifts of vowels.
2/21 Motivating sound change by slippage in timing (target undershoot, target overshoot, temporal overlap of gestures).
2/23 Slippage in timing: more complex cases.

Week 7: the phoneme.

2/26 Organization of language sounds on the principle of contrast.
2/28 How to phonemicize data: a demonstration.
3/1 Phonemicization problems.

Week 8: midterm week.

3/4 Midterm review session.
3/8 (No class; instructor out of town.)

Spring recess

Week 9: the phoneme and phonemic change.

3/18 Phonemicization problems.
3/20 Phonemicization problems.
3/22 Sound change: patterns of phonemic merger.

Week 10: phonemic change, continued.

3/25 Patterns of phonemic split.
3/27 Phonemic change problems.
3/29 Phonemic change problems.

Week 11: comparative reconstruction.

4/1 Demonstration of the comparative method.
4/3 Reconstruction problems.
4/5 Reconstruction problems.

Week 12: comparative reconstruction, continued.

4/8 Reconstruction problems.
4/10 Reconstruction problems.
4/12 Reconstruction problems.

Week 13: recognizing distant relationships.

4/15 The problem: chance resemblances are startlingly common.
4/17 Probability theory: some rules of thumb and how to apply them.
4/19 Problem in recognizing distant relationships.

Week 14: the threshold of reconstructability.

4/22 Loss of basic lexical material over time; establishing a threshold of reconstructability.
4/24 Beyond the threshold: Johanna Nichols' work.
4/26 [Topic open.]