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Historical Linguistics

Historical Linguistics

  • A Linguistic History of the Western Steppe: Indo-European, its sisters, and its neighbors

    Johanna Nichols

    The era of Big Data offers historical linguistics new roles, new possibilities, and urgent priorities. This course uses these new developments to draw up a linguistic prehistory and early history of the western Eurasian steppe and its periphery, in particular situating Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Uralic, indigenous Caucasian languages, and their ancestor(s) in space, time, and areal-typological context.

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  • A Program for Evolutionary Syntax: Syntactic Reconstruction and Syntactic Fossils

    Ljiljana Progovac

    This course follows a simple idea, that syntax evolved gradually/incrementally (through well-defined stages), and that these stages are not only still evident in various modern constructions (“fossils”), but that they also provide a scaffolding for building more complex structures.

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  • Advances in Contact-induced Morphological Change

    Francesco Gardani

    This course focuses on a wide range of phenomena occurring under the heading of contact-induced morphological change and pursues three main goals:  first, to introduce the most recent developments in research on contact-induced morphological change; second, to make the students aware of and acquainted with the array of new data collected in recent publications; and, third, to lead them to a full understanding of how data from language contact informs the theory of morphology, in terms of the architecture of grammar.  

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  • American Dialectology

    Joseph Salmons

    The study of linguistic variation in American English (and other languages spoken in the United States) is changing dramatically today. This course will introduce patterns of variation and change in American English, covering sound patterns (vowels and consonants), word forms and sentence structures in their social, historical and regional contexts. We will situate these patterns in current linguistic theory, not only sociolinguistics and language change but also more broadly.

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  • Computational Approaches to Sound Change

    James Kirby, Morgan Sonderegger

    Decades of empirical research have led to an increasingly nuanced picture of the nature of phonetic and phonological change, incorporating insights from speech production and perception, cognitive biases, and social factors. However, there remains a significant gap between observed patterns and proposed mechanisms, in part due to the difficulty of conducting the type of controlled studies necessary to test hypotheses about historical change. Computational and mathematical models provide an alternative means by which such hypotheses can be fruitfully explored.

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  • Introduction to Historical Linguistics

    Martha Ratliff

    In this basic course we will review common types of language change at every structural level: phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. We will also study how language relationships are determined, how subgroupings are justified, and how protolanguages are reconstructed. Where appropriate, we will talk about recent developments in historical linguistics that involve big data: for example, the use of text corpora in studies of syntactic change and use of lexical databases in the detection of language relationship.

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  • Language Contact

    Pattie Epps

    This course considers the phenomenon of language contact from both structural and sociocultural angles. We will investigate the processes and patterns involved in lexical and structural borrowing, the formation of new contact varieties such as creoles and mixed languages, and the role of contact in driving and shaping language change. We will take a close look at the dynamics of specific contact zones, most notably the Vaupés region of the northwest Amazon.

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  • Theoretical Approaches to Contact-induced Change

    Donald Winford

    The goal of this seminar is to explore in some detail current theoretical frameworks for the investigation of the origins and development of various outcomes of language contact. The seminar presupposes a basic linguistic background and (preferably) previous experience in language contact and/or historical linguistics. The course will explore contact phenomena at various levels of linguistic structure, including phonetics/phonology, morpho-syntax and syntax, as well as the frameworks that have been developed to analyze them.

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  • Topics in Historical Linguistics

    Ashwini Deo

    This course will examine the systematic ways in which semantic content changes, or is disposedto change, across time. We will be concentrating on those expressions that fall within the “functional lexicon”, rather than the “content lexicon”. One of the crucial properties of functional morphemes is that, in any given language, their inventory is limited, as opposed to the open-ended lexicon of content items. Another important property of language-specific functional expressions is that they seem to exhibit strong cross-linguistic similarities with respect to the meanings they express.

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