Language varies and changes. All the time. At any place. One of the central questions linguists have been occupied with is why this is the case. Why, given that language seems to be a perfectly ... read more
Language varies and changes. All the time. At any place. One of the central questions linguists have been occupied with is why this is the case. Why, given that language seems to be a perfectly working system of communication, does it not stay the same? This will be the research question of this seminar.
At a closer look, we will be able to see that not all linguistic developments are random. There are discernible patterns underlying language variation and identifiable pathways of linguistic change. At the same time, resulting changes that can be made out on one linguistic level (be it syntax, morphology, phonology, or the lexicon) may be caused on a completely different level – and may in turn trigger a shift of the system in one of the other domains. Both social and psychological factors can cause change in grammar, in pronunciation or in the lexicon.
In this class, we will examine these patterns and principles of linguistic change. We will see how human language changes, grows apart and converges. And we will examine how and why the structures of a language nevertheless remain sufficiently stable to allow successful communication. While these principles apply cross-linguistically, we will examine them primarily, but not exclusively, by looking at examples from English.
Default requirements for the 8 CP will be regular attendance, an oral presentation, and a term paper of ten to twelve pages. Students who cannot come to the first class of the term are kindly asked to notify me before the beginning of the lecture period.