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Unit information: Historical Linguistics in 2023/24

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

Unit name Historical Linguistics
Unit code MODL20017
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Havinga
Open unit status Not open
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School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Unit Information

The field of Historical Linguistics studies how languages change over time. In this unit, we will discuss what aspects of language (pronunciation, word and sentence structure, word meaning) can change as well as the theoretical processes that facilitate the occurrence of these changes. The study of linguistic structures and principles as well as historical methods will enable students to analyse languages, including ones that are unfamiliar, in order to establish whether and to what extent certain languages are related. We will draw examples from a wide range of languages to illustrate how historical methods can be applied to all languages.


The unit aims to introduce students to historical methods of linguistic analysis, to apply these methods practically, and inspire students to work more widely, and independently, in this and other fields. The unit will enhance students’ skills in the systematic analysis of languages, in the presentation of information and arguments, and in independent research.

Your learning on this unit

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a number of core historical methods used to study languages;
  2. evaluate how and why languages change;
  3. analyse critically cross-linguistic similarities and differences;
  4. formulate linguistic analysis in an appropriately structured form;
  5. collaborate effectively on a joint project.

How you will learn

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous sessions and asynchronous activities, including seminars, lectures and collaborative as well as self-directed learning opportunities supported by tutor consultation.

How you will be assessed

1 x 2000-word report based on linguistic analyses (70%). Testing ILOs 1-4.

1 x group poster (30%, group mark). Testing ILOs 1 - 5.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. MODL20017).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.