Historical Linguistics (2020/2021)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Alice Fiorentino
Alice Fiorentino
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
I semestre (Lingue e letterature straniere) dal Sep 28, 2020 al Jan 9, 2021.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

At the end of the course students will know the theoretical foundations and the technical terminology of the discipline and will be able to recognise the phenomena of language change visible in diachronic perspective at the different levels of linguistic analysis, the forms of interference in the context of language contact and the different manifestations of geographic and sociolinguistic variation.


The aim of the course is to explore the origins of historical linguistics, the historical and cultural context of its birth and the processes of change that occurs in the different levels of linguistic analysis in diachrony. Particular attention will also be given to the possible phenomena and outcomes of the contact between different linguistic systems in a synchronic perspective and to the correlated phenomena of sociolinguistic variation. The students will also be prompted to reflect on the concept and definition of intercomprehension, to use specific terminology inherent to the discipline and to present the content of the course with a good degree of personal in-depth analysis.


• Introduction to historical linguistics: context and classification of languages;
• Language change at various levels of analysis: phonetic and phonological level, morphological level, syntactic level, semantic-lexical level;
• Language contact, distinction between contact phenomena (interference, loanwords, calques, code-switching, code-mixing) and outcomes of language contact (pidgin, interlanguage, bilingualism, diglossia);
• Preliminary notions of sociolinguistics: the continuum, the variation, the notions of prestige and register;
• Linguistic variety with examples starting from the Italian language: standard and non-standard Italian, Italian and dialect, regional Italian and colloquial Italian;
• Intercomprehension: search for correspondences between Romance languages ​​in a synchronic perspective;


• Frontal lessons in synchronous mode on the Zoom platform (accessible from Moodle);
• Exercises with the support of the e-Learning platform provided by Moodle;
• Discussion on specific topics proposed by the teacher and on the texts provided in the bibliography;

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Graffi, Giorgio Breve storia della linguistica Carocci editore 2019 9788843095049
Fanciullo, Franco Introduzione alla Linguistica storica Il Mulino 2007
Fiorentino, Giuliana Variabilità linguistica. Temi e metodi della ricerca. Carocci editore 2018 9788843090945

Assessment methods and criteria

The exam will consist of a written test, which will determine the admission to the oral exam and which will consist of open and closed questions, based on the bibliography indicated. The closed questions will evaluate the knowledge gained during the course while through the open questions the students will demonstrate their ability to describe a given linguistic phenomenon with the specific terminology. If the written test is passed, the students will access the oral exam where they will be asked to develop concepts, to create links between the different parts of the course and to provide examples to support their theses. The students will have to demonstrate that they are able to apply the knowledge acquired to describe the linguistic change at the different levels of linguistic analysis, the forms of interference in the context of linguistic contact, the preliminary notions of sociolinguistics and to be able to describe the different manifestations of variation. They will also have to demonstrate that they can identify some of the main correspondences existing between Romance languages ​​from a synchronic perspective.