Germanic Languages | Special Topics in Germanic Studies
E371 | 29693 | Sprouse


Topic: Language Evolution, Change, and Diversity in Central Europe


This course makes use of examples from the languages and populations
of Central Europe from prehistoric times to the present to examine the
causes and implications of languages change and diversity and to
approach the question of the origins of language in the human species.

No textbook. The course will be taught on the basis of notes and
readings available to students on Oncourse.

The language of instruction will be English. Most of the examples will
be drawn from Germanic languages (and their hypothesized precursors),
but no specific linguistic background in German, Dutch, or
Scandinavian will be assumed.

Regular class attendance, preparation, and participation are required.
There will be three 5- to 7-page written assignments, a midterm, and a
final examination.

Week 1	A case study: The Rhenish Fan
Week 2	Introduction to the phonetics of consonants
Week 3	The Rhenish Fan and the Second Sound Shift
Week 4	Grimm’s Law
Week 5	Introduction to the phonetics of vowels
Week 6	Germanic languages and umlaut
Week 7	Strong and weak verbs
Week 8	Strong and weak adjectives; Midterm exam
Week 9	Case studies:
(1) German and Yiddish
(2) Icelandic and Norwegian/Swedish
(3) Dutch and Afrikaans
Week 10	Apparent “simplification” and the “direction” of language change
Week 11	Change and diversity in modern times
Week 12	The spread of Indo-European languages into Central Europe,
linguistic archeology, and population genetics: How far back can we
see? Part I
Week 13	The Nostratic Hypothesis: How far back can we see? Part II
Week 14	The origins of language in the human species: How far back can
we see? Part III
Week 15	Summation and synthesis

Final examination