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LINGUIST 2LC3 Hist Linguistics:Lang Evolut (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2018

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. John Colarusso


Office: Chester New Hall 532

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23902

Office Hours: TBA

Course Objectives:

This course will introduce the student to the inexorable processes that drive language change. The student will also become acquainted with various processes that cause language change through time and language variation across space.  The student may acquire a sense of what it means for languages to be related and how this can be proven.  The student will come to understand what language families are and how they offer insight into the prehistory of humanity.  Finally, the student will become acquainted with selected proto-languages, reconstructed languages that underlie those currently spoken throughout much of the world.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Campbell, Lyle, 2013. Historical Linguistics,  third edition,  MIT Press.


Method of Assessment:


  • 80% Homework (8 at 10% each),
  • Open Book Final Exam 20% (2 problems from text)


Please ask detailed questions about course material and assignments in person.  I only use e-mail to answer administrative/organizational questions that can be answered in one sentence.

Laptop Policy

Seminar: During the seminar portion of the course there is no reason to use a laptop or any electronic device since discussion is the primary form of instruction. Exceptions will be made in unique circumstances - please come and see me if this is an issue for you.


In class lectures, laptops may only be used for taking notes.  Students using laptops for other purposes will be asked to turn their laptops off for the remainder of the course.  Students using laptops are asked to sit in the first three rows of the class. 

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Handing in assignments:

  • I do not accept assignments by e-mail. 
  • Written assignments must be handed in HARD COPY at the BEGINNING  OF CLASS,  on the assigned due date. 
  • Late assignments will only be accepted in extenuating circumstances.
  • Late assignments will be subject to a 10% deduction from their grade for each week they are overdue.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Topical Outline (one week each)

1.  Introduction (text, pp. 1 – 13)

2.  Sound change (text, pp. 14-55)

 First assignment, from ch. 2 of text, due in one week.

3.  Borrowing

**Assignment One Due.**

4.  Analogical change (text, pp. 91 – 106)

Second assignment, from ch. 4 of text, due in one week. 

5.  The comparative method and linguistics reconstructio  (text, pp. 107 – 158)

Third assignment from ch. 5 of text, due in one week. 

**Assignment Two Due.**

6.  Linguistic classification (text, pp. 171 – 206)

 Fourth assignment from ch. 6 of text, due in one week. 

**Assignment Three Due.**

7.  Relatedness between languages (text, pp. 207 – 252)

Fifth assignment from ch. 7 of text, due in one week. 

**Assignment Four Due.**

8.  The comparative method (text, pp. 253 – 310)

 Sixth assignment from ch. 8 of text, due in one week. 

**Assignment Five Due.**

9.  Internal reconstruction (text, pp. 311 – 332)

Seventh assignment from ch. 9 of text, due in one week. 

**Assignment Six Due.**

10.  The origin and propagation of change (text, pp. 333 – 386)

Eighth assignment from ch. 10 of text, due in one week. 

**Assignment Seven Due.**

11.  Social and historical pressures upon language: Contact, planning, and the birth and

       death of languages (text, pp. 387 – 448)

 **Assignment Eight Due.**

12.  Language and prehistory (text, pp. 449 – 482)

13.  Review