Language and History

Ref: C3741294

You will be introduced to the methods which can be used to understand the relationships between languages and their history, and the ways in which languages change. There will be an emphasis on changes in sounds, since this is the most regular type of change, and the most important in reconstructing unrecorded languages. You will be introduced to the methods used in reconstruction; also to phenomena of contact between languages, such as borrowing and pidgin languages. Other topics will include the use of these methods to explore prehistoric events (such as migrations) and cultures. At least one exercise will be done in each class to give you some practical experience of using these methods yourselves. Suggestions for particular topics, relevant to the course, will be welcomed and incorporated into the course, if practicable.

Course aim

To introduce you to the ways in which languages develop and interact with one another, and the evidence this provides for human history and cultures; and how this evidence can be used to reconstruct unrecorded languages and societies.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • recognise how languages develop and interact with each other, and how their history relates to general human history.
  • explain in simple terms the techniques of linguistic reconstruction, and have some practical understanding of how they are used.
  • analyse how linguistic evidence can be used to give us information about otherwise unrecorded events and cultures, and refine our knowledge of human history.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

What can I do next?

  • There is no specific progression, but anyone contemplating doing a course in linguistics, especially if it includes historical linguistics, will find it helpful; and it may also help in historical and anthropological studies.

Download full course outline

Language and History Course Outline

Enrolment Conditions

You can enrol online if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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