• Offered by School of Culture History and Language
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Course subject Linguistics
  • Areas of interest Linguistics and Applied Linguistics

This course takes as its starting point the fact that all languages change. It explores explanations and motivations for change across different linguistic domains, as well as the ways in which our understanding of language change enables us to reconstruct past linguistic states and make certain cultural inferences. The course introduces students, on a global scale, to cross-linguistic tendencies of language change, the linguistic and socio-cultural factors that underpin language change, and models of language classification. Both traditional and innovative theories and methodologies are shaped by the study of two large language families: Indo-European, encompassing languages from Ireland in western Europe to India and Bangladesh in South Asia; and Austronesian, which spans Asia and the Pacific, from Taiwan to Easter Island. Students will learn about the role of these two language families in past and on-going developments in the field of historical linguistics, and in our understanding of general principles of language change and linguistic reconstruction.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
  1. demonstrate an understanding of how and why languages change;
  2. apply methods of describing linguistic changes and reconstruct earlier stages of languages;
  3. evaluate and apply models for determining genetic relationships between languages
  4. undertake guided research in some area of language change.

Indicative Assessment

1. Tutorial Preparation & Participation- 10% of course mark; addressing learning outcomes 1, 2 and 3.
2. Online Quizzes-5% of course mark; addressing learning outcomes 1, 2 and 3
3. Two Assignments- 20% of course mark (10% each); addressing learning outcomes 1, 2 and 3.
4. Essay- 35% of course mark; addressing learning outcomes 4 and 5.4. Final exam- 30% of course mark; addressing all five learning outcomes.

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


Contact hours for this course are two one-hour lectures and one one-hour tutorial per week. It is expected that students will spend an additional 7 hours per week of independent study working on assigned readings, tutorial preparation, and preparation for course assessment items. The total workload for the course is 130 hours including independent study. 

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed either LING1001, LING1010, or ASIA2001. This course is incompatible with LING6005.

Prescribed Texts

Crowley, Terry and Claire Bowern. 2010. An introduction to historical linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Preliminary Reading

Most of the readings for this course are from the course textbook (Crowley and Bowern 2010), but this text is supplemented by a number of other readings, which include:
- Dunn, Michael. 2014. Language phylogenies. In Claire Bowern and Bethwyn Evans (eds) The Routledge handbook of historical linguistics. London: Routledge, 190-211.
- Greenhill, Simon J. and Russell D. Gray. 2009. Austronesian language phylogenies: myths and misconceptions about Bayesian computational methods. In Alexander Adelaar and Andrew Pawley (eds) Austronesian historical linguistics and culture history: a festschrift for Robert Blust. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, 375-397.
- Harrison, S. P. 2003. On the limits of the Comparative Method. In Brian D. Joseph and Richard D. Janda (eds) The handbook of historical linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 213-243.
- Kingston, John. 2011. Tonogenesis. In Marc van Oostendrop, Colin J. Ewen and Elizabeth V. Hume (eds) The Blackwell companion to phonology. Vol IV: Phonological interfaces. Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2304-2333.
- Michael, Lev. 2014. Social dimensions of language change. In Claire Bowern and Bethwyn Evans (eds) The Routledge handbook of historical linguistics. London: Routledge, 484-502
.- Weiss, Michael. 2014. The Comparative Method. In Claire Bowern and Bethwyn Evans (eds) The Routledge handbook of historical linguistics. London: Routledge, 127-145.

Assumed Knowledge

Basic knowledge of linguistics


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $3120
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $4800
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
7023 26 Jul 2021 02 Aug 2021 31 Aug 2021 29 Oct 2021 In Person N/A

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