• Class Number 7028
  • Term Code 3160
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Bethwyn Evans
    • Dr Bethwyn Evans
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 26/07/2021
  • Class End Date 29/10/2021
  • Census Date 14/09/2021
  • Last Date to Enrol 02/08/2021
SELT Survey Results

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:

On successful completion of this course students should be able to:
1. demonstrate an understanding of how and why languages change
2. apply methods of describing linguistic changes and reconstructing earlier stages of language
3. evaluate and apply models for determining genetic relationships between languages
4. demonstrate an understanding of the place of European, Asian and Pacific languages in theories and models of language change
5. undertake guided research in some area of language change
6. critically assess research papers on language change and historical linguistics

Required Resources

The textbook for this course is:

Millar, Robert McColl. 2015. Trask's historical linguistics. Oxon, UK: Routledge. (third edition)

Most of the required readings are from the course textbook. Course readings not from the textbook are provided through the course Wattle site.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • Written comments on individual assessment items
  • Verbal comments in classes to the whole class, small groups and to individuals

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Other Information

Students are able to complete this course in-person or online, and will be asked to allocate their mode of course participation in Week 1.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Language continuity and change weeks 1 - 2
2 Understanding sound change week 3 - 4
3 The Comparative Method in linguistics weeks 5 - 6
4 Understanding grammatical and lexical change weeks 5 - 6
5 Computational methods in historical linguistics week 9
6 Language histories in broader contexts weeks 10 - 12

Tutorial Registration

Students need to register for their preferred tutorial class time using the tutorial sign-up link on the course Wattle site.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Class Participation 10 % 26/07/2021 29/10/2021 1, 2, 3, 4, 6
Analytical Assignment 1 15 % 19/08/2021 30/08/2021 1, 2, 3
Analytical Assignment 2 15 % 02/09/2021 13/09/2021 1, 2, 3
Language Family Critique 25 % 30/09/2021 11/10/2021 1, 3, 4, 5, 6
Research Essay 35 % 11/11/2021 30/11/2021 1, 3, 4, 5, 6

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using 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. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website Students may choose not to submit assessment items through Turnitin. In this instance you will be required to submit, alongside the assessment item itself, hard copies of all references included in the assessment item.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


As noted above for Class Participation (Assessment Task 1), students are expected to actively participate in the seminar and tutorial classes (3 hours in total) each week. Participating in seminar and tutorial classes means engaging with individual and group exercises and activities that form part of the classes (either in-person or online), and contributing to relevant online discussions.


There is no examination for this course, but note that the deadline for the final piece of assessment is during the examination period.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 26/07/2021
Return of Assessment: 29/10/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6

Class Participation

It is expected that students actively participate in the seminar and tutorial classes (3 hours in total) each week. This includes participating, individually and in groups, in class activities and exercises, contributing to online discussions, and completing a weekly online quiz (from Week 2). See the course Wattle site for more details.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 19/08/2021
Return of Assessment: 30/08/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3

Analytical Assignment 1

An analytical assignment (c. 600-800 words), which involves historical linguistic analysis of a set of language data based on methods learnt and practised in classes. See the course Wattle site for more details, including assignment instructions and assessment criteria.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 02/09/2021
Return of Assessment: 13/09/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3

Analytical Assignment 2

An analytical assignment (c. 600-800 words), which involves historical linguistic analysis of a set of language data based on methods learnt and practised in classes. See the course Wattle site for more details, including assignment instructions and assessment criteria.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 25 %
Due Date: 30/09/2021
Return of Assessment: 11/10/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6

Language Family Critique

A 1,500-word critique based on researching and assessing the application of methods and theories of historical linguistics to a particular language family. See the course Wattle site for more details, including critique instructions and assessment criteria.

Assessment Task 5

Value: 35 %
Due Date: 11/11/2021
Return of Assessment: 30/11/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6

Research Essay

A 3,000-word research essay that explores a topic relevant to the study of language histories, methods and theories of historical linguistics and/or models of language change. The essay is completed in two stages, with the initial topic proposal and annotated bibliography worth 5%, and the final essay worth 30%. Further information about the research essay, including detailed instructions and topic suggestions, is available from the course Wattle site.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

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. All assessment for this course are to be submitted electronically. You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of your assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education), submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For this course all assessment is to be submitted electronically.

Late Submission

Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for the online quizzes.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

For online quizzes, marks and feedback are provided online after the quiz deadline, and further feedback is provided verbally in the associated class. For submitted tutorial preparation marks are provided through Turnitin, and feedback is provided in the associated class. For all other assessment items marks and feedback are provided through Turnitin, and additional verbal feedback may be given in associated classes.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

Resubmission of assessment items is not accepted.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information. In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service — including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy. If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes. Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).
Dr Bethwyn Evans

Research Interests

  • historical and comparative linguistics, and how language can be a window on the linguistic and non-linguistic past
  • languages of New Guinea and the Pacific

Dr Bethwyn Evans

By Appointment
Dr Bethwyn Evans
02 6125 3207

Research Interests

Dr Bethwyn Evans

By Appointment

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