[in progress] Chapter 14: Historical Linguistics

Languages are constantly changing, from one generation to the next, and even within a generation. Languages can change in any of the ways that they can differ from each other: phonology, morphology, syntax, etc. This chapter explores the many ways that languages can change, as well as how we can make educated guesses at what languages looked like in the past.

When you’ve completed this chapter, you’ll be able to:

  • Categorize examples of language change using technical terminology.
  • Analyze linguistic data to determine what kind of language changes are demonstrated and to reconstruct proto-forms of the data.
  • Recognize and refute common myths about language change.

This chapter is currently under construction. Sections 14.1–14.6 and 14.8–14.9 are complete but subject to change. Forthcoming additional sections include:

  • 14.7 External change
  • 14.10 More comparative reconstruction
  • 14.11 Language families
  • 14.12 Linguistic paleontology
  • 14.13 Beyond the comparative method


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Essentials of Linguistics, 2nd edition Copyright © 2022 by Catherine Anderson; Bronwyn Bjorkman; Derek Denis; Julianne Doner; Margaret Grant; Nathan Sanders; and Ai Taniguchi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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