Slavic 351/551:


Introduction to the History of the Slavic Languages


Spring 2015



Instructor:                  Katarzyna Dziwirek                            Telephone:      543-7691

Office:                         Smith Hall M260                                e-mail:  

Office Hours:             Tue, Thu 2:30-3:20 and by appointment                    


Class website:   


The scope of the course:


1. Language evolution, Indo-Europeans: evidence for the Indo-European language family and its subgroups, what was the Indo-European culture and language like, where did they came from, etc.

2. The place of Slavic within Indo-European (relationships to other subgroups)

3. The development of today's Slavic languages from the ancestral Common Slavic

4. The development of writing systems, national languages, and literatures

5. Principles of historical linguistics: sound change, analogy, semantic change, etc.

6. The relevance of historical linguistics: how linguistic evidence furthers our knowledge of human cognitive development, the culture of our ancestors, etc.


What you should know after this course:


· basic principles of language change


· main features of Slavic languages (e.g. be able to tell that English flow and Russian плaвaть, Polish pływać and Serbo-Croatian plivati are related, and why they are different)


· main features of the three groups and individual Slavic languages, so that you can look at a text from a Slavic language and be able to tell which language it is (for example, know why in Russian "star" is zvezda, while in Polish it is gwiazda, etc.)




Readings on electronic reserves, a class packet (available at Professional Copy, 4200 University Ave).


Requirements for Slavic 351:


1. Readings and Class Participation: Follow the reading schedule and be prepared to discuss assigned texts in class. See handout on Reading and Class Discussion on the class website.

2. Presentation on Indo-Europeans on 4/21. Please pick your topic by 4/14= 25 points

3. Exercises: in class and take-home = 175 points total

4. Exams: 3 tests 3 x 100 = 300 points.

Total points=500


Requirements for Slavic 551:


1-4 plus:

5. A final paper (7 or > pages) (= 50 points). You should discuss your topic with the instructor and by 5/13 send an email to the instructor with your topic and three references you plan to use. See the class website for hints on How to write a research paper, consult the Selected References file, and check out Past student paper topics. Total points=550


Slavic 351/551 Materials


There are no textbooks for this class, but we use chapters from several key books:


Aitchison, Jean. 1996. The Seeds of Speech: Language Origin and Evolution. Cambridge University Press.

Aitchison, Jean. 2001. Language Change: Progress or Decay? Cambridge University Press.

Campbell, Lyle. 2004. Historical Linguistics: An Introduction. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Carlton, Terence R. 1990. Introduction to the Phonological History of the Slavic Languages. Columbus, OH: Slavica.

Hock, Hans Heinrich. 1986. Principles of Historical Linguistics. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Mallory, J. P. and D. Q. Adams. 2006. The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World. Oxford University Press.

Townsend, Charles E. and Laura A. Janda. 1996. Common and comparative Slavic. Columbus, OH: Slavica.



351/551 Slavic Reading Schedule


All readings are on electronic reserves


Week 1:      Introduction to historical linguistics, language evolution, classification of sounds


March 31

Introduction to course themes and goals

Video: Human Language Series, Part 3: Human Language Evolves


April 2

Lyle Campbell Historical Linguistics: An Introduction: Ch. 1 “Introduction”

H. Hock Principles of Historical Linguistics: Ch. 1 “Introduction”


Week 2:      Language evolution and dispersion


April 7

Jean Aitchison The Seeds of Speech: Ch. 5 “The family tree”, Ch. 6 “A devious mind”, Ch. 8 “Small



April 9

Video: Nova: In Search of the First Language


Week 3:      Indo-Europeans: people and language


April 14

Jean Aitchison The Seeds of Speech: Ch. 13 “The widening circle”

Merritt Ruhlen The Origin of Language: Ch. 1 “Language and History”, Ch. 3 “Controversy”


April 16

J. P. Mallory and D. Q. Adams The Oxford Introduction: Ch. 1 “Discovery”, Ch. 5 “Relationships”,         Ch. 26 “Origins”


Week 4:      Indo-Europeans continued, sound change and the comparative method



April 21


Philip Baldi Indo-European languages

J. P. Mallory and D. Q. Adams The Oxford Introduction: Ch. 3 “Reconstructing PIE”


PRESENTATIONS on Indo-European Language and Culture, please choose one of the sections below. First come first serve (Watkins and Fortson are on electronic reserves):


Calvert Watkins Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans

General Terms + Nature                                                           xxiii-xxvii

People and Society                                                      xxvii-xxix

Economic Life                                                             xxix-xxxi

Ideology                                                                      xxxi-xxxiv

Archeology                                                                  xxxiv-xxxv


B. Fortson Indo-European Language and Culture

Society                                                                         17-19

Economy and Law                                                       19-22

Deities                                                                         22-24

Ritual                                                                           24-26

Myths                                                                          26-29

Poetics                                                                         29-34

Personal Names                                                                       34-35

Archeology and Material Culture                                 35-39

Location of the Homeland                                           39-44


April 23

H. Hock: Ch. 3 “Sound Change: the regularity hypothesis”

Jean Aitchison Language Change Ch. 11 “Doing what comes naturally” and Ch. 13 “The Mad Hatter’s


J. P. Maher Common Slavic *slověne


Week 5:      Early Slavs, Common Slavic:         relationship to IE, phonological

developments: rising sonority and synharmony


April 28

Townsend and Janda: Ch. II “Proto-Indo-European to Early Proto-Slavic”

Townsend and Janda: Ch. III “Proto-Slavic to Late Common Slavic: Rising Sonority”

Review for TEST 1


April 30

Townsend and Janda: Ch. IV “Proto-Slavic to Late Common Slavic: Synharmony”

TEST 1: Indo-European, phonetics, the comparative method, basic sound changes


Week 6:       Analogy, semantic change


May 5

Jean Aitchison Language Change Ch. 12 “Repairing the patterns”  

H. Hock: Ch. 9 p. 167-179 on analogy


May 7

Jean Aitchison Words in the Mind Ch. 13 “Drifting Words: Layering and Meaning Change”

Lyle Campbell Historical Linguistics: An Introduction: Ch. 9 “Semantic Change and Lexical Change”

(up to p. 265)

Geoffrey Nunberg Going Nucular “Caucasian Talk Circles”



Week 7:      Morphology, development of separate Slavic languages


May 12

Townsend and Janda: Ch. VIII “Evolution of Slavic Declension”


May 14

Carlton: Ch. I “The Slavic Languages Past and Present” 

Bernard Comrie Slavonic Languages

Townsend and Janda Ch. X “Surveys of Five Modern Slavic Languages”

Review for TEST 2


Week 8:      Writing systems, Slavic literacy and alphabets


May 19

Denise Schmandt-Besserat The Earliest Precursor of Writing

H.H. Hock and Brian Joseph Language History, Ch. 3 “Writing: Its history and its decipherment”

TEST 2: sound change, main sound changes in Common Slavic, analogy, semantic change


May 21

Carlton: Ch. III “The Beginning of Slavic Literacy”


Week 9:      Slavic literacy and alphabets


May 26

Paul CubberleyThe Slavic Alphabets”


May 28:

Modern Slavic alphabets (course packet)

Slavic literary languages (course packet)


Week 10:    Reasons for language change, summary of course themes


June 2

Video: Do you speak American?

Review for TEST 3


June 4

H. Hock: Ch. 20 “Linguistic change: Its nature and causes”

Jean Aitchison Language Change Ch. 10 “The reason why”

Jean AitchisonPsycholinguistic Perspectives on Language Change”

TEST 3: features of the 3 Slavic groups and Slavic alphabets