French C202: Linguistic History of the Romance languages
Instructor: Professor Mairi McLaughlin
This course traces the development of the Romance language family from its origins in Latin through to contemporary varieties. Although the development of languages such as French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese is a major focus, attention is also paid to lesser-known varieties including Sardinian, Occitan and the so-called Romance-based Creoles. The course aims to provide a broad understanding of the major linguistic changes that have affected the family at three levels: phonology, morphosyntax and lexis. Central questions include which factors lead to linguistic change, how we should model the relationships between the different languages in the family and how well our theories account for the vast amount of variation that exists within each language in any given period.
The course also places considerable emphasis on the external history of the languages and varieties that make up the Romance family. This means that we will adopt a socio-historical approach to the study of the history of Romance. This is a relatively new and very fruitful approach in historical linguistics. It has broadened the task of Romance historians who are beginning to look beyond the linguistic changes as structural events to get a better picture of the variation that existed in past states. Not only does this help paint a more realistic picture of the past, it also helps our understanding of language change. In this class, we will be particularly interested in topics such as multilingualism, language contact, language attitudes, standardization and genre-based variation.