The historical development of a language is often thought of in terms of the history of the structural linguistic material of a language, i.e. its lexis, its phonology, its syntax and morphology. Specifically with respect to English there in quite a number of aspects of its development over a thousand years a debate about the relative share of internal, structural factors and language-external factors, such as the effect of language contact on the structural history of English. This class emphasizes the ”external” aspects of the history of English, i.e. the contribution of historical, social and sociological developments in which the structural and varietal history is embedded and which are hypothesized to account for aspects of its history. ”Historical” in this case implies not only closed developments, but includes ongoing varietal developments into present-day English.

Learning at least one foreign language yourself, you probably have compared your own mother tongue against the peculiarities of that foreign language in one way or another. Curiously enough, relatively few scholars lately choose to utilize this approach for the scientific study of English and German. This is somewhat surprising, as the two languages are ideal candidates for such a contrastive analysis, as they are rather closely related yet have moved apart considerably over the course of their history.                                                                                     This course will familiarize students with a contrastive approach to linguistics, focusing on a comparison of English and German. The goal is to identify and explain characteristics of the English language through cross-linguistic comparison. In doing so, we will take a tour through all major levels of linguistic analysis ranging from discourse pragmatics to phonetics. Students will be guided towards carrying out their own research projects.        Linguistic competence in German is not a prerequisite for this course, however an interest in the German language is, as we will use it as the primary language for comparison.

Corpus Linguistics can be described as the study of language based on examples of “real-life” language use. These examples are stored in computer-accessible collections, so-called corpora. While corpus linguistics is primarily a method, it has profound effects on theories of language and how language can be described. This being so, the course will combine theoretical discussions with practical hands-on exercises which will introduce students to the practical aspects of working with corpora and relevant software. Concerning the theoretical part, we will be dealing with corpus-based research from different areas of linguistic inquiry, from metaphor research to sociolinguistic analysis.

Given that this course is offered as part of the "Methodenmodul", the course will guide you through the individual steps of carrying out a corpus-linguistic research project. This includes a detailed introduction to how a research paper is best structured and written.

Given that we will working with corpora in a hands-on fashion, you should have a portable computer (with either Windows or Mac OS) that you can bring to class.

The course is aimed at anyone interested in working with “real-life” language data – you don't have to be a computer expert!

The notion of linguistic relativity denotes that the language we speak has an influence on the way we think. More specifically, it means that properties of our language impact also non-linguistic cognitive operations. The possibility of such an influence is certainly one of the most intriguing, yet at the same time most controversially debated hypotheses in the research on languages.               

While the idea of linguistic relativity had been around for much longer, the beginning of scientific research on the issue is associated with the works of Benjamin Lee Whorf in the middle of the 20th century. Since many of his analyses proved to be inadequate, however, and since universalist views on cognition were on the rise, research on linguistic relativity fell out of fashion and most linguists adopted the view that there is in fact little difference in the way we think regardless of differences in our native languages. Recently however the situation has changed quite dramatically, as a number of very interesting empirical findings challenge this consensus and it now seems that research on linguistic relativity may again be developing into a robust enterprise.       

It is the aim of this course to discuss the implications of these more recent empirical approaches to the issue, focusing on a selection of research domains, such as the impact of different time metaphors on perception, the conceptualization of motion events and possible influences of grammatical gender on the perception of objects.


Requirements for CPs and/or for exam registration are assignment(s) that need to be handed in over the course of the semester (details will be announced in the first session of the semester) plus your active participation in in-class activities. Your participation has to be documented by extra written work if you miss more than 2 sessions.