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BA Linguistics / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Romance Linguistics

Unit code LELA32001
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Linguistics & English Language
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit introduces students to the typology and classification of the Romance languages and to their principal grammatical structures vis-à-vis the structures of English and other Indo-European and non Indo-European languages. Particular emphasis is placed on smaller and lesser-known Romance languages, their relation to a major Romance language, their distinct structural properties, and their sociolinguistic and political status. Students will “adopt” a smaller or lesser-known Romance language. They will conduct independent research on this language, investigating, on the one hand, its status in the linguistic community and, on the other hand, one feature of its grammar or a cluster of such features. In addition to traditional academic resources, students will be allowed to use social media to investigate the structures and the status of their adopted language. Students will develop a critical understanding of the principal typological properties of Romance in comparison with other language types and language families. Students will also become familiar with issues in linguistic identity, language documentation and description, and dialectology. This course unit is not only recommended for students who love the Romance languages, but also for those who have an interest in typology, linguistic identity, and dialectology. Students who are able to read a Romance language fluently will have access to a wider range of sources. However, there are sufficient sources in English for any student to take the course.


None. Students who are able to read one Romance language fluently will have access to a wider range of sources. However, there are sufficient sources in English for any student to take the course.


The principal aims of the course unit are as follows:
  • To introduce the students to the Romance languages in a typological perspective.
  • To enhance the students’ awareness of the subgroupings which are part of the Romance family. 
  • To stimulate the students’ interest in the smaller and lesser known Romance languages, their structures and their status in the linguistic community.
  • To introduce the students to issues in linguistic typology, linguistic identity, language documentation and description, and dialectology.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:
  • Know which languages constitute the Romance family, and how they are related in typological, geographical and socio-political terms.
  • Know the major typological properties of the Romance language family.
  • Discuss the structures and the status of at least one lesser-known Romance language.


Week 1.

Introduction to the course unit. Origins and distribution of the Romance languages, periodization.

Week 2.

Groupings and classifications. Standards and diasystems.

Week 3.

The words of the Romance languages. Word formation. Onomasiological and semasiological approach.

Week 4.

Romance in European and typological perspective.

Week 5.

Romance in typological perspective: the North-South divide.

Week 6

Reading week: no classes

Week  7

The Romance languages outside of Europe.

Week 8.

The packaging of information. Discourse Structure and syntax.

Week 9.

Tense and aspect.

Week 10.

Subject and object.

Week 11.

Copular and existential constructions.

Week 12


Teaching and learning methods

  • Three weekly hours in the class for 11 weeks.
  • Two consultation hours per week.
  • Further consultation on demand.
  • Useful web links and revision materials made available on Blackboard.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will be able to:
  • Understand the typological issues which arose in the transition from Latin to Romance and how they are resolved in synchrony. 
  • Describe the socio-political status and the grammatical structures of an under-represented language.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:
  • Engage in independent reflection and enquiry.
  • Engage in the discussion and critical evaluation of theories in Romance linguistics.
  • Use empirical evidence to support synthetic conclusions and interpretations. 
  • Analyse a body of data and provide a synthesis of the most relevant findings.

Practical skills

 By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Extrapolate patterns from complex data sets.
  • Apply skills of analysis and synthesis to practical issues and problems.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Engage in independent reflection and enquiry.
  • Analyse linguistic data, and native-speaker judgements, and provide a synthesis of the findings.
  • Deliver an oral presentation in a formal setting.
  • Write a report on a piece of original research.
  • Engage in group discussion (both in the class and online).


Employability skills

The course will have particular benefits for any student interested in pursuing a career in teaching and learning, diversity and identity management, and qualitative data analysis. The course enhances skills of analysis, synthesis, oral presentation, and written reporting. The course content also encourages students to reflect upon the world outside the University, thereby providing confidence in the use of academic research in a variety of non-academic environments.

Assessment methods

The assessment consists of (a) a 20-minute presentation, in which students will introduce their adopted language to their peers; (b) a 1,000-word essay, in which students will explain and exemplify a linguistic concept (out of a given set of concepts, e.g., perfect auxiliary, dialect, diglossia, etc.) with evidence from Romance; (c) a 2,500-word report, in which students will provide an in-depth discussion of EITHER the vitality and sociolinguistic status of their adopted language OR a feature of its grammar. While the presentation and the essay are literature based, in preparing the report students have a choice between analysing data that they collect themselves by administrating a questionnaire to native-speaker informants and gathering / analysing data from the secondary literature.  Students who rely on the secondary literature for the report are required to take a comparative perspective and compare their adopted language with the other Romance languages.

Assessment task


Weighting within unit

20-minute presentation (ideally starting in week 7 – this will depend on the number of takers)

20 minutes


Essay (to be submitted in week 11)

1,000 words


Report (to be submitted in week 13)

2,500 words



Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on presentation.
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hours or by appointment).
  • Global feedback on test on Blackboard.
  • Written feedback on report.

Recommended reading

Maiden, M., Smith, J. C. & Ledgeway, A. (eds.) The Cambridge History of the Romance Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2 vols.

Ledgeway, A. & Maiden, M. (eds) 2016. The Oxford Guide to the Romance Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Vincent, N. & Harris, M. (eds) 1988. The Romance Languages. London: Routledge.


Further reading will be recommended on Blackboard and in the class.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Delia Bentley Unit coordinator

Additional notes


Two dedicated consultation hours per week.

Additional consultation hours by appointment.


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