General information

Course type AMUPIE
Module title Languages and language speakers in comparative studies
Language English
Module lecturer prof. UAM dr hab. Elżbieta Wąsik
Lecturer's email
Lecturer position Professor
Faculty Faculty of English
Semester 2024/2025 (winter)
Duration 30
USOS code 15-LALS-AMU-PIE-11



Module aim (aims)

The proseminar aims to familiarize its participants with the principles of investigating and categorizing languages in terms of similarities and differences between them from the descriptive and comparative points of view. The structural diversity of languages in the world will be confronted with the anthropological, ethnic, political, social, cultural, and civilizational diversity of the world’s population.

Pre-requisites in terms of knowledge, skills and social competences (where relevant)

The proseminar is addressed to students who are interested in (1) the linguistic and nonlinguistic approaches to the diversity of languages in Europe and around the world, (2) trends in the development of languages in the past and currently in the context of multilingualism of their speakers, (3) the principles of typology and classification of languages according to their internal (structural) and external (environmental) properties, and (4) the situation of selected languages and their users in different continental regions.


Week 1: How many languages? Criteria for distinguishing languages and their varieties. Language names vs. ethnonyms, their etymology, naming of languages by native speakers and foreigners


Week 2: Language universals and linguistic typology


Week 3: Phonological typology of languages


Week 4: Semantic typology of languages


Week 5: Syntactic typology of languages


Week 6: Stylistic typology of languages


Week 7: Historical classification of languages. Language families. The Indo-European family. Language isolates


Week 8: Distant cousins of Western languages (The languages in India and their speakers). Great languages of European antiquity: Greek (Hellenic), Latin and Celtic


Week 9: Romance: the Legacy of Latinum. Germanic: Developmental trends, diversity of languages and cultures


Week 10: The Slavonic languages. The Baltic tongues


Week 11: The ecology of language. Typologies of languages based on their environmental (external) conditions


Week 12: Europe’s national languages. Minority languages. Languages in danger. The equality of languages. Geographical identity. Social identity


Week 13: Pidgins and Creoles: Mixing of languages in language contact situations; the emergence of mixed languages


Week 14: Interesting facts about selected languages and peoples on distant continents


Week 15: Summary of discussed issues about language diversity

Reading list

Crystal, David 1987. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge–New York: Cambridge University Press.

Comrie, Bernard, Stephen Matthews, and Maria Polinsky 1996/2003. The Atlas of Languages: The Origin and Development of Languages throughout the World. New York: Facts On File.

Moseley, Christopher (ed.) 1996/2010. Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Stevenson, Victor 1983. Words: An Illustrated History of Western Languages. London, Sydney: Macdonald & CO.

Tsunoda, Tasaku 2006. Language Endangerment and Language Revitalization. An Introduction. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Wąsik, Elżbieta Magdalena 2010. Coping with an Idea of Ecological Grammar. Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien: Peter Lang Verlag.