SIS code: 

Variability of languages in time and space

Variabilita jazyků v čase a prostoru


Fall term 2021/2022: Wednesday 14:00-15:30 in S8 , MFF UK, Malostranské nám. 25, Prague 1

Did you know that...

  • there are languages with less than three vowels and more than 30 consonants?
  • stress can be totally unbounded?
  • there may be up to 7 consonants in one syllable?
  • there may be a special case for doing something without someone?
  • Hungarian has 19 cases, while old French has only two?
  • a protolanguage can be reconstructed?
  • inflection and derivation are quite close to each other?

How to compare languages if they are so different?

The course is an introduction to how multiple languages can be approached by linguistic analysis. First, different approaches to classification of the world’s languages will be summarized (genealogical classification, areal typology, language typology). Referring to existing resources containing information on many languages, we will focus on language typology of phonological, morphological, and syntactic features. Recent approaches to typology of word formation will be presented too. The course concludes with general types of diachronic changes and basic terms of sociolinguistics.


SIS code: NPFL100

The course's site in the Student Information System

Semester: fall

TeachersAnja Nedoluzhko, Magda Ševčíková, Šárka Zikánová


Timespace Coordinates

Wednesday 14:00-15:30 in S8

Course completion requirements (1+2+3):

1. Successful completion of 6 homework assignments
2. Attendance and participation in the class
3. Successful completion of the final in-class test at the end of the term



Course schedule

  • Sep 29, 2021 - Intro, Lecture 1 (Magda Ševčíková)


  • Oct 6, 2021 - Lecture 2 (Anja Nedoluzhko)
    • Phonemes and phonemic inventories. Variability in number and quality of vowels and consonants across languages
    • slides: variability-2021-10-06.pdf


  • Oct 13, 2021 - Lecture 3 (Anja Nedoluzhko)
    • Syllable structure across languages. Correlation between syllable structure and vowel/consonant inventories. Prosodic features (stress types, tones, vowel length)
    • slides: variability-2021-10-13.pdf


  • Oct 20, 2021 - Lecture 4 (Anja Nedoluzhko)
    • Linguistic signs. Expression of grammatical meanings in languages. Morphological types (agglutinating, fusional, isolating, polysynthetic)


  • Oct 27, 2021 - Lecture 5 (Anja Nedoluzhko)
    • Typology of grammatical categories. Case, number, evidentiality, etc. across languages


  • Nov 3, 2021 - Lecture 6 (Magda Ševčíková)
    • Word formation across languages. Approaches to cross-linguistic study of word-formation


  • Nov 10, 2021 - Lecture 7 (Magda Ševčíková)
    • Typology of syntactic features. Comparing word order across languages (S-V-O, V-O, S-V, word order in nominal groups)


  • Nov 17, 2021
    • Public holiday - no lecture


  • Nov 24, 2021 - Lecture 8 (Šárka Zikánová)
    • Genetic classification of languages. Language families and their subclassification. Areal typology


  • Dec 1, 2021 - Lecture 9 (Magda Ševčíková)
    • Language universals - are there any? Statistical vs. absolute universals


  • Dec 8, 2021 - Lecture 10 (Šárka Zikánová)
    • Spoken vs. written varieties of languages. Types of writing  systems, their principles and dynamics


  • Dec 15, 2021 - Lecture 11 (Šárka Zikánová)
    • Linguistic variation. Social identity. Language standardization


  • Dec 22, 2021 - Lecture 12 (Šárka Zikánová)
    • Language styles. Functional stylistics. Text genres


  • Jan 5, 2022    



  • Jan Bičovský: Vademecum starými indoevropskými jazyky. Praha: Univerzita Karlova v Praze, Filozofická fakulta, 2009.
  • Lyle Campbell: Historical linguistics: An introduction. 2004.
  • Bernard Comrie: Language universals and linguistic typology. 1989.
  • Terry Crowley – Claire Bowern: An introduction to historical linguistics. 2010.
  • František Čermák: Jazyk a jazykověda (Přehled a slovníky). Praha: Karolinum, 2004.
  • Jiří Černý: Dějiny lingvistiky. Olomouc: Votobia, 1996.
  • Jiří Černý: Úvod do studia jazyka. Olomouc: Rubico, 1998.
  • Tomáš Duběda: Jazyky a jejich zvuky. Univerzálie a typologie ve fonetice a fonologii. Praha: Karolinum, 2005.
  • Adolf Erhart: Základy jazykovědy. Praha: SPN, 1984.
  • Victoria Fromkin – Robert Rodman – Nina Hyams: An Introduction to Language. International Student Edition. Boston: Wadsworth, 2006.
  • Eva Hajičová – Petr Sgall – Jarmila Panevová: Úvod do teoretické a počítačové lingvistiky. Svazek 1: Teoretická lingvistika. Praha: Karolinum, 2002.
  • Martin Haspelmath et al. (eds.): Language typology and language universals. 2001.
  • Hans Henrich Hock: Language history, language change, and language relationship: an introduction to historical and comparative linguistics. 2009.
  • Jakov G. Testelec: Vvedenie v obščij sintaksis. Moskva: Izdatel'stvo RGGU, 2001

Online resources: