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Department of Comparative Language Science

BA Comparative Linguistics

The BA program Comparative Linguistics offers a comprehensive curriculum in empirically oriented linguistics. The major foci of the program are: language change, language processing, and language development (ontogeny). Both major and minor programs are based on compulsory introductory modules covering the following areas: (1) the basic concepts in all major linguistic domains as well as skills in analytic tools, (2) methods and linguistic theory, (3) basic techniques in quantitative and statistical analysis, (4) computational data processing (advanced computer literacy), and (5) the acquisition and sharing of information in linguistic research.

Course of Studies

In the study of language change, core topics include mechanisms and causes of language change, both in specific geographical-cultural areas (with Indo-European as one major point of interest) and worldwide across diverse families. In the area of language processing, the program puts special emphasis on grammar and phonology, while the courses on language ontogeny focus on cross-linguistic and individual variation in how children acquire language. All courses give special importance to methodology.

A wide variety of electives complement the basic courses, fostering in-depth knowledge and skills in different areas. This includes building up an adequate language portfolio consisting of (Indo-)European and non-European languages, skills in data acquisition and data management (compilation, selection, annotation of corpora, as well as familiarity with ethical and legal issues; development and use of linguistic databases), data analysis (techniques of quantitative analysis, data processing, and basic scripting), quantitative methods (statistical modeling) as well as in-depth qualitative structural analysis.

Career prospects

The program primarily qualifies for a career in academic research and teaching within the discipline covered by the program. Non-academic professions include language and communication technology, language planning, as well as public service.


If you consider studying Comparative Linguistics the following texts and podcast provide insights into the topic:

What is Comparative Linguistics (PDF, 74 KB)

Sprachliche Vielfalt im Wechselspiel von Natur und Kultur (PDF, 4 MB) (Transcript of Balthasar Bickel's talk at the lectures series «Sprache(n) verstehen» / «Understanding language(s)» in fall 2012)

Vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft: Kultur, Kognition und Evolution menschlicher Kommunikation
Podcast recorded by Balthasar Bickel for the Studieninformationstage 2020
(Authors: Balthasar Bickel, Sabine Stoll, Simon Townsend, Paul Widmer; in German)