Historical linguistics, also known as diachronic linguistics is the scientific study of a language which focuses on its changes over the years. The discipline has the purposes of describing all the changes that have happened in a particular language; reconstructing the prehistory of languages as to group them into language families; developing the general theory of the languages' transformation; outlining the history and background of speech communities, and studying the history of words.
Originally, historical linguistics was part of philology, the study of old documents. Then, the discipline has been used as part of comparative linguistics to reconstruct the origins of languages.
Historical linguistics is divided into five sub-areas: etymology, dialectology, phonology, morphology and syntax, and comparative philology.
Etymology is the study of the history of words and all its phonological, orthographic and semantic aspects.
Dialectology consists of the history of dialects. It focuses on grammatical variations among dialects and their phonological changes.
Phonology focuses on the language sounds system and studies how this has changed over the time.
Morphology and syntax focus on how the meaning of a language has evolved over the years. It concentrates on inflectional systems, grammatical structures and word order.
Comparative philology or comparative linguistics consists of the comparison of cross-linguistic aspects of languages to establish their historical relatedness.
In the 19th century, comparative linguistics has been the most important branch of linguistics in Europe. The study has been discovered in 1786 by William Jones who was trying to find a link between Latin, Greek, and German.
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