LING-411 Phonology I
Spring for 2017-2018
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Phonology is the study of sound patterns in human language. After a brief overview of articulatory phonetics (how the human body actually makes speech sounds), we will investigate the central questions of phonological theory, including:
1. Contrast. How do languages organize sounds to distinguish words? What sound contrasts are possible and impossible? How do language sound inventories differ and in what ways are all inventories the same? More formally, are there universal contrastive "features"? If so, where do they come from?
2. Constraints. What constraints do languages put on sequences of sounds? Are such constraints universal or language-specific? If universal, how can languages differ? If specific, why do certain patterns recur so often?
3. Alternations. What happens if sound sequences arise (for example by the addition of affixes) that violate the constraints? What kinds of changes do we typically see (or not)? How can we use formal language to express testable hypotheses about possible and impossible alternations? Which hypotheses are actually supported and which are not?
4. Suprasegmentals and prosody. How do languages group sounds into larger constituents, including syllables, stress feet, and phrases? What are the universal and language-specific properties of these constituents, and how does formal language help us express them?
5. Grounding vs. abstraction. Formal language allows us to succintly express very abstract principles and "rules." Is such abstraction necessary? Is it dangerous? How far away from phonetic "grounding" should phonology be allowed to range?
6. Variation and change. What do our theories of contrast, constraints, alternations, and suprasegmentals predict about sociolinguistic variation, historical change, first language acquisition and second language learning? How do variation and change inform phonological theory, and how does phonological theory help us understand variation and change?
The course will emphasize hands-on data analysis of increasing complexity, with exercises both in-class and for homework. Quizzes spaced throughout the semester will check for comprehension, and a final (small-scale) independent research project will allow students to demonstrate the skills they have learned.
Text: Zsiga, Elizabeth. 2013. The Sounds of Language. Wiley-Blackwell.
Graduate students: Ling 411 is required for all PhD and MS students in Linguistics as part of the departmental distribution requirements. There are no prerequisites for graduate students. (Note: in previous years, Ling 410 was prerequisite for Ling 411. This is no longer the case.)
Undergraduate students: Ling 411 is open to undergraduates and can count toward meeting the Tier III Linguistics major requirements. Undergraduate students must take Ling 215 (Sounds of Language) as a prerequisite.
Prerequisites: LING 215 Sounds of Language)
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