LING 412/512: Phonology
Instructor: Jeff Conn
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the phonology of English, that is, how the sounds pattern in the language. We will attempt to characterize these patterns in a minimal way through explicit formalisms, and attempt to explain why English sounds pattern the way they do by reference to historical processes, speech physiology, and cognitive constraints on the speech system.
The course will begin with a consideration of the phonetics of English, as a familiarity with the simple description and characterization of English speech sounds will be needed throughout the course. Students who have not taken a course in phonetics or who have little in the way of phonetics background may need to consult some of the recommended readings for supplementary reading.
We will next regard the phonemic inventory of English, spending most of our time on the vowel system of English, especially problematic from a cross-dialectal position. This will lead us into distinctive features as we consider the minimal set needed for the sounds of English. We then tackle prosody, which for English includes syllable structure, stress, accent, as well as some phonological processes. The final part of the course looks at changes in the sounds of English: how should diachronic processes be characterized, and what explanations are possible for these changes.
Although the course will focus on English (and its many dialects) we will also consider data from other anguages to put the phonological generalizations relevant to English into some cross-linguistic (and universal) perspective.
Major Assignments: Evaluation will be based on class participation, quizzes, regular assignments (problem sets) and a final take-home exam.
Students are strongly encouraged to work in small groups on the problem sets, especially those for whom English is a second language
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