LINGUIST List 8.760

Tue May 20 1997

Sum: Results of Phonology Survey

Editor for this issue: Susan Robinson <>


  1. Beaumont_Brush, Sum: Results of Phonology Survey

Message 1: Sum: Results of Phonology Survey

Date: Mon, 19 May 1997 15:40 -0500 (EST)
From: Beaumont_Brush <>
Subject: Sum: Results of Phonology Survey

 Cross-posted to Cogling, Funknet, Linguist, and Optimal
 A couple of weeks ago I posted a survey asking teachers and 
 students of phonology what they felt were some of the more difficult 
 aspects of learning phonological theory, as well as what the teachers 
 found surprising that the students had trouble with. I also asked 
 respondents to list the textbooks and articles that they had used in 
 their classes. Kind thanks to those who responded to the survey: 
 Satina Anziano (no return with message)
 Anders Eriksson
 James L. Fidelholtz 
 Mike Hammond
 Bruce Hayes 
 Yongsoon Kang
 Bob Ladd 
 Carl Mills
 Andrea Osburne
 Chris Palmer 
 David S. Rood
 Jennifer Ruppert
 Charles Scott 
 2 anonymous respondents
 The purpose of the survey was to confirm or disconfirm what I 
 consider some common conceptual blocks that students of phonology 
 face. I am presenting a paper at the Cognitive Linguistics Conference 
 this summer on the contribution that cognitive linguistics can make to 
 overcoming those blocks. You can see the abstract at
 1.1 Teachers
 The following are what teachers said their students had the most 
 trouble with:
 -- It varies between individuals, but generally speaking they have 
 hard time learning to see the underlying structure in the data - to 
 disregard what is not important and to `see' the rules implicit in the 
 data. Some even find it hard to realize that there can be rules at 
 -- Learning to locate underlying representations, when they are not 
 the same as the isolation form (or more precisely, the isolation form 
 with allophonic rules "unapplied"). Thus: German Final Devoicing, 
 Catalan Final Cluster Simplification, etc. 
 -- Rule system for stress assignment in English; the abstractness of 
 underlying vowels to account for vowel alternations; just about 
 everything that smacks of morphophonemics, indeed just about anything 
 that seems to demand a willingness to accept analyses that do not 
 correspond directly to the phonetic data. (It seems to me that says 
 simply "phonology" as opposed to phonetics!)
 -- When approaching a complicated problem, avoiding the trap of 
 breaking down and writing a million morphological rules, rather than 
 sticking with a simple morphology and letting phonology handle the 
 system. This is often related to the previous problem.
 -- Undergrad: they used to have real difficulty with rule ordering. 
 -- The phoneme concept in different schools of linguistics; underlying 
 -- Neutralization and underlying forms / alternations. More generally 
 the phonemic principle, and the idea that things can be different but 
 count as the same, or the same and count as different.
 -- Interactions between rules, constraints, etc.
 -- Post SPE: autosegmental phonology, Feature Geometry.
 -- Understanding the motivation for the theoretical framework, like 
 using mathematical or geometrical notion.
 -- Grad I: they're introduced to OT, but lots of issues are only 
 discussed in various pre-OT frameworks. It's real hard to integrate 
 -- Hard to tell. The really good ones never have a hard time; the 
 not-so-good have trouble everywhere.
 -- It seems like they have trouble with just about everything equally. 
 Perhaps learning that it's not true that "anything goes" is the 
 hardest; it often seems like you can just fiddle with the theory any 
 time you need a trick to make it work for a particular language.
 1.2 Students
 The following were reported by students as being the more difficult 
 concepts to grasp.
 -- Underspecification and feature geometry - I'm not sure why this was 
 hard! Maybe because there was no official, _correct_ position to 
 -- Metrical phenomena, stress, etc. There seem to be very few good 
 explanations of metrical phenomena and stress assignment in current 
 -- I have a very good teacher (a member of this list, actually) who 
 has a knack for concise, cogent and lucid explanations. Therefore, 
 whatever difficulty I have is eliminated after a visit to his office 
 hours. But maybe I might say that the autosegmental description of 
 tones gave me a bit of trouble.
 -- For our class, it was trying to figure out which approach we were 
 using to solve any given problem, and therefore which approach would 
 be acceptable. 
 1.3 Surprises
 These were listed by teachers as things that surprised them that gave 
 their students trouble:
 -- Relatively basic aspects (point of articulation, hearing 
 differences, etc.)
 -- In intro courses, I am always surprised that they don't get the 
 concept of "contrast" easily at all (that's been true for the 30 years 
 I've been trying to teach it).
 -- I still don't really understand why the very basic notions of 
 morphophonology are so difficult.
 -- I am a bit surprised though at how extremely difficult some 
 students find it to structure the world around them into meaningful 
 rules and representations.
 -- What surprises me most, I think--especially from American native 
 speakers of English--is the apparent unwillingness to see why 
 regularities of form should be accounted for, especially if, to do so, 
 means positing relatively abstract representations. Part of this, I 
 suppose, has to do with the mindset of students who see themselves as 
 teachers of pronunciation, intonation, etc., rather than as students 
 of language structure and system. [This person teaches a class taken 
 primarily by ESL teachers-in-training. -BNB]
 These textbooks were reported by teachers and students as being the 
 ones they used in their classes. The number of responses are given 
 after the entry if it was more than one.
 Burling, Patterns of Language
 Carr, Philip.1993. Phonology. Macmillan, Modern Linguistics series. 
 Chomsky, Noam, and Morris Halle. 1968. Sound Pattern of English.
 Durand, J & Katamba, F. Frontiers of Modern Phonology. Longman 
 Linguistics Library. 
 Durand, Jacques: Generative and Non-linear Phonology, Longman 
 Linguistics Library. (2)
 Giegerich. English Phonology (2)
 Goldsmith, John. 1976. Autosegmental Phonology. MIT dissertation.
 Goldsmith, John. 1990. Autosegmental and Metrical Phonology. 
 Cambridge: Blackwell.
 Goldsmith, John. 1995. The handbook of phonological theory. Cambridge: 
 Halle, Morris and George Clements. Problem book in phonology. 
 Cambridge: MIT Press.
 Hawkins, Peter. Introducing Phonology. 
 Hayes, Bruce. 1995. Metrical Stress Theory. Chicago: University of 
 Chicago Press. (2)
 Jensen. English Phonology.
 Katamba, Francis. 1989. An introduction to phonology. London/New York: 
 Kenstowicz, Michael, and Charles Kisseberth. 1979. Generative 
 phonology. New York: Academic Press.
 Kenstowicz, Michael. 1994. Phonology in generative Grammar. Cambridge: 
 Blackwell. (6)
 Ladefoged, Peter. 1993. A Course in Phonetics. Fort Worth: Harcourt 
 Brace Jovanovich. (2)
 Lass, Roger. 1976. English phonology and phonological theory. 
 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
 Lass, Roger. 1984. Phonology. Cambridge University Press. (2)
 O'Grady, William, Michael Dobrovolsky, and Mark Aronoff. 1989. 
 Contemporary linguistics. New York: St. Martins Press. (2)
 Prince, Alan and John McCarthy. Prosodic Morphology I. RuCCS TR-3. (3)
 Prince, Alan, and Paul Smolensky. Optimality theory. Rutgers 
 University ms. (3)
 Schane, Sanford. 1973. Generative phonology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 
 Spencer, Andrew _Phonology_.
 Wolfram and Johnson's _Phonological Analysis: Focus on American 
 English_ (2).
 Bruce Hayes is writing his own this year.
 Charles Scott uses his own manuscript. 
 Most respondents mentioned that their graduate-level classes used 
 articles, but that the articles varied from year to year, so I have 
 not listed them individually. Many said that they read chapters from 
 the Goldsmith Handbook of Phonological Theory; one said that he asked 
 each student to choose a chapter and report to the class.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue