<Funk> Results of Phonology Survey

Beaumont_Brush at SIL.ORG Beaumont_Brush at SIL.ORG
Mon May 19 20:38:00 UTC 1997

     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            anderse at ling.umu.se
     James L. Fidelholtz        jfidel at cen.buap.mx
     Mike Hammond               hammond at u.arizona.edu
     Bruce Hayes                bhayes at humnet.ucla.edu
     Yongsoon Kang              yskang at yurim.skku.ac.kr
     Bob Ladd                   bob at ling.ed.ac.uk
     Carl Mills                 carl.mills at uc.edu
     Andrea Osburne             osburnea at ccsua.ctstateu.edu
     Chris Palmer               palm0108 at maroon.tc.umn.edu
     David S. Rood              rood at spot.colorado.edu
     Jennifer Ruppert           ruppertj at carleton.edu
     Charles Scott              ctscott at facstaff.wisc.edu
     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]

     2. TEXBOOKS

     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.

     3. ARTICLES

     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.

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