<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
The following are what teachers said their students had the most
-- 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.
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
These were listed by teachers as things that surprised them that gave
their students trouble:
-- Relatively basic aspects (point of articulation, hearing
-- 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
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.
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:
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
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.
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