Honors | Patterns in Sound (COLL)
S105 | 14342 | Judith Gierut


TuTh 2:300-3:45pm

What is a possible human language? This course will explore this
question by specifically focusing on the sound system of language.
Our study of the sound system will be the vehicle through which we
will confront six broad and fundamental problems in the study of
language. These include questions about the universal properties of
language, the range of variation in language, the way in which
language is acquired, the potential for language change, and the
social implications of the study of language, with particular
emphasis on health and technology. In addressing each problem, we
will consider the scientific methods that have been developed, the
issues that have sparked debate, and the theoretical,
methodological, and applied challenges that remain unsolved. Course
requirements include readings, classroom participation, essays,
quizzes and exams.

In content, this course is intended to provide students with an
introduction to linguistics, in general, and to phonology (i.e., the
study of sound systems), in particular. At the completion of this
course, students will have basic working knowledge of the formal
study of language, and in how this knowledge may be used to inform
application. This will be facilitated through use of objective exams
as one measure of proficiency. Students will also learn of a range
of scientific methodologies employed in the study of speech sound
systems. This will be facilitated through (1) in-class demonstration
experiments (e.g., reading speech spectrograms), (2) videotaped
demonstrations (e.g., procedures used to evaluate infant speech
perception), and (3) direct hands-on-use of such methods (e.g.,
transcribing with the International Phonetic Alphabet). Finally,
students will learn to solve basic problems in the analysis of
speech sound systems. Such problems are central to defining a
possible language and its range of variation, and will include
samples pertaining to inventory structure, allophonic variation, and
phonological neutralization. This goal will be facilitated through
lectures, classroom discussion, and weekly quizzes that present
students with a linguistic problem for solution.
In complement to the course content, students will learn:
To listen to a lecture and take relevant, organized notes
To summarize, evaluate, and take notes on classroom discussions
To listen to a discussion and follow the lines of reasoning
To articulate an informed viewpoint in discussion, citing relevant
To dispute an argument in discussion, citing relevant evidence
To consider, evaluate, and reconcile competing and often disparate
To examine, evaluate, and form a conclusion about evidence
To read primary and secondary sources, and integrate and refer to
this material
To compose an essay using the basic mechanics of writing and style
To define a problem in a written essay by identifying consistencies
and asymmetries in available facts
To evaluate evidence in a written essay by summarizing competing
viewpoints and presenting a critical analysis of these views,
thereby supporting a single perspective in favor of others
To research a topic of personal interest, bringing relevant facts,
competingviews, and reference sources to bear

The course introduces a central question for study, and extends it
by posing a series of problems that seemingly challenge the
underlying question. The course emphasizes critical thinking and
problem solving in its linguistic content, in the classroom style of
the instructor, and in the requirements. Classroom participation,
weekly quizzes, and essays are especially pertinent in this regard.
The course provides an opportunity for students to come to their own
conclusions and interpretations of evidence using written and verbal
formats. The course is also multidisciplinary in its integration of
theory, methodology and application, speech production and
perception, and topics that impact the lifespan (i.e. infancy
through the historical study of change).