Honors | Patterns in Sound
H205 | 0015 | Gierut, J


Topics courses open to Honors Division freshmen and sophomores only. H205
topics carry COAS Natural Science and Mathematical credit N&M.

This course also meets with H230 which does not carry N&M credit.

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 reasonsing.
To articulate an informed viewpoint in discussion, citing relevant evidence.
To dispute an argument in discussion, citing relevant evidence.
To consider, evaluate, and reconcile competing and often disparate views.
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, competing
views, 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).