At Reed, I've had the privilege of teaching courses that focus on my own research interests, at both introductory and advanced levels. Every year, I teach three courses that form part of the core of formal linguistic research, and two advanced courses incorporating my own specializations. I've included short descriptions and recent syllabi for my courses below.
Core courses (taught every year)
Phonetics: This course will introduce you to the study of the physical aspects of speech. You will learn how to produce, perceive, and transcribe the sounds of the world’s languages, while learning the acoustic and articulatory properties of each sound. You will also gain practical skills in recording and measuring acoustic data in Praat (a program for acoustic analysis and other phonetic work), transcribing data in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), and producing both familiar and foreign sounds in isolation. Ultimately, you will apply these skills towards describing a language unknown to you, synthesizing speech, and analyzing research in articulatory, acoustic, and perceptual phonetics.
Phonology: This course explores many of the classic and current topics in sound patterns of the world’s languages, and the theories and skills used to analyze them. We will briefly review the rule-based approach, covering the psychological reality of the phoneme, productivity of patterns, and interactions with phonetics, morphology, and syntax. We will then progress to the more current constraint-based approach, following Optimality Theory, including analyses of stress patterns, syllable structure, lexical classes, autosegments, and nonconcatenative morphology: infixation, truncation, and reduplication. We will repeatedly ask ourselves several questions, including: what do native speakers know about the wellformedness of a phonological string? What do they know about different classes of words? What do they know about morphological paradigms? Why are some patterns seen again and again crosslinguistically, while others are restricted to a handful of languages? Are some processes more “natural” than others?
Introduction to Linguistic Analysis: This course is an introduction to the scientific study of human language. Starting from basic questions such as “What is language?” and “What do we know when we know a language?”, we investigate the human language faculty through the hands-on analysis of naturalistic data from a variety of languages spoken around the world. We adopt a broadly cognitive viewpoint throughout, investigating language as a system of knowledge within the mind of the language user (a mental grammar), which can be studied empirically and represented using formal models. In order to make this task simpler, we will generally treat languages as though they were static systems. For example, we will assume that it is possible to describe language structures synchronically, ignoring the fact that languages constantly change over time. In addition, we will generally abstract away from variation within speech communities based on factors such as gender, ethnicity, social class, dialect region, and level of formality. Variation and change are very important aspects of the study of language, but they are covered in depth in a separate course, Linguistics 212 Introduction to Language, Culture, and Society. This course is roughly divided into six units. We begin with a brief overview of the field and discuss some of the goals and methods of linguistic analysis. The main part of the course surveys the core sub-fields of linguistic analysis, listed below, each of which focuses on a different domain of organization (or module) within mental grammar. We also touch on Chomsky’s Universal Grammar hypothesis, and consider which aspects of mental grammar (if any) are innate and universal, and which aspects are learned and specific to particular languages.
Advanced courses (taught in selected years)
Intonation: This course is an in-depth study of intonation—the manipulation of pitch, stress, and length to signify sentence-level meaning—in English as well as in several other languages, including Dutch, German, Swedish, Serbo-Croatian, Japanese, Bengali, Korean, and others. This course will have two components, which will overlap considerably. In the laboratory skills component, you will learn how to collect, transcribe, measure, and analyze intonational data in Praat (a program for acoustic analysis and other phonetic work), while in the theoretical component, you will read about and test the claims of various theories of intonation. With these skills, you will conduct independent research over the course of the semester. The course will also cover the interface between intonation and other aspects of the mental grammar, including the realization of morphology, syntactic structure, and focus through prosody.
Laboratory Phonology: This course examines the phonetics–phonology interface, i.e. the connection between phonetic detail in articulation and perception and phonological units and patterns in the grammar. We will cover the areas where phonetics helps shape phonology, to answer questions about how the sound systems of the world’s languages are arranged. For example, why are vowel inventories dispersed the way they are? Why do certain contrasts tend to neutralize in certain positions? What determines how far a phonetic feature can spread across a word? Why and how are tone and voice quality interrelated? Can fine phonetic details of articulation reveal aspects of prosodic structure and other phonological theories? In this course, we will gain and practice a fair amount of skills in laboratory phonetic work, while testing aspects of current phonological theory.
Phonological Knowledge: The way we understand the phonological grammar has changed as formal phonological theory and psycholinguistic research continue to evolve. Through reading articles, writing reviews, and designing our own experiment, we will seek to answer the question: what do speakers (need to) know about the sounds and sound patterns of their language? Topics to cover include our sensitivity to the gradient nature of phonotactics, the role of lexical statistics, word frequency, and phonological neighborhood density, and our awareness of fine phonetic and non-phonetic details of how speech is produced. We will also cover how our attention to certain acoustic cues can result in perceptual stretching and illusions, especially in cases of perceiving foreign languages and adapting loanwords closer to the native phonology, and in extreme cases can even lead to language change.
Linguistic Field Methods: This course is an extensive exercise in learning how to document a language primarily by interacting with a native speaker of that language. By eliciting data from the speaker, systematically analyzing the data, proposing theories to describe the language, and testing those theories, we will all have a chance to practice our skills as linguists, while also getting an intimate glimpse into a language previously unfamiliar to us. This exercise will also help highlight the value in language documentation for both scientific and cultural purposes.
Languages of South Asia: The Indian Subcontinent is home to five typologically divergent language families (Indo-European, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Austroasiatic, Tai-Kadai) in addition to at least two language isolates, creating an ideal setting for the areal spread of linguistic features across genetic affiliations, affecting all areas of the grammar, from phonetics and phonology to morphology and syntax. In class, we will take a broad typological view of the languages of South Asia while also making more detailed observations of specific languages representing the diversity of the region. Outside of class, each student will focus on a South Asian language of their choice—collecting data from native speakers or from available language grammars—to examine the phonetic, phonological, lexical, morphological, and syntactic features, from a synchronic formal perspective as well as from historical and sociolinguistic perspectives.