Hello, I just finished teaching UCLA’s “Introduction to Linguistics” course. This is ten weeks of syntax, morphology, semantics, phonetics, phonology, and historical, and since there are so many topics it all goes by pretty fast.
In the phonology section, I have been dutifully teaching the classical phoneme and how to discover it (that is to say, the collection of minimal pairs and collation of complementary environments for similar sounds). I would imagine that this is the practice in many other intro courses.
What occurred to me while I was teaching this was that phonemic analysis might better be postponed to a later course such as (at UCLA) “Introduction to Phonology”. The alternative that I have in mind would be to let the phonology section of Intro Linguistics focus exclusively on phonological alternations and neutralizing rules.
The advantages of a “no phoneme” Intro, as I would imagine, are:
(a) Rules that observably “turn one sound into another” are more intuitive, I think. If you teach allophonic rules, the student has to simultaneously apprehend both the concept of rule and the concept of an abstract, reified input representation.
(b) By starting with alternations, one could integrate one’s material better with what occurs elsewhere in the course, assuming that one has taught derivational and inflectional morphology earlier in the term. (In my intro I’m working to achieve an “it’s all one grammar” perspective, tying the components together in analysis …)
(c) The rules involved in alternations, with neutralization, are often more vivid and interesting than allophonic rules.
My qualms are:
(a) It would seem odd for a student to have taken Intro and not know what a phoneme is. Indeed, the -emic/-etic distinction was long thought (in the American Structuralist era) to be rather sublime, and a core concept.
(b) My students would not be prepared for other courses (General Phonetics, for example) that assume the phoneme.
So, to turn this into a question: does an “alternations first” approach make sense to you? Has anyone tried it?