Category Archives: Online

the Rutgers Optimality Archive returns

Dear colleagues,

The Rutgers Optimality Archive (ROA) was taken offline last year after a hacking incursion. It was temporarily replaced with a simplified site and new submissions were accepted via email while the rebuild was going on. We’re pleased to announce that a new & improved version of ROA is up and ready to accept submissions directly via the web interface. The URL, as ever, is here:

All former URLs for articles and info pages have been redirected to the new site and are still valid. ROA now runs on a server maintained by the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University. We are grateful to the technical staff there for their generosity in hosting and maintaining a secure and stable site.

ROA is a distribution point for research in Optimality Theory and its conceptual affiliates. Posting in ROA is open to all who wish to disseminate their work in OT and related theories of grammar.

Access to content posted on ROA is completely open, but submission of new content to ROA requires an account. Current ROA authors should be able to log in as before, here:

New authors may register here:

Any questions should be directed to Eric Bakovic at


Eric Bakovic and Alan Prince
for the Rutgers Optimality Archive

Problem set solution problems (and solutions)

Several months ago a helpful colleague contacted me about phonology problem set solution files that I had stupidly left on a public course website for all of Google-land to see. I immediately removed the files, and now I just hope that copies of them are not lurking about the interwebs. I didn’t really appreciate the depth of my stupidity until a few students recently had the gall to write to me (and in one case to my Department’s webmaster) to ask where all the solutions had gone! Anyway, I hereby apologize profusely to everyone for any bad consequences (past or future, known or unknown) that my stupid mistake may have had.

But to try to make some lemonade from these lemons: this experience has had me thinking about ways in which we phonology instructors might take advantage of the interwebs in order to share problem sets and their solutions amongst ourselves. Any ideas out there for how best to implement something like that? Obviously, it would have to be secure and there would need to be a gatekeeping process for access, but ideally it won’t just involve everyone sending email to each other. A private wiki or blog? An open-source course management system? Something else? Comments are open.

ROA lives!

We’re very pleased to announce that the Rutgers Optimality Archive has put a temporary site that gives access to all files while Archive software is being more significantly upgraded and improved. The temporary site has the same URL as always ( and all file links are exactly as before. The site has full text search and a complete list of all titles and authors, linked to their files.

Until the new & improved Archive software is available, those wishing to post their work can send a PDF and relevant information (author(s), title, abstract, keywords, area(s)) to New posts will be given a temporary number and authors will be notified when the new software is fully functional.

Thanks for you patience as we work to give you a better, more stable ROA experience.


A message from the LINGUIST List

It’s never a happy time when fund drives come around again, and most people hate asking for money. This time, however, the drive affects you directly. Lots of the information provided on phonoloblog comes from the LINGUIST List, so what benefits them also benefits us.

Read more below. To donate, go to: And thanks.

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UCLA Phonetics Lab Archive now complete

[ Via the UCLA Linguistics Department Newsletter. ]

At the time of his death, the late Professor Peter Ladefoged was engaged in an NSF-supported project to digitize and post online many recordings from the Phonetics Lab’s archives. In 2006, Professor Russ Schuh stepped in to see the project to completion. The UCLA Phonetics Archive, now on line, mostly comprises field recordings by Ladefoged and others, but also includes some recordings made for undergraduate term papers. Over the course of the project, many recent UCLA Linguistics undergraduates worked to digitize the audio recordings and accompanying wordlists. These are not teaching materials (not like, but rather raw unedited recordings, which are primarily intended for use by researchers (though they are also great fun to browse). Nonetheless, the Archive provided excellent materials for class assignments in acoustic analysis for Linguistics 104 [at UCLA] in Fall 2007 and 2008. In November 2008, near the end of the project, [the LA-area public] radio station KPCC ran a story about the Archive.

Filling ConCat

Almost exactly three years ago, I announced a plan on Phonoloblog: the plan to establish a Wiki for OT constraints, which should slowly grow into a large online reference on all constraints which have been proposed in the literature. The plan was born during a conversation with Curt Rice during the legendary Bloomington PhonologyFest of 2006.

The advantages of a ConCat are evident. It’s useful to have a tool where you can look up what has been written about a certain constraint, how it has been defined, which constraints are related to it, and whether some constraint has already been proposed in a different form or with a different name. Eventually, it could be a tool in the development of a true theory of possible OT constraints.

We established a website for ConCat in 2006, but it didn’t really grow since then. Maybe it was too small to be really attractive as a tool to use. This summer, however, I was fortunate enough to find two enthusiastic students from the University of the Aegean in Greece (Anna Fragkiadaki and Sofia Kousi) who filled the database with over 340 constraints, mostly excerpted from the handbooks by Kager and McCarthy, but also many other books and papers from the literature of the past 15 years.

I hope that in this way ConCat is becoming more useful. I hope you will see how useful it is, and that you start contributing.


I just discovered this amazing online script for LaTeX users that converts your hand-drawn symbol into the appropriate LaTeX command (it also tells you which package you need to load to have access to the command, which for many people, may be the more useful function). The character recognition is very accurate in most cases, especially for math symbols, but of course, the more training it receives, the better the results will be.

It’s clear that the IPA symbols haven’t been trained very much yet. I’ve already noticed improvement just from my own limited training on ɒ, which wasn’t on the short list at all the first time I tried it, and now frequently appears as the number one choice after a few trainings. So pick your favorite IPA symbols and get to work!

These vowels could save your life

Daniela Isac and Charles Reiss have recently published I-Language: An Introduction to Linguistics as Cognitive Science, which apparently has more phonology in it than your typical textbook of this type. (As the book description notes: “Contains phonological parallels to familiar syntactic arguments”.) There’s also a companion website with various resources, including a great page demonstrating Turkish vowels (previously noted by Mr. Verb). The vowels are arranged in a cube-like format that may be familiar to many of us. (This is the way I learned about Turkish vowels from Jorge Hankamer, and it clearly had a lasting effect on me.)

The publisher’s website also includes this sample chapter (Chapter 1, “What is I-language?” — a good place to start), which begins with an autobiographical story about how Charles used his knowledge of Turkish vowels and vowel harmony to save himself and a friend from a near-death experience (hey, read it yourself).

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Poser on character entry

I’m fairly sure I’ve noted before that the readership of this blog is very likely a strict (and very small) subset of the readership of Language Log, so if you’re reading this, you’re bound to have already read Bill Poser’s two posts on entering the IPA and other “exotic characters” on the web and elsewhere. Worth perusing, I’d say. I still dig our IPA symbol plugin for WordPress, but its use is obviously limited compared to the tools that Poser talks about.

Ian Catford's Life in Linguistics

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

“The Catford Tapes are a series of eight one-hour lectures given by Ian Catford in early 1985, on the occasion of his retirement from the University of Michigan Linguistics Department. For anyone with an interest in linguistics, from theoretical to applied, from English to Kabardian, from grammar to phonetics, from Henry Sweet to … well, to Ian Catford, these lectures make clear just how fascinating and remarkably broad Professor Catford’s life in linguistics has been.”

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Peer review

A few months ago I mentioned that Kai von Fintel and David Beaver have established a new, peer-reviewed, open access journal (Semantics & Pragmatics), with the hopeful thought that “we [= phono-types] should do this, too”. John McCarthy expressed concern about the amount of work that would be involved in such a venture, and Alan Prince followed up with a question and comment about the value of peer review these days. Ed Keer added that something like phonoloblog “could be expanded to create some collaborative workspace for phonologists” — an idea I like a lot, and something I very much welcome discussion about. Submit your posts/comments!

I gave a quick response to John’s comment, and Kai promised to respond to John’s and Alan’s “skeptical remarks” over on the S&P editors’ blog. In this post Kai quotes Alan’s question and comment and explains why he and David decided to go the peer review route with S&P. Kai addresses the role of peer review in today’s publishing climate, but I don’t think he addresses Alan’s question about the value of peer review. Well, let me rephrase: Kai addresses some of the practical value of peer review (exposure, promotion/tenure, etc.), but Alan’s question seemed to me to be more about whether peer review actually works to improve the product. Alan’s comment — that some of the practical value of peer review might be replaced by more effective means of citation indexing — remains unaddressed. Any thoughts from phonoloblog readers?

A final note: Kai’s post begins by citing an interesting paper about recent, relevant changes in publishing in economics, and I agree with Kai that the observations made in the paper apply (in some modified form) to linguistics as well. One of these observations is that “the necessity of going through the peer-review process has lessened for high status authors: in the old days peer-reviewed journals were by far the most effective means of reaching readers, whereas with the growth of the Internet high-status authors can now post papers online and exploit their reputation to attract readers”. I think that some such effect of status is unavoidable regardless of the peer review question, and I’m interested in how high-status authors can facilitate the recognition of work by lower-status authors (apart from citing it, of course). No doubt Alan is a high-status author, and I think he has done his part to facilitate the recognition of a great deal of work by establishing the first electronic repository in linguistics: the Rutgers Optimality Archive, which “is open to all who wish to disseminate their work in, on, or about OT” — and the success of ROA has motivated others to establish similar linguistics repositories (such as the two that Kai cites in his post, and lingBuzz; see the sidebar for others). Other high-status authors could contribute to the recognition of other work by submitting their own work to these repositories rather than simply posting it on their personal webpages. (If the repositories were just providing webspace, they’d be long dead.)

We need to do this, too

At SALT this weekend, David Beaver and Kai von Fintel announced a new journal that they will be editing, Semantics & Pragmatics. This announcement was followed by a more public announcement on Kai’s semantics, etc. blog, where Kai summarizes the motivation for the new journal as follows:

Our journal will be a high-quality, rigorously peer-reviewed journal on topics in semantics and pragmatics. Why a new journal (given that the field already has three excellent dedicated journals: Linguistics & Philosophy, Natural Language Semantics, Journal of Semantics)? Our journal will be an open access journal, with no subscription barriers, and it will make optimal use of modern electronic distribution and management methods.

Follow the links to the slides that David and Kai presented at SALT and to the editors’ blog for this new journal. It’s a great idea, and I think we can and should do something similar for phonology and phonetics for all the same reasons that David and Kai are doing this for semantics and pragmatics.

Cascadilla Proceedings Project

Somehow, I completely missed (until just a few days ago) the existence of the truly cool Cascadilla Proceedings Project (emphasis added):

Cascadilla Proceedings Project is an imprint of Cascadilla Press. We created CPP as a new model for proceedings of linguistics conferences and workshops. All proceedings published by CPP are available both in print and on the web. Web access is free and unrestricted, and the copy available on the web is the same as the book version in content, formatting, and pagination. The print edition is a hardback which meets library binding standards. This combination allows for the best of both worlds: free and quick access for researchers looking for a proceedings paper, with all the advantages of being published in book form.

Among several other conference proceedings, there are those from the 2nd Laboratory Approaches to Spanish Phonetics and Phonology.

You may already be familiar with Cascadilla Press from recent book/CD proceedings of WCCFL and several other conferences, their Mac/PC-friendly Arboreal and Moraic fonts, or their fun teaching tools like IPA Bingo and Magnetic Phonetics. Now there’s just all the more reason to love the good folks at Cascadilla. While you’re browsing their site, consider buying a classroom IPA chart (or a t-shirt, coffee mug, etc.) at their new Cafe Press site. (And don’t forget to tell ’em phonoloblog sent you.)

UMass paper archive (and lingBuzz, too)

This post on Kai von Fintel’s Semantics etc. blog reminds me that there’s a little-publicized archive of UMass linguistics papers, searchable and browsable by subject area. Here’s the phonology area, and here’s the phonetics area; there are quite a few other areas, almost all of them populated by several papers.

Kai’s link to Kratzer & Selkirk on Spellout does not go to this archive, but rather to lingBuzz, which I first mentioned on phonoloblog just over a year ago. Continue reading

ConCat: A catalogue of constraints

During the second week of the PhonologyFest, earlier this year in Bloomington, Indiana, I shared an apartment with Curt Rice. One night he told me that he had a plan: wouldn’t it be nice to have a catalogue of OT constraints as they have been proposed in the literature? The IPA Guide has a list of symbols, with explanations how they are used, etc.; wouldn’t it be convenient to have such a book for constraints as well? So that you could look up who first proposed a constraint, what the alternatives are, how the constraints had been formalized by various authors, whether there have been similar proposals outside the OT literature, etc.

Talking about this a little bit further, we decided it should be a Wiki rather than a book — a website where everybody can contribute, add constraints, add background information, etc.

During the summer I wrote a few lemmas, in particular I write a first version for a page for the Onset constraint, plus several things which would be linked to such a page. In the mean time, Nathan Sanders, a graduate student at the University of Indiana, installed a Wiki server. We have now opened it.

Do you think this is a good idea? What are possible extensions? You can join ConCat and start building it with us.

Little Interface Library

Tobias Scheer (in Nice, France) is working on a book on the interface between phonology and morpho-syntax. For this, he has also reconstructed the history of phonological thinking about this topic, and read almost everything which was written on it for the past 60 years — at least, that is what I believe.

This work has produced already an interesting result: Tobias’ Little Interface Library, a part of his website where he has collected pdf versions of many, many articles on the topic, including papers by Selkirk or Gussman or Nespor & Ralli which are hard to find, because they appeared in Working Papers or minor journals.

Sound patterns database

[ Via LinguistList. ]

P-base is a searchable database of 8000+ sound patterns as reported in grammars of 628 varieties of 549 spoken languages, which represent all grammars found on the shelves in the libraries of The Ohio State University and Michigan State University during 2003 and 2004 (Library of Congress PA-PM).

The database was collected for my dissertation and will be distributed by Oxford with the book version of it. It will also remain freely downloadable. I am looking for people to provide feedback on the program and the data in it.

The beta version of the program can be downloaded from

Please send questions and comments to

. Let me know how the database and interface could be made more useful to you in terms of features or content.

Jeff Mielke

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African language web resources

Another one via Linguist List: Web resources for African languages (from “site editor” Jouni F. Maho). From the main page:

The main objective of this site is to provide easy access to online materials on African languages, with particular emphasis on materials that contain structural data. […] The site contains links to other sites hosting free accessible materials, either as online searchable databases or as downloadable files of various formats (PDFs, PS-files, Word-documents, etc.). Links to commercial enterprises won’t be added, as a rule.

A nice looking site, though (of course) in need of many more contributions.

Good practices in developing linguistic corpora

Of possible interest to readers of this blog: Developing Linguistic Corpora: a Guide to Good Practice (via Linguist List).

From the preface, by editor Martin Wynne:

In this volume, a selection of leading experts in various key areas of corpus construction offer advice in a readable and largely non-technical style to help the reader to ensure that their corpus is well designed and fit for the intended purpose. […] This Guide is an attempt to draw together the experience of corpus builders into a single source, as a starting point for obtaining advice and guidance on good practice in this field. […] The modest aim of this Guide is to take readers through the basic first steps involved in creating a corpus of language data in electronic form for the purpose of linguistic research.


Although this link has been sitting in the “Archives, etc.” link list in the phonoloblog sidebar for some time now, it’s worth mentioning more explicitly. LingBuzz is “an article archive and a community space for Generative Linguistics. You are highly encouraged to upload your articles – old and new, published or not.”

LingBuzz was conceived/coded and is maintained by Michal Starke. Michal recently implemented a feature that points to papers on other linguistics archives, such as the Rutgers Optimality Archive and

Examples of Judeo-Spanish innovations in an online discussion group

This is something I’ve been meaning to post for a while now, dealing partially with online data collection, partially with Judeo-Spanish phonology. Eric’s recent post mentions a talk by Bert Vaux on the pros and cons of using Google for linguistic research (see May 6, 2005, of the colloquium schedule here, or alternatively, here), which got me thinking about the use of linguistic data from online sources. On issues related to Google searching, see this article from The Economist, as well as several posts on the Language Log, e.g., by Mark Liberman, Geoffrey Pullum, and Philip Resnik. Having done some reading on phonological variation in Judeo-Spanish, I began to wonder whether the Internet might offer some authentic examples of a particular series of phonological innovations involving /we/ diphthongs.
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CUHK Website

A few days ago, I came across the City University of Hong Kong (CUHK)’s The Science of Language website and found some useful things for teaching phonology there. In the phonology section, I noticed a distinctive features page, similar to UCSB’s Intro to Segmental Phonology page and Bruce Hayes’ FeaturePad software. Unfortunately, the CUHK site only describes the phonetic inventories of English and Cantonese. Another page I noticed was CUHK’s Airstream Mechanism page, which reminded me of Daniel Hall’s Interactive Saggital Section page. Besides phonetics and phonology, the website also has online material for many areas of linguistics and provides little quizzes along the way. If anyone is interested in checking it out make sure to use a browser that supports javascript, because the site gives a heavy dose of it.

Silly talk about phonology

Over on Language Log, Mark Liberman contributes a phonetician’s anecdote to the “silly talk about science” genre:

Person at party: “Someone told me that you know how to interpret spectrograms. That’s so interesting! Could you teach me?”
Phonetician: “Well, sure, it’s not hard to learn the basic techniques.”
Person at party: “That would be so exciting! I’ve always been sensitive to communications from the spirit world, and with the help of scientific instruments, I can only imagine…”

As Mark clarifies, it’s a play on how “spectrograms” sounds like “spectre-grams”. (Get it?)

At the end of the post, Mark asks for contributions: “if you have any good silly-talk-about-linguistics stories, send them to me and I’ll add them to this post.” I’m sending Mark one, but I have another one that is (a) rather lengthier than what I think Mark is looking for and (b) more suitable for phonoloblog anyway. So here goes. Continue reading

Articulating articles

If you’re a phonoloblog reader, then the odds are good that you’re also a Language Log reader. But just in case you aren’t — or, just in case you’ve been missing it — here’s the latest installment in “the on-going saga of article unreduction” (with further links if you follow those links, all the way back to the bet that started it all, and with a side-trip or two to Chris Waigl’s blog, serendipity).

Electronic databases

Back when I first started this blog in July 2004, there were two posts about publishing primary linguistic data. I’m hoping we’ll continue to talk about this here (and elsewhere), especially given the recent passage of a resolution by the LSA (in the March 2005 LSA Bulletin, but not yet posted on the LSA’s resolutions page). Doug Whalen quotes and remarks on it over on LinguistList.

“Whereas there are few institutional norms about how to recognize electronic databases in tenure and promotion cases, the Linguistic Society of America supports the recognition of electronic databases of language material as academic publications. It supports the development of appropriate means of review of such resources so that the functionality, import and scope of the projects can be assessed relative to other language resources and to theoretical papers. The LSA supports the treatment of digital resources as publications for consideration in tenure and promotion cases.”

Now if we can only get this to apply to blogging as well …


I didn’t foresee this happening last summer when I joined the phonoloblog team, but I have started a new blog. It has been apparent that although I’ve always restricted my posts to language phenomena, some of them fall outside the phonoloblog mission of “all things phonology”. So the new blog, piloklok, is for the linguistic-but-not-quite-phonological. I plan to continue contributing to phonoloblog regularly, but keeping the discussion to phonology within the scope of the academic and the pedagogical.

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English accents online

Of possible interest to readers of this blog:

Language-in-the-media links

I’ve just added a couple links to my blogroll (set of links to the right, just below the calendar, most of them to blogs but some not) that I thought deserved special mention. One of them is Sally Morrison’s The Language Feed, “a weekly roundup of language news articles found around the web” (noted last night on LINGUIST List). The other is a very similar site, Dominic Watt’s language and linguistics in the news (which I’ve abbreviated “lg and lx in the news” in the blogroll). These are both excellent resources for news items about language for introductory linguistics courses and for blog rants.

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Virtual IPA keyboard from E-MELD

A (more) convenient way to enter IPA, called
Charwrite©, is available from the E-MELD project here.

It pops up a javascript window, with mouse-sensitive IPA charts that generate Unicode html entities for you, so that you can generate strings like [ˈsɪŋ ˈsæŋ ˈsʌŋ]. Basically this saves you looking up the codes and typing [ˈsɪŋ ˈsæŋ ˈsʌŋ] — at least that was my previous method.

You can also download the code to set up your own web pages with the same facility, if you want to build IPA entry into a web-based application of some kind.

Now if only you could rely on actually seeing the right glyphs, with every browser in every OS with every font set-up with every … And someday, even the diacritics will work!

[originally posted on Language Log]