Category Archives: Teaching

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.

Question about texts, Doing OT (McCarthy), OT (Kager)

I’m hoping to get feedback about your experiences or advice regarding using Kager’s OT textbook, along with McCarthy’s Doing OT. Some background about the course I’m planning for: it’s a grad course that follows up a data-analysis and argumentation course in which we used Understanding Phonology (2nd ed., Gussenhoven and Jacobs), and didn’t really get into OT, which we’ll be doing this semester. I’ve used the Kager text before, and am planning to go through a chapter a week, then move on to articles that apply OT to various subfields of particular interest to our students (variation, change, acquisition, contact), and students will do problem sets at first, along with article reviews and then a final research project. I’ve never used Doing OT, and so wonder about your all’s experience with it, if you’ve ever used it in conjunction with the Kager text (interleaved, one after the other, ?). Any other input, advice, etc. would be much appreciated!

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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Phonology course material

I’m sure that many other working phonologists out there have had the same experience I’ve had: you’re searching the web for some paper or reference — or maybe just surfing — when you stumble upon somebody’s course material on the web. An hour later, you’re bookmarking or downloading like mad, or you’re reading and thinking how you might incorporate this or that in your next course on a similar topic, or whatever.
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Textbook review parallels

Back in August, I bemoaned the lack of a good phonology textbook, one that would be the contemporary equal of Generative Phonology: Description and Theory (Kenstowicz & Kisseberth 1979). I had just browsed through John T. Jensen’s recent Principles of Generative Phonology: An introduction and had been somewhat disappointed by it; maybe I’ll have better luck with David Odden‘s just-published Introducing Phonology (part of the new Cambridge Introductions to Language and Linguistics series), of which I recently received an examination copy.
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Jensen text review

On LinguistList yesterday, Mike Cahill posted a review of John T. Jensen‘s Principles of Generative Phonology textbook, mentioned at least twice here on phonoloblog. The full review is copied below, for your convenience.

Just for the record: I want to encourage (cross-)posting of reviews here on phonoloblog (of stuff that would be of interest to phonologists, obviously). Formal or informal, full book reviews or discussions of recent papers/dissertations/ideas, whathaveyou. This would be a great place to consolidate stuff like that, and for all of us to freely participate in the discussion (for which, of course, you have to register — e-mail me at phonoloblog#gmail|com to find out how).

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Online phonology teaching tools

A few days ago, I briefly noted a handful of very useful online linguistic resources, and suggested that we should do more to advertise and comment on resources like these.

A reader writes to mention Introduction to Segmental Phonology, a very cool website “designed to help students of segmental phonology understand and identify phonological segments and their distinctive features.”

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Wanted: a good textbook

Bernard Tranel recently wrote to ask me if I “have come up with a satisfactory textbook for an undergraduate introduction-to-phonology course”. My reply was that I haven’t ever used a textbook for any introductory phonology course that I’ve taught; I always just use problem sets.

I know that many phonologists (and probably plenty of other types of linguists) use the same approach, but my particular inclination comes from having been an undergrad at UC Santa Cruz. Most if not all core linguistics courses were (and probably still are) taught without a textbook; the one exception that I recall clearly was — somewhat ironically — Phonology I, which I took from Armin Mester in the Winter of 1990. (By the way, Phonology I at UCSC was and still is numbered LING 101. Very appropriate, I think.)

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Teaching articulatory phonetics

Last year when I taught Sound and Language (Intro to Phonetics) for undergraduates, I decided not to put very much emphasis on the “articulatory phonetics” part–in other words, I didn’t really spend much time having them pronounce “strange” sounds like clicks or uvular trills or ejectives. I know that production is integral to many phoneticians’ classes, but I have never really understood how to grade students on oral production quizzes or exams. It seems to me that being able to produce [||] is not as important as learning that it’s an alveolar lateral click and being able to explain the vocal tract configuration necessary to produce this sound. If they’re unable to accurately produce the click, do they get a failing grade?

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