In this course we will investigate sound in language from five different perspectives: alphabet (units), acoustics, articulation, prosody and learning. These complementary perspectives together show how language uses a relatively narrow range of sounds (although this range is broader than you might think!) but does so in a very intricate way. In addition, languages’ sound systems are intimately linked to other aspects of the linguistic system: meaning, sentence structure, the lexicon, and word structure, which are also studied within the Research Master’s in Linguistics programme. We will explore these intricacies and connections from the standpoint of (formal) linguistics.
From a physical perspective, the sound systems of languages are shaped by the characteristics of the vocal tract and those of the audio channel between speaker and listener. From a cognitive perspective, these systems contain regularities that allow speakers and listeners to distinguish words from one another and that allow them to structure and organize their utterances. Accordingly, these intricate systems are organized melodically and rhythmically at different linguistic levels: syllables, words, phrases, and sentences. This cognitive nature of linguistic sound systems prompts an important question, common across generative linguistics: what knowledge of sound systems might infants be pre-endowed with, and which knowledge do infants need to learn from their environment? To disentangle the various scenarios that this question inherently brings, computer models may be used to work out how an infant’s language acquisition would have to proceed under each scenario.
This course will introduce students to these various aspects of phonetics and phonology. In each of the five sessions, we will look at one of the aspects, but also draw connections to other domains. For each session, we will ask you to prepare a bit of reading and a short homework task to allow you to better engage with the content and ideas.
This course is offered by the Institute for Language Sciences, the home of linguistic and communications research at Utrecht University.
This course is part of the preparations for entrance into the RMA Linguistics at Utrecht University.
Aim of the course
Provide students with the essential background and perspectives to be able to engage in the study of phonetics and phonology at the Research Master’s level.
Daily 2 1/2 hour session; maximum of one hour homework per day.
There is a discount of €50 if this course is combined with at least one more Linguistics course whose title includes mention of ILS and for which the full amount is paid.
There are no scholarships available for this course.
A motivation letter is required from non-EU residents. You can send it via email to email@example.com
Kirsten Schutter | E: firstname.lastname@example.org | T: +31 (0)30 253 6060