Ling 600.01 Phonetic Theory, Au 2011



This course is a graduate-level introduction to phonetics. It is an overview of phonetic representations and theories, including the basics of the Acoustic Theory of Speech Production, related theories of speech perception, and some ideas from Autosegmental-Metrical Phonology about how to represent the relationship between prosodic structure and the realization of vowels and consonants. One major component of the coursework is a set of take-home exercises, with data gathering and/or analysis outside of the classroom and an associated in-class lab assignment. This component is intended to fulfill the main function of the course, which is to provide the background for further work in phonetics and laboratory phonology. A second major component is a small field project, with incremental field project reports geared to the topics covered in the class. Most of the field project reports also have one or two associated in-class lab assignments using data recorded in collaboration with the field project language consultant, so that this component of the coursework relates the phonetic theories and representations reviewed in class to the classical phonological model of distinctive features and allophonic variation embodied in the International Phonetic Alphabet. Thus, this component serves to cover some of the background for courses in field methods and phonological theory by providing the opportunity to exercise transcription skills in conjunction with other methods of observation in working with a language consultant. However, this coverage assumes a basic familiarity with the IPA model and its relationship to subsequent phonological theory. A student who wants a more thorough, basic introduction to classical phonemics and the IPA should enroll instead in Speech & Hearing 320 or Linguistics 500.


Course number: 11783
Class meeting times and location: Tuesdays & Thursday 9:30-11:18a.m., in Derby 029


A full and detailed syllabus is available here in pdf format along with a time table that will reflect any changes we make to due dates to accommodate the actual pace of the class. You should refer to this time table from the last page of the syllabus for due dates for assignments associated with the topics that we will cover in the following sequence:

  1. (Weeks 0 & 1) -- Introduction to sound and "sounds" (issues of discretization and segmentation). Types of acoustic signals, and the alternation of major class features.
  2. (Week 2) -- The resonating vocal tract and the overtones in schwa (calculating resonance frequencies of a simple tube).
  3. (Weeks 2 & 3) -- The voice source (periodicity and pitch). Basics of signal analysis.
  4. (Weeks 3 & 4) -- The vowel space.
  5. (Weeks 4 & 5) -- Psychoacoustics of timbre.
  6. (Week 6) -- Assessing perceptual categories and measuring perceptual distance.
  7. (Week 7) -- Acoustics of fricatives. Quantal theory and fricative inventories.
  8. (Weeks 8 & 9) -- Acoustics of plosive consonants. Phonation type contrasts on obstruents. Positional effects.
  9. (Week 10) -- Constrictions coupled in parallel and in series. The acoustics of nasals and laterals and of various types of "secondary" articulation.


There are three sets of materials associated with this course.

  1. A Laboratory Course in Phonology. By Mary E. Beckman and Janet B. Pierrehumbert. Blackwell (to appear).
    This set consists of extracts from a textbook that is in preparation, including recordings and other copyrighted material, which will be made available incrementally on a hidden web site, which we can reveal to you when you have agreed to certain conditions on use which are designed to protect the privacy of the talkers who contributed the materials. There are also instructions specific to this course that are (or will be) linked into this page as part of the next set of materials.
  2. Phonetic Theory -- Course Project and Lab Assignments. 2011 edition, online course materials.
    This set is all of the other documents that are (or will be) linked into this course web page. These describe the field project reports that are due at various stages of the fieldwork, provide instructions for the take-home lab exercises, and specify the materials to prepare for the in-class lab assignments associated with the course project reports and take-home. There is also a document that gives more general instructions for the course project and in-class labs. This document includes the IPA chart and useful hints for working with a language consultant, as well as a section with suggestions about how to find a language consultant. You should consult this section immediately.
  3. Acoustic and Auditory Phonetics. 3rd edition. By Keith Johnson (2011, Blackwell). This is a textbook on sale at the main campus bookstore and other similar outlets. (Be sure to get the 3rd edition, which has a substantially changed section on perception which we will be use in this class.) The background reading that is assigned for each topic is from this book, and it must be done before the beginning of the class in which we begin a topic so that you can ask questions about any passage you do not understand. If you do not ask questions, we will assume that you understand the concepts in the book well enough to apply them in doing the labs, take-home exercises, and field project report.

General information about course project and in-class labs

As noted above, a general description of the course project and lab assignments is available here. This pdf document also includes the IPA chart and a useful list of words to start with in eliciting forms from your language consultant. Read this document before the first in-class lab session, in order to know how to prepare.

Instructions for in-class lab assignments

Here are links to descriptions of the materials and questions for the ten in-class lab assignments. (Note that the day on which the lab is scheduled to be done in class is stated as the first or second class period in some week of the quarter, and we're starting the count of weeks at "week 0" for the class meeting on Thursday, September 22.)

Descriptions of the field project reports

Here are links to the instructions for the five field project reports.

Specific instructions for the take-home lab exercises

(If there is no title or document at the link, that means that the exercise is still in preparation. If there is a title and link, but the date at the top of the document is 2006, that means that the instructions for that exercise have not been updated yet for the 2007 edition, and you should not use the instructions yet.)

Useful links

Copyright © 2009 Mary E. Beckman, Linguistics, Ohio State University