David Odden


My research focuses on the description of understudied languages, mainly the languages of Africa (especially Eastern and Southern Africa), and emphasizing the theory of symbolic morpho-phonemic computations, but also branching out areally to Saami and Kurdish. My central goal is testing aspects of linguistic theory against new data from undescribed and underdescribed languages. Much of my research focuses on tonal systems, feature theory, the theory of syntax-phonology interaction, and component interaction. Here is a list of the lesser-known languages I've worked on.

Current projects:

I am currently working on a descriptive reference grammar of the Bantu language Kikerewe, which is spoken in Tanzania, which will include phonology, morphology, syntax and tense-semantics (a version of the manuscript will be made available here at some point). I am also working on Logoori, Mushunguli - Zigua (some materials here) and Guerze (Guinean Kpelle). In collaboration with Curt Rice and Berit Anne Bals Baal at the University of Tromsø I have been working on aspects of the phonology of North Saami. A formal analysis of the core of gradation appeared in Phonology; a pre-current longish paper describing more of the gradation system is here (the earliest version is here for historical purposes). For anyone interested in hearing Saami, we have a very rough wordlist of some Saami nouns with sound files here. The introductory phonology textbook, Introducing Phonology (published by Cambridge University Press) concentrates on learning how to solve phonology problems and analyse datasets. The second edition of the book is now available, and the CUP web page includes instructor materials as well as datafiles and other tools for students. The web page for the first edition with errata and additional data will be kept but not updated.

This here is a paper on Formal Phonology, a metatheoretical framework for the theoretical investigation of phonology. This is a first version of the essentials, and further developments will be forthcoming.

Selected recent papers

2012    An Analysis of North Saami Gradation. Phonology 29: 161-212 (w. Berit Anne Bals Baal & Curt Rice).

2011    Rules v. Constraints. Goldsmith et al. (eds.), Handbook of Phonological Theory, vol 2., 1-39. Malden, MA & Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

2011    The Representation of Vowel Length. Marc van Oostendorp, Colin J. Ewen, Elizabeth Hume & Keren Rice (eds.) The Blackwell companion to phonology. Malden, MA & Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. 

2010    Features inpinging on tone. J. Goldsmith, E. Hume & W.L. Wetzels (eds). Tones and features, 81-107. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

2009    Tachoni verbal tonology. Language Sciences 31: 305-324.

2008   Ordering. B. Vaux & A. Nevins (eds). Rules, constraints, and phonological phenomena, 61-120. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Downloads: The following manuscripts are available for downloading (PDF files).

           Forthcoming papers: An overview of Bantu Phonology; the introduction to a special issue of Africana Linguistics XX, co-edited with Lee Bickmore, which studies melodic tone systems in Bantu, and chapters to appear in that volume on Bakweri (written with Mike Marlo) and Shona; an overview of tone in African languages to appear in a handbook, edited by Rainer Vossen.

           Phonology ex Nihilo. This is a handout for the phonology get-together in Tromsø, around the beginning of December 2006. It may be difficult to follow without narration, and the style is quite informal. The point is to show how features and values can be induced from natural class behavior in rules, with no need to refer to a priori definitions of the relationship between features and phonetic outputs.

The Status of Onsetless Syllables in Kikerewe

Rules v. Constraints, [prepublication version of paper that appeared in Handbook of Phonological Theory (2nd edition)]

The Representation of Vowel Length, [prepublication version of paper that appeared in Companion to Phonology. Includes material on ternary that was removed for reasons of space]

The Noun Phrase in Hawrami (with Anders Holmberg).

The Unnatural Tonology of Kotoko.

Ordering (paper presented at the Phonology 2000 Symposium at MIT and Harvard)

Kikerewe-English Dictionary.

Patterns of Reduplication in Kikerewe (also appearing in OSUWPL: tiny pagination differences).

The file WhatIsTheory.pdf is an introductory philosophy-of-science type paper that I (sometimes) use in the graduate introductory phonology class.

I can be reached by sending email to my gmail address, the relevant part of which is (the value of) my first name dot my last name.

Guess how often this university rule is violated on a daily basis.