Lecturer: Miklos Torkenczy Host Institution



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The development of this course has been funded by the Curriculum Resource Center (“CRC”) at the Central European University (“CEU”), whose programs are partially funded by the Higher Education Support Program (“HESP”). The opinions expressed herein are the author’s own and do not necessarily express the views of CEU.


Lecturer: Miklos Torkenczy

Host Institution: Eotvos Lorand University of Sciences

Course Title: Laboratory Phonology

Year of CDC Grant: 2002 / 2003




Introduction & Objectives of the course

Our general goal in the Laboratory Phonology course was to incorporate phonetically grounded reasoning and phonetic explanation into the phonology curriculum at the Theoretical Linguistics Programme. Our more specific goal was to train students to develop phonetics/perception grounded explanatory analyses of various phonological phenomena. The main motivation underlying these goals is twofold: on the one hand, phonetically grounded phonology is gaining ground and has become one of the most promising lines of phonological research internationally; on the other (apart from a few classes in the standard phonology courses) phonetics, and especially acoustic phonetics, is essentially missing from the ‘menu’ of courses that the Theoretical Linguistics Programme of Eötvös Loránd University / the Institute of Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest (TLP), and English Linguistics Department of the University of Miskolc (ELD) regularly offer.


Course details

Term 1

week 1

  1. introduction to the phonetic background (articulatory, acoustic and auditory phonetics) necessary for phonetically grounded phonology

  2. the physical properties of sounds

week 2

  1. focusing on acoustic phonetics

  2. spectrographic analysis (reading spectrograms)

week 3

  1. phonetic properties and typical phonological behavior of various classes of sounds

We decided to assign a sound-class to a designated student who had to do a research, prepare a handout and present his/her findings in class. At the end of each class we used a sound processing software to examine the acoustics of the sound-class discussed.

  1. discussion of research methodology

week 4

  1. liquids (laterals): their phonetic and phonological properties

week 5

  1. liquids (trills): their phonetic and phonological properties

week 6

  1. fircatives: their articulatory and acoustic properties

week 7

  1. fircatives: their phonological behavior

week 8

  1. affricates and clicks: their phonetic and phonological properties

week 9

  1. the interpretation of h: phonetics vs. phonology

week 10

  1. stops and glottal stops: types and their phonetic and phonological properties

week 11

  1. glides

week 12

  1. vowels: typology and universals of vowel systems; the spectrographic image of vowels; the role of vowels in the perception of consonants


Term 2

week1

  1. nasals: articulation and spectrographic image

week 2

The following seven weeks of the second term were spent on the discussion of the most recent laboratory phonological literature. Each article was assigned to one or two students (depending on the length and difficulty of the article) who had to prepare a handout and make an attempt to explain the problematic and crucial points to the rest of the class. Naturally, everybody read all the articles. This part of the course (weeks 3 to 9) built up the background for the research carried out at the end of this term.



  1. Pierrehumbert, Janet: Syllable structure and word structure: a study of triconsonantal clusters in English. Papers in Laboratory Phonology (PLP) III/11: 168-90

week 3

  1. Browman, Catherine P. – Louis Goldstein: Tiers in articulatory phonology, with some implications for casual speech. PLP I/19:341-76.

week 4

  1. Browman, Catherine P. – Louis Goldstein: Tiers in articulatory phonology, with some implications for casual speech. PLP I/19:341-76 (comments: 20: 377-81, 21: 382-97, 22: 398-405)

week 5

  1. Ohala, John J.: The segment: primitive or derived? PLP II/7: 166-82 (comments: 183-89)

week 6

  1. Browman, Catherine P.: Lip apertures and consonant releases. PLP III/19: 331-53 (comments by John Kingston: 20: 354-61)

week 7

  1. Ohala, John J. — Manjari Ohala: Speech perception and lexical representation: the role of vowel nazalization in Hindi and English. PLP IV/3: 41-60 (comments: 5: 61-67)

week 8

  1. Ohala, John J.: The perceptual basis of some sound patterns. PLP IV/7: 87-94

week 9

  1. Smith, Caroline L.: Prosodic patterns in the coordination of vowel and consonant gestures. PLP IV/15: 205-22 (comments by Richard Ogden: 16: 223-34)

week 10

Students were divided in groups of 3 or 4 and had to choose a topic for their term-final experiment.



  1. discussion of the preparation and methodology of the experiment

week 11

  1. presentation of the prepared experiment

week 12

Students had to carry out the experiment as homework.



  1. discussion on the results of the experiments


Student assessment

At the end of the first term (including the first week of the second term) students had to elaborate their handouts incorporating the results of in-class discussions. The outcome of this was a phonetics compendium (which we attached to the Progress Report). At the end of the first term students were evaluated on the basis of their in-class presentations (60%) and the material (the handouts) they produced (40%).

In the second term students were evaluated partly (30%) on the basis of the presentation of the articles assigned to them, and (70%) on the basis of the final end-of-term experiment: How relevant was the research question from the perspective of phonology? Was the experiment well elaborated? Was it carried out well?

No exam or test was given at the end of the term.


Reading list

weeks 1 to 3

In the first term the required readings were determined by the students themselves (they had to read what they thought was necessary to prepare for their presentation). In the second part of the course the reading load of the students was quite high: 2/3 papers per class (two papers for a three-class sequence) where a paper was either a journal article or a chapter from a monograph.



weeks 4 to 12 and week 1 of term 2

The most frequently used handbooks were:



  1. Ladefoged, Peter – Ian Maddieson (1996) The sound’s of the world’s languages. Blackwell.

  2. Maddieson, Ian (1984) Patterns of sounds. Cambridge University press

Apart from these, students used books and articles relevant to their particular topics (see phonetics compendium).

The reading list of the second term is listed above in ‘Course details’.


Teaching methodology

The first three classes of term 1 were more lecture-like, as we wanted to locate the course within the discipline of phonology, and introduce students to the phonetic background, although we encouraged participants to interrupt the class whenever they had questions. The rest of the course was composed of interactive seminars where students had a leading role, and teachers acted as moderators. The classes in the second term were presentations by the students based on the individual set of readings assigned to each student combined with in-class discussion in which the teachers (all of whom were present in each seminar) acted as moderators. There was a final end-of-term experiment in which select Hungarian phonetic phenomena were recorded and analyzed by the students and the teachers as a group.


Number of participating students

6 undergraduate and 3 PhD students took part in the courses.
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