USC Advanced Undergraduate Phonology ✳︎ Fall 2019 ✳︎ Smith

Syllabus for Ling 401


Prerequisites: Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology (Ling 301)

This course is about phonological theory development and argumentation: how formal phonological models are evaluated and revised in order to meet empirical and conceptual goals. We focus in particular on constraint-based frameworks, especially Optimality Theory (OT: Prince and Smolensky 1993/2004), which is the major competitor to rule-based frameworks in the tradition of Chomsky and Halle’s (1968) Sound Pattern of English. We discuss OT’s motivations, its formal architecture, some of its results, and some of its shortcomings. OT makes predictions about phonological typology, and this course involves data from many familiar and unfamiliar languages, especially regarding syllabification, stress, and reduplication.

When this course is completed, you will…


Textbooks and handouts

Electronic device policy


Class participation

Reading comments

Opt-out office hours

Weekly quizzes

Homework assignments

A term paper

Grade breakdown

Assignments 50%
Term paper (due 12/13) 25%
Participation, readings, reading comments 15%
Quizzes 10%

Important dates

9/2 Labor Day – no classes
10/17–10/18 Fall recess
11/13 Deadline for in-person approval of paper topic
11/20 Deadline for submission of outline of paper proposal
11/27–12/1 Thanksgiving Holiday – no classes
12/4 In class presentations of term papers
12/13 Due date for final paper

Schedule and topics

Dates Topics Deadlines
8/26–8/28 Introduction and Review
— Review of distributions
9/4–9/16 Introducing constraints
— Review of rules and features
— The conspiracy problem
— A conceptual crisis
HW #1 due on 9/4
9/18–9/25 OT Mechanics
— Introducing OT: Gen, Con, Eval
— The selection problem
— The ranking problem
— Comparative tableaux
— Ranking arguments
— Harmonic bounding
HW #2 due on 9/18
9/25–9/30 Phonemes, allophones, and contrast
— Richness of the base
— Factorial typology
— Lexicon optimization
HW #3 due on 9/25
10/2 Constraint ranking by algorithm
— Recursive Constraint Demotion
— ERC Fusion
— Using OT-Help
10/7–10/9 Factorial typology and universals
— Syllable structure typology
— Correspondence theory
— Positional faithfulness
— Assimilation typology
HW #4 due on 10/9
10/14 Justifying constraints
— Phonetic grounding
— Alignment constraints
10/16 Writing and review
— A class for review
— Writing
— Responsible scholarship
10/21–10/30 Stress
— Diagnosing stress patterns
— The metrical foot
— Generalized Alignment
— Quantity-insensitive stress
— Quantity-sensitive stress
HW #5 due on 10/23
11/4–11/13 Prosodic morphology
— The Emergence of the Unmarked
— Templates
— A typology of reduplication
— B–R Correspondence
HW #6 due on 11/6
Paper topic approval by 11/13
11/18–11/20 Over and undergeneration
— Opacity and transparency
— Output-output faithfulness
— The Too-Many–Solutions Problem
Paper outline due on 11/20
11/25–12/2 Variation
— What is phonological variation?
— Weighted constraints
12/4 In-class presentations Final paper due on 12/13

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