LIN1250: Topics in Speech Perception (Spring 2009)

"Speech Perception, Sound Patterns, and Sound Change"

Instructor: Chandan Narayan
Thursdays 10-12, 6071 Robarts Library
OH: By appointment

Course description:
In this seminar we will explore the nature of speech perception explanations for why sound systems look the way they do and why certain phonological phenomena are more common than others. Since at least the 19th century linguists have been concerned with the speaker-hearer relationship and the force it exerts on the directions of sound change (e.g., Baudoin de Courtenay, Paul Passy) and the shapes of phonolgical systems. We will build on this tradition by examining more recent developments in theoretical approaches to what is called phonetically based phonology. Our readings will establish an intellectual history of this line of thinking, covering a variety of theoretical positions (e.g., Lindblom’s H & H theory, Ohala’s theory of misperception, Kingston & Diehl’s notion of phonetic knowledge, and Blevins’ Evolutionary Phonology among others) that each propose well-defined, though not necessarily compatible, roles for speech production and perception in patterns of sounds. We will engage with experimental evidence supporting these theoretical positions. Our task will be to develop critical arguments either supporting or refuting each of these studies with an eye towards experimental technique, phonological synchrony and diachrony, and the predictions implied by the authors’ conclusions. Some issues we will consider are whether phonetic factors in phonology are teleological, whether the speakers’ and listeners’ contributions to the structure of sound systems are complementary or at odds with each other, and at what stages of language development might we encounter the appropriate conditions for sound change. This course is based loosely on similar one taught at the University of Michigan by Pam Beddor.

Course requirements:
  • Students are required to actively participate in the weekly discussions, demonstrating that they have read and engaged with the materials.
  • Students are responsible for leading discussion of the readings for at least one session.
  • The course will culminate in students writing the Introduction (literature review) and Methods sections of experimental study that examines the role of a speech perception in phonology. If students are in the thesis-writing stage, they can present current work in the context of the questions, theories, and methodologies discussed during the course.

Weekly readings are posted to the course site on Blackboard.


Week 1: An early appraisal of the role of phonetics in sound change (lapsus linguae, lapsus auris and beyond)
  1. Baudoin de Courtenay, J.N. (1972/1910). Selections from A Baudoin de Courtenay Anthology: The Beginnings of Structural Lingusitics, translated and edited with an introduction by E. Stankiewicz (Bloomington: Indiana University Press)
  2. Sievers, E. (1901/1967). Foundations of phonetics. In A Reader in Nineteenth-Century Historical Indo-European Linguistics, edited by W.P. Lehmann (Bloomington: Indiana University Press), pp. 258-266.
Week 2: Modern theories of phonetics in phonology
  1. Ohala, J.J. (1981). The listener as a source of sound change. In Papers from the  Parasession on Language and Behavior, edited by C.S. Masek, R.A. Hendrik and M.F. Miller (Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society), pp. 178-203.
  2. Lindblom, B. (1990). Explaining phonetic variation: a sketch of the H&H theory. In Speech Production and Speech Modelling, edited by W. J. Hardcastle and A. Marchal  (The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic), pp. 403-439.
  3. Lindblom, B, Guion, S., Hura, S., Moon, S-J., & Willerman, R. (1995). Is sound change adaptive? Rivista di Linguistica 7, 5-36.
Week 3: Salience and contrast in sound systems
  1. Liljencrants, J. & Lindblom, B. (1972). Numerical simulation of vowel quality systems: the role of perceptual contrast. Language 48. 839-862.
  2. Flemming, E. (2005). Speech perception and phonological contrast. In The Handbook of Speech Perception, edited by D.B. Pisoni and R.E.Remez (Malden: Blackwell), pp. 156-181.
  3. Narayan, C.R. (2008). The acoustic-perceptual salience of nasal place contrasts. Journal of Phonetics 36, 1, 191-217.
Week 4: Gestures vs. audition
  1. Fowler, C. A., Best, C. T., and McRoberts, G. W.(1990). Young infants’ perception of liquid coarticulatory influences on following stop consonants. Perception and Psychophysics 48, 559-570.
  2. Lotto, A. J. & Kluender, K. R. (1998). General contrast effects of speech perception: effect of preceding liquid on stop consonant identification. Perception and Psychophysics 60, 602-619.
Week 5: Sound changes
  1. Guion, S.G. (1998). The role of perception in the sound change of velar palatalization. Phonetica 55, 18-52.
  2. Chang, S.S., Plauch´e, M.C., and Ohala, J.J. (2001). Markedness and consonant confusion asymmetries. In The Role of Speech Perception in Phonology, edited by E.Hume and K. Johnson (San Diego: Academic Press), pp. 79-101.
  3. Beddor, P.S. (2008). A coarticulatory path to sound change. MS (submitted)
Week 6: The "hyper" end of H&H
  1. Moon and Lindblom (1992). Interaction between duration, context and speaking style in English stressed vowels.
    J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 96: 40–55 (1994).

Week 7: Pitch Perturbation
  1. Hombert, Ohala, and Ewan (1979). Phonetic explanations for the development of tones. Language, 55,37 - 58.
  2. Kingston and Diehl (1994). Phonetic knowledge. Language, 70, 419-454.
Week 8: Evolutionary Phonology--Blevins (2004)
  1. Preliminaries: Part 1
  2. Preliminaries: Part 2
Week 9: NO CLASS
Week 10: Responses to EP (papers from EP issue of Theoretical Lingusitics)
  1. Lindblom (2006)
  2. Iverson (2006)
  3. Brown (2006)
Week 11: The phonologically (im)possible
  1. Yu (2004). Explaining Final Obstruent Voicing in Lezgian: Phonetics and History. Language, 80, 73-97.
  2. Kiparsky (2006): From Theoretical Lingusitics volume
Week 12: Variation and change
  1. Niedzielski (1999). The effect of social information on the perception of sociolingusitic variables. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 18, 62-85.
  2. Harrington et al. (2000). Does the Queen speak the Queen's English? Nature, 408, 927-928.

 Baudouin de Courtenay
& Sievers
 2Ohala (1981)
Lindblom (1990)
Lindblom (1995)
 3 Liljencrants and Lindblom (1972)
Flemming (2005)
Narayan (2008)
 Fowler et al. (1990)
Lotto and Kluender (1998)
Beddor et al. (2001)
Guion (1998)
Chang et al. (2001)
Beddor (2008)
 6 Moon and Lindblom (1992)
 8 Hombert and Ohala (1979)
Kingston and Diehl (1994)
 9Blevins' Evolutionary Phonology
Anna (Part 1)
Ann (Part 2)
 11Responses to EP   
 12Yu (2004)
Kiparsky (2006)

Chandan Narayan,
Mar 5, 2009, 11:03 AM
Chandan Narayan,
Mar 5, 2009, 11:02 AM
Chandan Narayan,
Feb 5, 2009, 9:44 AM
Chandan Narayan,
Apr 6, 2009, 6:37 AM
Chandan Narayan,
Apr 6, 2009, 6:37 AM
Chandan Narayan,
Feb 5, 2009, 9:45 AM
Chandan Narayan,
Jan 21, 2009, 10:13 AM
Chandan Narayan,
Jan 21, 2009, 10:14 AM
Chandan Narayan,
Mar 16, 2009, 8:58 AM
Chandan Narayan,
Jan 21, 2009, 10:15 AM
Chandan Narayan,
Jan 22, 2009, 1:44 PM
Chandan Narayan,
Jan 22, 2009, 1:47 PM
Chandan Narayan,
Jan 8, 2009, 12:58 PM
Chandan Narayan,
Feb 4, 2009, 2:37 PM