Approaches to Phonology

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Linguistics

Module overview

This module offers further instruction in core areas of articulatory phonetics and theoretical phonology, building on the initial treatment of these topics in the first-year module ‘Sound, grammar and meaning in language’. This includes an understanding of the International Phonetic Alphabet, articulatory parameters for vowels and consonants, phonemes vs. allophones, phonological processes, universal and typological processes, sound change, subsegmental representations, suprasegmental representations (tone, syllables and stress).

The course also covers theoretical approaches in phonological analyses and advances students’ knowledge of phonology by presenting the development of phonological theory and its motivations along with providing students with an in-depth understanding of further areas in theoretical phonology. It will provide an opportunity to critically analyse theoretical approaches to phonological data, allow students a forum in which to evaluate theoretical approaches and issues, and enhance students’ critical reading and language analysis skills.

The module aims to:

  • Give instruction in articulatory phonetics for phonological description
  • Discuss the contrast between phonetics and phonology
  • Introduce the main theoretical approaches to phonology
  • Develop a formal vocabulary for describing form and function
  • Provide opportunity to analyse phonological data
  • Present the main phonological processes - synchronic and diachronic
  • Allow students to gain an understanding of the importance of phonology as a linguistic sub-discipline
  • Give students the ability to analyse and write up data sets

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Describe the sounds of the world’s languages in terms of their articulatory parameters
  • Identify phonological processes found cross-linguistically
  • Produce evidence of analytical ability from phonological data sets in unfamiliar languages
  • Identify and assess the main theoretical approaches in phonology
  • Gain familiarity with phonological theories with different architectural or analytical assumptions.


1h Lecture and 1h Tutorial, per week.

Scope and syllabus

Topics covered in this module typically include:

  • phonemic analysis
  • segmental composition
  • phonological processes (synchronic and diachronic)
  • phonotactics
  • tones
  • syllables and the skeletal tier
  • stress

Method of assessment

20% - First data analysis exercise, 1500 words, due in the term taught

20% - Second data analysis exercise, 1500 words, due in the term taught

60% - Essay, 2500 words, due in the term following the term in which this module is taught

The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

Core Reading

Backley, P. (2011) An Introduction to Element Theory . Edinburgh University Press.

Durand, J. & F. Katamba (1995) Frontiers of phonology: atoms, structures, derivations. Longman.

Ewen, C.H. & H. van der Hulst (1999) The Syllable . CUP.

Ewen, C.H. & H. van der Hulst (2001) The Phonological Structure of Words . CUP.

Goldsmith, J. (1990) Autosegmental and Metrical Phonology . Oxford: Blackwell.

Gussenhoven, C. & H. Jacobs (1998) Understanding Phonology . London: Arnold.

Harris, J. (1994) English Sound Structure . Oxford: Blackwell.

Kenstowicz, M. (1994) Phonology in Generative Grammar . Oxford: Blackwell.

Ladefoged, P. (2001) A Course in Phonetics (4th edition), Harcourt College Publishers.

Roca, I. & W. Johnson (1999) A Course in Phonology . Oxford: Blackwell.

Additional Reading

Durand, J. & F. Katamba (1995) Frontiers of phonology: atoms, structures, derivations . Longman.

Katamba, F. (1989) Introduction to Phonology . London: Longman.

Kaye, J., (1981) Phonology: a Cognitive View . Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ.

Spencer, A. (1996) Phonology: theory and description . Oxford: Blackwell.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules