Tag Archives: Methods
Computational Modeling of Sound Change

James Kirby – University of Edinburgh
Morgan Sonderegger – McGill University
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 3:30-5:20 pm
2347 Mason Hall

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Decades of empirical research have led to an increasingly nuanced picture of the nature of phonetic and phonological change, incorporating insights from speech production and perception, cognitive biases, and social factors. However, there remains a significant gap between observed patterns and proposed mechanisms, in part due to the difficulty of conducting the type of controlled studies necessary to test hypotheses about historical change. Computational and mathematical models provide an alternative means by which such hypotheses can be fruitfully explored. With an eye towards Box’s dictum (all models are wrong, but some are useful), this course asks: how can computational models be useful for understanding why phonetic and phonological change occurs?  Students will study the growing and varied literature on computational and mathematical modeling of sound change that has emerged over the past decade and a half, including models of phonetic change in individuals over the lifespan, phonological change in speech communities in historical time, and lexical diffusion. Discussion topics will include the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches (e.g.simulation-based vs. mathematical models); identifying which modeling frameworks are best suited for particular types of research questions; and methodological considerations in modeling phonetic and phonological change. For this course, some background in probability theory, single-variable calculus, and/or linear algebra is helpful but not required.

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Sociocultural Discourse Analysis

Barb Meek – University of Michigan
Susan Philips – University of Arizona
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 3:30-5:20 pm
2325 Mason Hall

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The purpose of this course is to provide training in discourse analysis that focuses on how culture is manifest in discourse practices.  Recordings of socially occurring speech render relatively ephemeral speech in a material and permanent form that gives it cultural reliability and repeatability not available in data collected through other anthropological/ethnographic research methods such as participant observation and note taking.  Topics include: 1) Research design.  When is recording useful, appropriate, and ethical; what kinds of activities will be recorded and how much material in hours will be recorded? 2) Transcription, translation and computer entry of recordings.  How to choose what to transcribe and how much to transcribe; in-field versus after-fieldwork transcription and translation; selection of transcription formats and software for coding data.  3) Analysis based on recordings, transcripts and coding of transcripts. Using the comparative method, identification of relevant units of interaction and their internal sequencing; comparison of multiple instances of the same units of interaction; comparison of multiple kinds of units of interaction and forms of talk; relating discourse analysis to other kinds of data concerning forms of local knowledge in order to make claims for sociocultural processes greater in scale than the discourse data.  4) Analysis of linguistic structures crucial to the interactional constitution of cultural processes, e.g. mood/modality; agency; evidentiality.  This will be a hands-on course involving analysis of data provided by the instructors.  This approach can serve scholars interested in how culture and language are mutually constituted through not only socially occurring speech, but also in interviews, in written records and in the media.  The planning and implementation of research in linguistic anthropology, cultural anthropology, sociolinguistics, and language change can be strengthened by greater knowledge of the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of discourse analysis.

Some experience with linguistic analysis/description is preferred, but not required.

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